There is no single definition as to what constitutes a weir and one English dictionary simply defines a weir as a small dam, derived from the root, werian, meaning “to defend, dam.” That describes perfectly the lone female character in this play, written by Conor McPherson, who really doesn’t even have much to say until the second half. A weir is designed to alter the river flow characteristics, however, and a damn is more commonly designed and built to hold back a body of water. Both definitions are at play here, although, in the end, it is the weir as a means of altering the river that takes root.
“The Weir,” now playing at Hard Bargain Players is set in a pub in a small village in Ireland where a newcomer, a beautiful young woman named Valerie (Kaitelyn Baur Dieguez) has bought or rented a house that had been unlived in for a while. Brendan (Patrick Pruitt) is the pub owner and as he is opening, he is joined by Jack (John Kirby) and Jim (Anthony Dieguez), where the three men discuss the gossip of the day, the most notable being the sightings of Finbar (Michael J. Margelos) who has been seen with Valerie in his car. As Finbar is married, this is somewhat scandalous. Finbar arrives at the bar with Valerie, who asks for a white wine (not a common request) and the men introduce themselves. Valerie is a beautiful woman, and other than the married Finbar, all of these men are single, and all are eager to make an impression on her. She is quiet—although very polite—and in an effort to impress her, they start telling stories of some of the odd, supernatural things that have happened in the village, including the house she lives in now, and all of which altered their lives in some way. Three stayed and one left, but they all remain damned up in the safety of their routines.
The direction by Brooke L. Howells was tight and beautifully paced.
During the second half, Valerie tells why she came to the village; and hers is a tale of sorrow and loss and unthinkable personal devastation. Finbar, who had been preening at having such a beautiful young woman in his car, eventually leaves to return to the market town where his own business is. The other three men see Valerie as a human being and reach out to her; sometimes a bit clumsily, but they are offering a bit of safety. Valerie takes a chance and reaches back; at least for the immediate future, she has people who care.
All of the actors inhabit their characters beautifully. Kaitelyn Baur Dieguez is ethereally beautiful and as unknowable as deep water in the first half. She becomes the crux of the action simply by telling her truth, which she does with restraint, and which makes it more devastating to hear. As the affable pub owner, Patrick Pruitt is unflappable; he is the anchor in the village. John Kirby plays Jack as a sort of roguish sort, almost an elder of the village, but not quite there yet. In some ways, Anthony Dieguez as Jim had the hardest role as it wasn’t as defined as the others; he is the youngest, and living with a mother who needs caretaking, and he seemed stuck in a late-adolescent way of coping with his lot. Michael J. Margelos (Finbar) is complicated—he likes to play the successful man who moved to the big town, yet he comes back to trade barbs with Jack and show off a bit. Yet, he had the kindness to leave Valerie with these friends while he went home to his wife.
The direction by Brooke L. Howells was tight and beautifully paced. The play was an hour and 45 minutes but it moved smartly with little wasted motion. The set designer (Greg Pruitt) and set decorator (Karen Kleyle) created a warm, comfortable, friendly pub—you really did want to wander in and settle in by the fire. The one caveat is that the house right wall of the pub didn’t look quite finished, but the play was engrossing and the actors of a caliber that you just forget about that. The original theme—“The Weir”—was written by James D. Watson and beautifully suited the play. Kudos to the dialect coach (Christine Hirrel) for the actors’ lovely and natural lilts.
The Amphitheater Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek is a naturally occurring amphitheater in the woods and provided a magical backdrop to the evening. The breeze was soft, the air a bit crisp, and the rustle of leaves and branches created a soft landing place for such sad material.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.
Show Information: “The Weir” is playing October 6-21, 2017 at The Amphitheater at Hard Bargain Farm, 2301 Bryan Point Rd, Accokeek, MD 20607. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. For ticket information, click here.