Like Mr. Scrooge, middle-aged mortician’s assistant John (Jeffrey Bean) is visited by history on Christmas Eve. The locale is a dingy, Dublin office meant to welcome those mourners who can’t afford anywhere else. Currently decorated for the holiday, the otherwise colorless atmosphere reflects its inhabitant’s loneliness and depression. (Set Design – Charlie Corcoran)
After a funeral, dour memories seep into what begins a genial, if hung-over conversation with young, clean cut associate Mark (Cillian Hegarty). John is long estranged from his own daughter and son. His boss and redeemer Noel “Noely” is in hospital leaving the protagonist untethered. There’s no one to watch over, counsel, and apparently regulate drinking. The older man assures Mark he has it under control.
Mark finally extricates himself. On his heels daughter, Mary (Sarah Street), unexpectedly arrives with news her mother is dying. Despite a childhood filled with bad memories, she manages to muster a few positive ones and is sure Helen will want to see him before passing.
The alcoholic is endlessly self-flagellating. Mary barely gets through. Nonetheless, she’ll be back at 5:00. John goes out, returning with biscuits and a bottle of scotch twice the size of the one out of which he’d poured snorts for Mark and himself.
By the time the boy returns for his money, John is out cold having just about finished the bottle. Awakened, he walks as if on deck tossed by ocean turbulence. Conversation is stilted. John is foggy; apologetic, whiny. His Christmas will be spent visiting Noely, then watching telly. Wait – what time is it?! He washes up, puts dishes away, turns the radio to a carol, and, as the light fades, waits for Mary.
This is not one of Conor McPherson’s better efforts. Both charisma and sympathy are notably absent. Much of the piece is self-pitying monologue. Acting is fine, though nothing distinguishes John’s predictable blandness. Director Ciarán O’Reilly provides natural stage business and good pacing.
Photos by Carol Rosegg
Opening: Jeffrey Bean and Cillian Hegerty
Dublin Carol by Conor McPherson
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd Street
Through November 10, 2019