Laying the cards on the table in ‘The Seafarer’
What chance do you have at redemption when all the cards are stacked against you?
That’s one of the fundamental questions raised by Sopris Theatre Company’s latest production, “The Seafarer.” Set on dry land in the outskirts of Dublin, Conor McPherson’s 2006 play brings a group of Irishmen together for a game on Christmas Eve.
Things get more interesting with the arrival of Mr. Lockhart, a mysterious stranger in the tradition of “Faust” and “Paradise Lost.” Lockhart is portrayed by artistic director Gary Ketzenbarger, who also chose the play.
“It is a Christmas story with a very strange twist,” he said. “It’s not light, it’s not festive, it’s not musical theater. We decided to take the chance on it, and I’m glad we did.”
“I’m a great lover of Irish literature and Irish culture,” he added. “I love the language — the cadences and turns of phrase.”
Tasked with bringing the script to life is veteran director Tom Cochran.
“When I read the script, I didn’t get the humor right away, but the more I read it the more I became intrigued with it,” he observed. “I couldn’t believe how funny it was when I heard it out loud.”
The overarching theme, he says — and the cast agrees — is one of redemption, with hard questions about whether some things can’t be forgiven.
“These guys have led rough lives, but there’s something that’s really kind about them,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t like them, but sometimes they’re the best friends you could have.”
The authenticity of the characters is manifest in a fair amount of drinking and swearing, so the parental discretion is advised.
“You get a snapshot of very lower class, drinking, nitty gritty underside of Ireland,” said Brendan Cochran, who plays Nicky. His character may have things more together than some, but he’s also the reason Lockhart found out about the game.
“He leaps before he looks most of the time,” he said. “He sort of manages to insert himself into the mix of whatever’s going on in town.”
The Cochrans, like most of the cast, have trouble leaving their stage Irish accent behind to talk about the play.
“It’s all written very phonetically, so that’s really a huge help,” Brendan Cochran noted of the script.
For authenticity, Owen O’Farrell has a leg up with Irish Catholic roots of his own and a trip to Ireland over the summer.
“It gave me a whole feel for the characters and the area,” he said. “The play has a real Irish Catholic feel to it, and I certainly grew up in that kind of household.”
The set even has a few artifacts of his grandfather’s to give the show a personal element.
“I want it to be as close as possible,” he said. “It’s great to be able to portray parts of him.”
O’Farrell’s character, Richard, fell into a trash bin on Halloween and has been blind ever since. He’s getting some help from his brother, Sharky — portrayed by J.D. Miller — though there might be ulterior motives.
“He’s really trying to make amends, but the rug’s sort of pulled out from beneath him,” Miller observed.
It’s an emotional role that Miller has found particularly enjoyable to play.
“I get to cry and rage and scream. If I hadn’t been coaching football for the first two months of this year, my voice would probably be shot,” he said. “It’s fun, and I hope the audience finds it cathartic as well.”
The curtain comes up at 7 p.m. on Dec. 2-3 and 8-10, and 2 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 11 at the New Space Theatre at 3000 County Road 114 — Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley Campus. Tickets are $18 for adults, and $13 for students, seniors, and CMC staff and faculty and available at email@example.com.