Theater Spotlight: The Seafarer

Stephen Yoakam as Sharky, and Patrick Bailey as Ivan in the Jungle Theater production of <i>The Seafarer </i>by Conor McPherson; directed by Joel Sass.

Stephen Yoakam as Sharky, and Patrick Bailey as Ivan in the Jungle Theater production of The Seafarer by Conor McPherson; directed by Joel Sass.

Conor McPherson's play is a brutish, harrowing tour through squalid districts both material and spiritual, a zone of the soul in which joy and contentment seem elusive if not ridiculous things to wish for. How odd, then, that in its left-field fashion this compelling production reminds us that turmoil and strife are relative (hell being in the eye of the beholder). The action takes place in the North Dublin basement of the blind Richard (Allen Hamilton, by turns blustering and maudlin), where he is visited by his brother Sharky (Stephen Yoakam). Sharky hasn't had a drink in a few days, which is apparently quite a feat for him, although his short career in sobriety hasn't done much to improve his mood now that Christmas Eve has arrived. Joel Sass's set (Sass also directs), all exposed lathe and filthy upholstery (the players sneeze and dry their hands on the couch, spill drinks, and generally evoke a formidable bachelor nastiness), gives us a hint of what's to come: booze and more booze, with recrimination and resentment thrown in for extra spice. We meet the hapless Ivan (Patrick Bailey), too loaded to go home and face his angry wife, then small-time sleaze Nicky (Mark Rhein), who is shacked up with Sharkey's ex and behaves as though he might hump the settee if all the drink he's consumed hadn't made it too much of a bother. Lest we merely descend into standard middle-aged hopeless debauchery, we have the arrival of the nattily dressed stranger Mr. Lockhart (Phil Kilbourne), who takes an acute interest in Sharky and the fate of his soul (light the brimstone incense, in other words). McPherson reins in the poetry in favor of clenched-fist dialogue (don't take a drink every time Richard pronounces someone a "fuckin' idjit" or you'll never make it out of the theater under your own power). As usual, though, the devil gets the best lines. Yoakam delivers a man haunted by the impenetrable mystery of his own self, while Kilbourne luxuriates in briquette-hot malice. Bleak, funny, crushing: happy fucking holidays. $28-$36. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., 612.822.7063. Through December 20