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The Devil taunts his victim

Marin Theatre Company presents…..



Conor McPherson


No one can peel the layers of civility from the human condition like the Irish writers. THE SEAFARER is a perfect example of a drama that shocks, repels and fascinates all at the same time.  We all have different faces we present to the world that conceal who we really are.  And it is those masks that Colin McPherson strips away with his unerring eye for the lies we tell ourselves.  The characters in this story are drunk and disgusting people, filthy and morally bankrupt.  Yet, they are uncomfortably real.  Every member of the audience could so easily descend to their level of depravity if circumstances refused to favor him.  And that is why we are magnetized by action on stage that repels us.  We watch in horror, mesmerized by how close each one of us is to living the life we see on stage, when a drop of alcohol is our only shield from a cold, thankless reality. “Intoxication takes you on a great journey,” says McPherson.  “It has a beginning, a middle and an end like any good story.”

THE SEAFARER opens on Christmas Eve in Richard (Julian Lopez-Morillas) and Sharky (Andy Murray)’s house in Baldoyle, Ireland. Sharky is struggling to stay sober and Richard, recently blinded from a freak accident is assiduously keeping himself just sloshed enough to be aware of his surroundings but not so clear-headed that they depress him.  He is determined to flood the evening with Christmas spirit and forces his unwilling brother and a resistant Ivan (Andrew Hurteau) to drag him to the market to buy lavish provisions none of them can afford.   The two brothers are hosting a Christmas Eve poker game with their buddies, Ivan, Nicky (John Flanagan), a slimy character living with Sharkey’s ex-wife, and Mr. Lockhart, (Robert Sicular)  a stranger.  Richard is determined to make the holiday a joyous and well lubricated one for them all. 

I have seen Julian Lopez Morillas in more than a dozen productions and his immense talent always thrills me.  In this play, however, he outdoes every role I have seen him play.  He is so achingly real, one would need a heart of steel not to weep for this man with no resources, blinded by accident, dependent on a brother and a friend for every human need.  Lopez-Morillas elevates McPherson’s magnificent dialogue into a haunting song of determination and desperate, unreasonable entitlement.    

The stranger, Mr. Lockhart turns out to be the Devil incarnate.  He has come to this card game to collect on an unfulfilled agreement he made with Sharky years ago.  When Richard, Nicky and Ivan go outside to ward off the homeless who seek shelter at the foot of the lane, Mr. Lockhart confronts his victim and reminds him that he reneged on his promise.  He tells Sharkey that he is going to play him for his soul and this time, he will win. 

The card game is spellbinding.  Only Sharky knows the real stakes and as the tension mounts he gives up abstinence and tanks it up with the rest of them.  He wins one hand and then they play the final hand. Andy Murray has so internalized his characters anguish, his fears, his determination not to go with the Devil that it is impossible to believe he is playing a part.  His very soul is in danger and we are all desperately afraid he will lose it.   The other three players have no idea the stakes are so high and the twisted result is a wicked delight.

This production is nothing short of amazing. It combines a stunning set, gifted direction and unbelievable acting…the kind you will never see on a Broadway stage.  Colin McPherson’s plays demand a more intimate setting.  “McPherson’s writing lives in the quiet hours of the night, after the drinks have disappeared, the mist has rolled in and the time to bid goodbye to friends who have become subdued and silent in the darkness has arrived,” says Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis.   “His characters are born storytellers and they delight in speaking of the supernatural.  Ghosts from the recent and distant past always seem to be at your elbow in McPherson’s world.”

The question the play never answers is if the devil won or lost.  You have to see the show to answer that one for yourself.  “THE SEAFARER IS A VERY Catholic play, “McPherson said.  “It sort of accepts that Christian framework, the Devil and God, redemption.  I can use those archetypes but hopefully move more toward pagan ends than Roman Catholic ones.”

Life often comes up with unexpected answers and this play does the same.  It is a holiday story of sorts, one that asks us to decide what a Merry Christmas really is for people destined to live on the edge of poverty longing for dignity and descending into sloth.  We see these characters killing themselves with drink so they can bear to be alive.  Some say this is McPherson’s most optimistic play.  Perhaps.  It certainly is a jarring view of how to survive a life no one wants.



THE SEAFARER continues until November 16

The Marin Theatre

397 Miller Avenue

Mill Valley 94941


Information and tickets:


415 388 5208