Irish theater drama ‘The Weir’ a case of the spooky, funny

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Tackling roles in the Baton Rouge Irish Club's production of 'The Weir,' an old-fashioned ghost story, are, from left, Brian Breen, Nancy Litton, Sid Bailey, Warren Fraser and Dave Besse.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Tackling roles in the Baton Rouge Irish Club's production of 'The Weir,' an old-fashioned ghost story, are, from left, Brian Breen, Nancy Litton, Sid Bailey, Warren Fraser and Dave Besse.

Irish theater drama ‘The Weir’ a case of the spooky, funny

Get ready for a night of old-fashioned ghost stories when the Baton Rouge Irish Club stages Conor McPherson’s drama, “The Weir.

And prepare yourself for a twist that will change everyone’s perspective in the end.

The club will open “The Weir” on Friday, Aug. 15, for five performances in two weekends at Café Americain. Tickets and dinner are sold separately, but dinner is not required to view the play. Seating is limited to 60 for each performance.

“The dinner theater sold out last year, and Café Americain is really the perfect play for this setting,” director Brian Breen says.

Breen also is playing the character Finbar, one of the pub’s storytellers.

“The story takes place in a pub, and the dining room where we will perform it is set up like a pub, so we don’t have to worry with sets,” he says.

Breen is joined at the café by fellow cast members Dave Besse, Sid Bailey, Warren Fraser and Nancy Litton, who plays the lone female character Valerie, whose life-changing tales spell out a brand of salvation for at least two of the storytellers.

But make no mistake — all is not angsty in “The Weir.”

“There are a lot of funny parts,” Litton says. “I think it’s something the audience will have fun watching.”

“The Weir” premiered on July 4, 1997, in London’s Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and made its Broadway debut on April 1, 1999, in the Walter Kerr Theatre.

The story opens with pub owner Brendan and regulars Jack and Jim discussing their respective days’ work. The conversation morphs to speculation when a young Dublin woman named Valerie walks in with local businessman Finbar.

Who is she? Can she be spooked by a few ghost stories?

The guys decide to test Valerie’s vulnerability, and as the drinks increase, so do their mix of ghost stories and Irish folklore.

But Valerie isn’t spooked and instead pushes back with her own tales, one being why she left Dublin. Her stories somehow echo theirs with truth, and they are the ones who are spooked. “Each story gets progressively more serious,” Fraser says. “It’s told in sort of a ‘Twilight Zone’ way.”

Cast members aren’t necessarily part of the Irish Club, and include local actors who annually come together for this production.

“It’s a chance for us to do Irish theater, and there aren’t many opportunities in Baton Rouge to do that,” Breen says.

And though they always try to tackle new material, it only made sense for the actors to return to “The Weir” this year.

“So many of our cast members were involved in other productions this summer, so our time was limited,” Litton says. “‘The Weir’ was something we’d done before, so it made it easier for us to come back to it.”

“The Weir” isn’t an interactive play, meaning audience members will not be asked to participate.

“Everyone can just relax, eat and watch,” Breen says. “I think the story will resonate with the audience, because everyone will recognize some things from smalltown Louisiana in this play — they’ll recognize the small-town relationships.”