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The Seafarer (Irish Repertory Theatre)

From 25 critic and 40 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great writing, Entertaining, Funny

About the show

Irish Repertory Theatre's revival of this 2008 Tony-nominated play stars Matthew Broderick as Mr. Lockhart, a mysterious visitor to Dublin whose arrival turns a game of poker into a perilous gamble for one player's soul. More…

After losing yet another job, Sharky has returned home to build a new, sober existence with his cantankerous elder brother, Richard, recently blinded in a drunken accident. But it’s Christmas Eve, and the drinks are flowing as old friends convene for an annual game of poker. This year, an immortal stranger from Sharky’s past arrives, raising the stakes to eternal consequence.


"Mr. McPherson here offers a realistic premise with fantastical twists that perfectly join together. McPherson’s earthy dialogue is an exquisite combination of exposition and character details that all propel the plot with an abundance mordant Irish wit...The accomplished physical staging includes a lot funny business, fight scenes and special effects. Mr. O’Reilly has fully realized the author’s vison in a visually compelling fashion." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"This being an Irish play, you can probably guess without too much difficulty exactly what the debt is and who has come to collect it, and it is the highest of tributes to Mr. McPherson’s professional skill that he still contrives to successfully set off a firecracker of surprise at evening’s end...Five performances that are as deeply rooted in felt life as it’s possible to be...No company in America supplies it more regularly and consistently...What they do is what great theater should be." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"It was difficult to discern a single false note in Charlie Corcoran's solid-looking, photorealistic, two-level design of a shabby, junk-cluttered home…False notes, while not entirely absent, are rare in this exceptionally well-staged…and acted production… McPherson heightens his vibrant, if talky, play just enough to sustain credibility, making Mr. Lockhart's powers seem all the more potent…The feeling of inertia Broderick exudes deprives the character of any aura of enigmatic danger." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"Broderick delivers one of the finest performances of his career...Directed by O'Reilly with his usual unerring ability to shape an evening among sodden Irishmen into a superlative entertainment...Broderick imbues his character with a soft-spoken geniality...Broderick's dapper suaveness, and his naturally endearing stage presence, make his performance all the more spine-chilling. What better disguise would the Devil choose than to slip into the skin of a man with the face of a cherub?" Full Review

Front Row Center

"Matthew Broderick is an unexpected, but brilliant bit of casting for the role of The Devil...The entire cast worked together like an ensemble that has been together for years. Andy Murray was perfect as the tightly wound, glowering and monosyllabic Sharky...The director Ciarán O’Reilly keeps the pace moving and the tension building until the surprise ending brings a Christmas miracle." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"It is a dark and entertaining tale that looks sordid in its messy circumstances of five middle-aged men getting sozzled on whiskey, beer and moonshine while playing poker in a squalid parlor. Yet it proves to be, finally, a story of amazing grace forged by the redemptive power of fraternal love...Ciaran O’Reilly, the director, achieves a unified sense of ensemble playing from the actors." Full Review


"In the able hands of O'Reilly and this excellent cast, we thrill to the suspense...Broderick portrays Lockhart with steely, understated menace and ironic poignance...Mesmerizes when least expected...O'Reilly and the cast are spot-on in solidifying the contrasts and ironies...Aided by the able skills of O'Reilly, a sterling cast, and a talented design team, the themes and overall message of 'The Seafarer' shine in the fullness of glory in this production" Full Review


"The script is sharp and witty, strengths that shine brightly under Ciarán O'Reilly's direction. Each of the four ordinary Dubliners feels like a genuine individual rather than a mouthpiece for the playwright's own voice...'The Seafarer' operates on both metaphoric and literal planes, leaving a satisfying whole ripe with complexity. And here, truly, the devil is in the detail." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Astutely directed by O'Reilly with a stellar cast of seasoned actors, this 'Seafarer,' which will amuse you and chasten you in equal measure...Broderick is giving a taught, understated performance as Mr. Lockhart... It's nice to see Broderick back in top form despite the observation his star presence throws off the balance of the ensemble-but only slightly... You may not think you want to see an Irish tale of alcoholism, loss and redemption, but you'd be wrong." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"A spectator may start thinking that abutting the realism with the surreal is awkward. I definitely have that impression. Somehow the juxtaposition keeps chipping away at complete enjoyment. None of that compromises what director O’Reilly has unfolding...Some of the best ensemble acting carrying on these days is hopping on the Irish Repertory stage. It’s the kind of acting that defies acting and just is." Full Review

