Conor McPherson’s “Dublin Carol,” revived by the Irish Repertory Theatre, is a solemn character study offering an actor a poignant role, and the excellent Jeffrey Bean is certainly up to the task.
It is Christmas Eve in 1999, and the setting, designed by Charlie Corcoran, is the office in a funeral parlor on the Northside of Dublin. John, who manages the home, has spent year as an alcoholic, and although he has cut down, the struggle remains.
He is a sad specimen of a man, who is estranged from his wife, daughter and son. We see him as an example of loneliness as he deals with Christmas decorations, hardly in the holiday spirit. At the start of the play he talks with young Mark (Cillian Hegarty), who is working as his assistant.
A crisis brews when John’s daughter, Mary (Sarah Street), arrives, says her mother is dying and insists that he visit his wife. It is an impassioned plea, which John resists.
Will he oblige? For the rest of the play we watch John try to cope with the request, as well as the booze, and the playwright shrewdly draws us into this sad world and we can ponder what the outcome will be. Bowing to his daughter’s plea would be an act of redemption for John as well as an act of generosity. But is he emotionally capable of doing it?
Director Ciarán O’Reilly carefully builds the atmosphere with a leisurely pace as Bean skillfully makes us care about what John will decide. “Dublin Carol” is not a play to send you home in a cheerful mood, but you will leave with an appreciation for McPherson’s stature as a playwright and for Bean’s acting, as well as the other two performances by Street and Hegarty. At the Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Phone: 212-727-2737. Reviewed October 17, 2919.