The Seafarer
Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago
(312) 335-1650


Conor McPherson’s tragic tale of the drinking lives of middle-aged men just may be the “best Irish play since the glory days of Samuel Beckett,” said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. Set in a “womanless world”—on Christmas Eve in the Dublin basement of moldering drunks Richard (Fraser’s John Mahoney) and Sharky (Francis Guinan)—it’s a play that “ponders the nature of hell, defining it as the ultimate manifestation of self-loathing.” A group of “hangers-on and droppers-in” shows up for a game of poker. A slick, besuited stranger named Mr. Lockhart—who seems to have Sharky’s number—soon joins the game. Sharky’s life, illusions, and regrets, become chips in a larger game, the stakes of which are self-justification. Guinan shows us “the whites of Sharky’s eyes” as he’s thrown into “his own personal hell.”

Many of Steppenwolf’s actors—including Mahoney—have gone on to greater stardom, said Steven Oxman in Variety. The troupe also took August: Osage County to Broadway last year. Guinan “hasn’t garnered as much recent attention as his fellow Steppenwolf collaborators,” but The Seafarer should change that. His slouch and bandaged nose are physical manifestations of just how beaten-down by life Sharky is, and the audience can feel him “wince with internal humiliation.” Mahoney is excellent as Richard, Sharky’s blind and angry sot of an older brother, and Tom Irwin excels as the “histrionic devil in disguise” Lockhart. Director Randall Arney’s Seafarer is more visceral and methodical than recent productions on Broadway and in London. But “it’s Guinan who makes this memorable.”