The New York Times

"O'Reilly's production is perhaps a bit too scrupulously realistic...But if you're willing to forgive the absence of miracles, this 'Seafarer' offers a lucid and straightforward reading of a play that seems to grow only richer with increased acquaintance...McPherson's dialogue continually coaxes poetry out of mundane conversation. And the cast here delivers such speech confidently and entertainingly...What's lacking is the sense of a surprising grace at work within these garrulous drunkards." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"The excellent actors make the most of McPherson's humor while we gradually learn about the pasts of the characters...To Broderick's credit he keeps his portrayal low key, making his dramatic pronouncement effective when he raises his voice like a thunderclap...O'Reilly keeps the banter intense, the pace fluid and gives the actors full rein to make the most of their characterizations...Isn't a very deep play, but it sure is an arresting one, especially as staged in this revival." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"A solid, entertaining revival...'The Seafarer' slowly unfolds its murkier depths under a surface of deceptively casual banter. It's not a play where much 'happens'. Its characters' primary actions are talking and drinking...As Mr. Lockhart himself, Broderick is an interesting choice, compelling if not always viscerally effective...But Broderick still does right by the character...O'Reilly's production is a generous, well-told rendition of one chapter in that immortal gambler's story." Full Review

Daily Beast

"Directed with seasonal exuberance and also quiet foreboding...Broderick plays the villain with a delicate coldness...At moments his quiet, slightly muffled speech ill lends itself to his necessary explanations of who he is and what is going on. But you don’t doubt for a moment the damage his character could do...The size of the Irish Rep means you very much feel as if you are there, with the wind howling and the tense drama rising—with natural and engaging performances from each actor." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

"A disturbingly dark and devilish comedy...Delivers the mordant laughs, tragic pathos, and the possibility of hope and redemption...McPherson defines each of his flawed characters with a distinctive personality...Their speech is realistic, their jargon recognizably Irish, their very human characterizations range from thoroughly unlikeable to laughable, infuriating to heartrending to unexpectedly hopeful...'The Seafarer' is a sardonic celebration of the joy of being alive." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"O'Reilly demonstrates a clear affinity for the playwright with this authentic-feeling and well-acted production. The ensemble delivers fully lived-in performances, mining their characters' drunken bombast and foolishness for all its comic worth...The problem, sad to say, is Broderick...Without a true sense of danger emanating from the character, the play's dramatic urgency gets lost. It's hard to be intimidated by a poker-playing Devil who's so obviously bluffing." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"O'Reilly unravels the plot ever so slowly with precision enabling the actors to fully develop a character and allowing the audience to revel in the rich and often poetic dialogue...It is always a pleasure to see Broderick take the stage...but he has not taken full advantage of the menacing and malicious traits that usually accompany this persona. This diminishes the tension and the ability to realize the full potential of the suspenseful script." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Just about every aspect of the production hits a thrilling high note, from the magnificent ensemble acting to O'Reilly's terrifically smart directing to the overall staging. McPherson is well-served by a dream team whose combined talent and energy have made this one truly not to be missed...The weak link in the piece is Broderick, who’s miscast and is thus simply not up to the part. He lends star power to the work...but the role of Lockhart requires more than this." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"The Irish Rep's vibrant production teems with life despite the consistent drag of its marquee name...McPherson writes his devil as a sharply dressed, arresting figure, oozing charisma...But Broderick gives as a satanic wallflower: low volume, low energy, low impact...Luckily O'Reilly and the rest of his team pick up the slack, allowing McPherson's script to buzz to life...Not even a flagging movie star can prevent O'Reilly and his cast from a compelling exploration of those mysteries." Full Review

