Tuesday, March 8, 2016

reviews - THE WEIR - Theatre Artists Studio

Michael Fleck, Steven Fajardo, Amanda Melby, and Tom Koelbel
Photo by Mark Gluckman
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 13th.

 " Conor McPherson's 1997 play The Weir documents the conversations and reminiscences that the patrons of a pub in Northwest Ireland have one evening. Five people, including four men who have known each other almost their entire lives, plus a woman who has just moved to town, tell stories of their past, many of which have a ghost story element to them....While the creative elements detract somewhat from the play, Theatre Artists Studio's production features a talented cast and steady direction. McPherson's smart script and interesting characters result in an effective journey through the terror of the unknown while also demonstrating how the comfort of friends can help one get through life. Set in Brendan's pub, the patrons include Jack and Jim, two local single men, and Finbar, a married estate agent who has brought Valerie, a new woman who has just recently moved to town, to the bar...Over ninety minutes the patrons tell their tales as Valerie pays attention, yet it is a very personal story that she tells that is the most heartbreaking....Director Carol MacLeod gets fine performances from her cast, all of whom are skilled in the requisite storytelling aspects of their parts. Michael Fleck relishes the details of the stories he tells and there is a vibrant and buoyant sense of life that he brings to the part of Jack. While all of the characters in the play exhibit a sense of loneliness, it is Jack's final story, which isn't a ghost story at all, that is especially poignant and Fleck delivers a well-rounded portrayal. As Valerie, Amanda Melby is appropriately quiet at first, yet respectful with these strangers she has just met. When Valerie tells her story, Melby's focused delivery is expert in keeping her fellow pub patrons, and the audience, on the edge of their seats as they wait to hear the story that brought Valerie to this remote part of Ireland. Melby delivers a poignant and moving portrayal....While there is nothing amateurish about Deborah Mather Boehm's set design and Stacey Walston's lighting, they both are a bit at odds with the play. Boehm's beautiful, modern and sterile bar looks lovely, but it resembles a recently updated bar that one would find in the high priced area of Dublin or London, not in a remote part of Ireland. Walston's bright lighting is professional but, like the set design, doesn't always gel with the stories, since it never evokes or even complements that spooky nature of the ghostly tales. ...The Weir is a play in which very little happens, so those who prefer a decent amount of plot may be a bit put off by its slow going, storytelling nature. Theatre Artists Studio's production has a gifted cast and clear direction that expertly portray the dramatic nature of the tales and the many emotional levels the characters exhibit...."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"... “The Weir”....a 90-minute...plot-free slice of life that is nonetheless irresistibly compelling in a production at Theatre Artists Studio....a tight-knit cadre of local men relate some mildly spooky tales that start out harmless and then take a surprising turn for the disturbing — only to be out-disturbed by one from the stranger in their midst. This unconventional drama is brought to life (with mostly spot-on accents) by a talented cast including Michael Fleck as Jack, a garrulous old car mechanic; Brad Allen as Jim, a reserved sort who’s likely deeper than he seems; and Amanda Melby as Valerie, whose emotional outburst late in the play just might coax a tear for the audience’s collective eye...."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"...THE WEIR promises a journey into the souls of its characters, accentuated by storytelling references to faeries and spirits. In a pub, surrounded by blackness and whistling winds, (Conor) McPherson, as one of his disciples has noted, finds the momentous in the mundane with vivid language and compelling storytelling. 'Tis sad to say that the promise is half-fulfilled in its Arizona Regional Premier at Theatre Artists Studio. The play's structural elegance cannot be denied, nor can McPherson's muscularity of language be overlooked. The problem lies in the delivery. Neither do the performances rise to the level required to open the floodgate of emotion and tension that is at the heart of THE WEIR, nor do the technical effects set the essential mood....Like spies coming in from the cold, the men of County Leitrim end their day with a volley of liquid salutes at their private sanctuary, overseen by Brendan, the quiet and affable bartender (Steven Fajardo): Jack (Michael Fleck), a mechanic and operator of a garage; Jim (Brad Allen), Jack's assistant; and Finbar (Tom Koelbel), the area's one percenter....their chemistry is altered by Finbar's introduction of Valerie (Amanda Melby), a woman to whom he has sold a house and whose reason for sudden relocation from Dublin is a mystery to be revealed....Fleck....and Melby ...fall short in achieving the nuance and intensity that the monologues demand.  The substance and tones of THE WEIR suggest a mood and atmosphere that is a far cry from the one arranged by director by Carol MacLeod. Deborah Boehm's set, lovely as it is with fine lattice work and IKEA-like furniture, befits more an upscale bar in Scottsdale rather than a rural pub in Northern Ireland. Likewise, the production's use of full scale lighting detracts from the intended effect of the play."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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