The Seafarer
January 6, 2009 - February 15, 2009
By Conor McPherson
Directed By Allen Nause

Running Time: approx 2.5 hours with a 20 minute intermission

Click here to learn more about Irish culture (including a glossary of Irish slang and the history of whiskey)

Click here for Outreach Event Schedule 

Award-winning Irish playwright McPherson tells a chilling story about the sea, Ireland and the power of myth. It’s Christmas Eve and Sharky has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible, aging brother. Old drinking buddies Ivan and Nick are also on hand, hoping to play some cards over a bottle of whiskey. But the arrival of a stranger from the distant past raises the stakes. Sharky may be playing for his very soul. Described as “simultaneous rollicking and haunting,” McPherson’s play shows us that even in the darkest times of your life, miracles can happen.


Sharky Harkin
Bill Geisslinger

Richard Harkin
Tobias Andersen

Ivan Curry
Todd Van Voris

Nicky Giblin
Leif Norby

Mr. Lockhart
Denis Arndt

Scenic Designer
Jeff Seats

Lighting Designer
Jeff Forbes

Composer/Sound Designer
Rodolfo Ortega

Costume Designer
Jacqueline Davis

Properties Designer
Drew Foster

The Synopsis
James “Sharky” Harkin has returned to Dublin. He looks after his irascible blind brother in a squalid flat to the north of the city. He scratches out a living as a fisherman and a chauffeur. It's Christmas Eve, and friends Ivan and Nicky turn up to play cards and get drunk on Sharky's booze. With the arrival of a stranger from the distant past, the stakes of the poker game are raised ever higher. Sharky thinks he recognizes Mr. Lockhart. As the night wears on and Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, Mr. Lockhart reminds Sharky of where they met and why this game of cards has so much riding on it.

The Playwright
Conor McPherson was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1971. He attended the University College in Dublin where he began to write and direct. His plays include Rum & Vodka, The Good Thief, This Lime Tree Bower, St. Nicholas, The Weir (Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play), Dublin Carol, Port Authority and Shining City (Tony Award nomination for Best Play). McPherson made his National Theatre debut as both director and playwright with the premiere production of The Seafarer. His film work includes I Went Down, Saltwater, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame (as director) and The Actors (as screenwriter and director). Other awards include the George Devine Award; Critics’ Circle Award; Evening Standard Award; Meyer Whitworth Award; Stewart Parker Award; two Irish Film & Television Academy Best Screenplay Awards; CICAE Best Film Award, Berlin Film Festival (Saltwater); Best Film and Best Screenplay Awards, San Sebastian Film Festival (I Went Down).

McPherson talks about The Seafarer in an interview with The Lowry:

TL: I remember reading something about how beautifully structured your plays are and the dialogue that you use is incredibly beautiful. There seems to be a lack of monologues in The Seafarer, something that you have used a lot in earlier plays. How did that come about?

CM: Well, I went through a phase of writing just monologue after monologue for a long time. I don’t know why, but it was the most natural way for me to talk to an audience and that was the way it was. It’s not conscious, you just move on to something else, it’s not a decision really. But I really exhausted that for myself, I think I had to. It wasn’t what I started writing. I started writing plays like this, which were more ensemble pieces, then I drifted into doing monologues and that’s when I started making a living. That’s what I became known for and then as I moved back out of that, then it was like “Why is your work changing?” But it will change and it will probably change into other things, I hope.

TL: Obviously the play is about loneliness and the more depressing issues about the human condition, and yet you bring those issues across through comedy. How difficult is that to do?

CM: Well the strange thing about laughter in the theatre is that often I wouldn’t be writing things saying “Oh, this is very funny.” It’s really when you put it in front of the audience and they laugh… I think that people laugh in a live experience for lots of different reasons. Sometimes they might laugh just because it is funny, sometimes they laugh because they aren’t sure what’s happening and the audience is talking to itself and to the performers. And either saying “Yes, we know what’s happening here” or “We like it” or “Continue.” It’s a kind of form of communication but it’s actually in a way easier than you think, because when people get into a room like that together, they want to laugh. They want to have a good time and they will laugh way more than you ever expected.

TL: It’s not always in what you have written, though is it, the comedy? It’s in the direction as well. It must have been so important to get the right comic actors in there as well in order to do that.

CM: Well, actors just love to be loved. They will do whatever they can to give pleasure to the audience. That is their default setting. And you’ve got to indulge that because it is part of what makes it all so enjoyable, if it is. There are a lot of natural clowns in this cast, people who really enjoy doing physical comedy and things like that, so the more the merrier. I think it was Chekhov who, when he wrote The Seagull, and they put it on, everyone laughed. He just couldn’t understand. He was bewildered because he thought he had written this very tragic play. But audiences want to laugh and you’ve got to let them I think.

Production History and Awards
The Seafarer was first produced in September 2006 at the Cottesloe Auditorium of London's National Theatre. It received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Play. The Broadway production opened December 6, 2007 at the Booth Theatre and ran through March 30, 2008. This production garnered multiple Tony Award nominations in 2008, including nominations for Best Play and for Best Director of a Play (Conor McPherson).

Recommended for adult audiences. Mature language and themes.

*Member of Actor’s Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

+Equity Membership Candidate
++Member of Artists Repertory Theatre Resident Acting Company

Production Sponsors:

Azumano Travel

First Call Heating Cooling

Howard S. Wright

Christine Swanson

The Reviews...

Click here to read The Oregonian's review. 

"The production was excellent -- the show resonated with me for hours -- couldn't go to sleep just thinking about it -- got the feeling that I had just witnessed the best theatrical production of the season." 

"This ranks as one of the best productions I've ever seen anywhere, and that includes Dublin, London and Chicago."

"It is absolutely fabulous. Fact is, it’s one of the best things I’ve seen since coming to Portland!"   

"I was absolutely enthralled last night." 

"The level of acting proficiency and the artistic interpretations/direction was overwhelming."

"The acting was some of the best I've seen in Portland."

"This is one of the best plays I've seen in a while."

"This is the best ensemble piece I have seen in Portland."

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