Pop Culturalist

"O'Reilly leads this ensemble through this really solid production. He deftly keeps them moving through questions of faith, being responsible for your actions, and what happens when you have to endure the hard knocks of life...The weakest part of the production was Broderick's performance as Lockhart. While he played an unassuming, odd-man-out quite well, he lacked the menace that should be radiating off a devil-in-disguise...The ensemble is a really well-acted machine." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Sadly, this production has some small leaks in it...The cast solidly makes an attempt to stay afloat, but mainly because of the not very rich or menacing portrayal of the mysterious Mr. Lockhart, a man of refined appearance but dark underlying temperament, played with a somewhat too tight control by the miscast Broderick the boat keeps taking on water no matter how much is scooped out by the others...Directed with a shaky eye for blocking and a lack of lyrical essence." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"I'm sorry to say that Broderick's Mr. Lockhart doesn't have the faintest hint of brimstone...McPherson's writing is so powerful that at times the actor can't help making an impact...As a result, the focus shifts to Richard and the comedy of his appalling personal habits and nonstop drinking...Make no mistake: Ciarán O'Reilly has mounted a highly respectable production that is likely to please McPherson fans." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Vivid performances, believable boozing and McPherson's gorgeous dialogue. But there's a hole just under the waterline, a single error that makes the play founder. In an otherwise strong company, visiting star Broderick is both too obvious to ignore and too wrong to right...Without a serious antagonist, the piece lapses into atmosphere...The play can't function without the Devil, and he's just not there: not in the broad strokes, not in the details." Full Review

Stage Left

"A well-appointed revival of this fable, directed by Ciaran O’Reilly and starring a glaringly miscast Matthew Broderick alongside a finely nuanced troupe of mostly Irish and English actors...On stage, this production takes a long time to find its stride. While the non-Mephistophelian acting is richly engrossing, and the dialogue and setting so natural the experience feels almost voyeuristic, the simple plot falls victim to a slow boil and unfortunate casting decision." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Words can be intriguing, riveting, or like Act I of this play, just a barrage. All those strong Irish accents take a great deal of audience concentration...besides drunken chatter and character sketch, nothing happens...Act II improves with its axis now spinning around covert Satan. Except for parenthetic exchanges between Sharkey and Lockhart, dialogue, however, is inconsequential...O’Reilly handles manifesting intoxication well. Characters seem just enough out of control." Full Review

Exquisite, Great writing

See it if You want to see a straight up Gritty drama

Don't see it if You are looking for a bunch of gimmicks. This is just great writing and great acting

Funny, Great writing, Absorbing, Resonant

See it if you like Irish plays (think McDonagh), unsettling plays, and/or lots of mixed emotion.

Don't see it if heavy accents, heavy drinking, or profanities disturb you.

Also I don't want to say to much, lest I spoil the surprises, but be ready ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if you like plot twists and a small, intimate cast in a small, intimate setting

Don't see it if you can't understand Irish accents or don't like to see how the lower class lives

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Riveting

See it if you can appreciate pathos and humor in the same situation, and want to see some great acting in an intimate theater

Don't see it if you don't appreciate the Irish brogue, or only laugh at antic humor

Also The basic premise of this play has been presented in other works from ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Great acting, Great writing

See it if you love the Irish plays filled with "down in their luck" men drinking too much, but who have a great gift of the gab

Don't see it if You have trouble deciphering the Irish brogue.

Absorbing, Funny, Intelligent, Great writing, Masterful

See it if you like McPherson, a playwright who examines profound moral issues, but can be vulgar and hilarious too.

Don't see it if you're put off by characters who are serious drunkards living in semi-squalor or dislike any hint of the supernatural or strong accents.

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful

See it if If love McPherson plays. An Interesting, liquor laden slice of Irish Life theater.

Don't see it if Don't like genre of Irish plays or playwright McPherson.Can't listen to Irish accented dialogue.Offended by profanity & drunks.

Absorbing, Great writing, Entertaining, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if you like Mr. McPherson's stories, Irish stories that develop slowly, Irish craic (lively conversation), a wonderful Andy Murray as Sharky

Don't see it if you want the character Mr. Lockhart (played by Matthew Broderick) to be creepier or if you can't understand Irish accents

Also I brought my daughter (25) to her first play there so made sure we sat... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Quirky, Intelligent, Dark humor

See it if You like well-written Irish plays about lost men who use alcohol to escape the sins of their past.

Don't see it if You are turned off by excessive drinking onstage.

Also The acting was really good but Matthew Broderick was the weak link. I ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Entertaining, Clever

See it if If you're a Conor McPherson fan, this is one of his most entertaining yarns. The ensemble is quite strong and it's a fine production overall

Don't see it if If you saw the original Broadway production, this won't eclipse it. I enjoyed it being so fond of the play, but I missed the original cast.

Also Irish Rep does typically fine work with limited resources. Their (rela... Read more Read less

Riveting, Intense, Great acting, Edgy

See it if you've seen it before and were profoundly moved. You will enjoy this production very much

Don't see it if You have no patience with drunkenness and slovenly behavior.

Nuanced performances and direction

See it if If you adore McPerson, intricately developed performances of unlikeable characters don't intimidate you, and a look at good and evil appeals

Don't see it if you have no tolerance for drunken Irishmen on stage (and can't get over the stereotypes)

Also Not my favorite by this playwright but a fine production, beautifully ... Read more Read less

Entertaining, Great acting, An excellent production of a difficult play

See it if Not a great play, but this is Matthew Broderick's best performance in many many years, maybe decades.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding Irish accents. First 30 mins was difficult. Got better after Broderick entered.

Disappointing, Great writing, Slow, Well acted, Edgy

See it if McPherson's dark, nifty Irish parable of a literal 'Hell on Earth' in a decrepit house w/ a bunch of drunk Irish bros Great ensemble & set

Don't see it if Star Broderick doesn't quite muster the needed menace as 'Mr. Lockhart' Merely competent not malevolent O' Reilly's direction a little staid

Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Intense

See it if you want to see perhaps the most interesting role that Matthew Broderick, cast against type, has ever played, along with wonderful writing.

Don't see it if you are easily frustrated by the difficulty of understanding Irish accents or if you are not open to plots with a religious dimension.

Also All of the actors are excellent. I loved the idea of casting Matthew B... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Disappointing, Intelligent

See it if you want to see Matthew Broderick play the devil with not much menace, and would enjoy a rather depressing slice of life with a twist.

Don't see it if you struggle to understand heavy Irish accents, and lots and lots (and lots) of drinking is a trigger for you.

Also The balcony is partial view and should be sold as such.

Disappointing, Slow, Confusing, Great acting

See it if you like small, intimate productions, or are eager to see Matthew Broderick on stage.

Don't see it if you have a hard time understanding thick accents or prefer some speed to your story. This one takes nearly an entire act before it starts.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if The Irish Rep (which I always find to be high quality theater no matter what they do).

Don't see it if You don't like Matthew Broderick. He's very good in this.

Banal, Great acting, Excruciating, Disappointing, Intense

See it if you care more about acting and character development than plot. This is a great show for cynics and pessimists. Some actors are great.

Don't see it if you can't overlook Broderick's horrible Irish accent and how much he is miscast for his role. The plot is trite. lots of hard drinking.

Banal, Disappointing, Great writing, Slow, Overrated

See it if you want to see a play by Conor McPherson on stage.

Don't see it if you don't like slow plodding Irish plays.

Also I saw the original production on Broadway—and still have fond memories... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Wonderful play

See it if The play grabs you . You care and you are involved

Don't see it if If you have trouble withIrish accent

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if Great ensemble acting of a good story with a surprising twist at the end.

Don't see it if You don't like Irish accents and heavy drinking.

During previews
Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Riveting

See it if You like great acting, great writing --an extraordinary ensemble on a brilliant set. I was blown away

Don't see it if You are faint of heart.

During previews
Entertaining, Great acting, Delightful, Hilarious, Must see

See it if enjoy Irish plays and storytelling. We saw the first preview and were blown away by the acting and the set. Recommend this one highly!

Don't see it if are trying to recover from alcoholism. They drink ALOT in this one. You will definitely want a drink, too. Great fun. See it.

During previews
Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Edgy, Great staging

See it if you enjoy great storytelling, albeit from a cast of mostly drunk cussin' Irishmen.

Don't see it if you have a problem with heavy Irish accents, sometimes difficult to understand.

Also Like The Weir and Shining City, this play highlights McPherson's gift ... Read more Read less