The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Weir depicts an evening at a small bar located on a farm in rural Ireland where the proprietor, three other local men, and a woman new to the area meet, drink, and tell stories. The banter consists of friendly local talk and gossip that is uneventful in itself, but overall reveals the characters’ isolation and the figurative ghosts that haunt them.

The play opens as Jack, a customer clearly familiar with the bar, comes in and, in the absence of the proprietor, helps himself to a drink. Brendan then enters carrying peat for the fire to warm them on the windy and chilly night, and they chat about their day. The talk is familiar and friendly, about drinking, the weather, whether Brendan will give in to his sisters’ pressure to sell some of the farmland, Jack’s luck at betting on the horses, and to gossip about Finbar. Jack has heard that Finbar sold the Nealon house, which had sat empty for several years, to a young woman from Dublin, and that he would bring her by the bar that night to meet everyone. Jack especially expresses disapproval of Finbar’s showing the woman around. He feels Finbar will make them, two single men, look desperate by comparison. Though their language is full of profanity, it is not aggressive, and even suggests a certain decorum: A married man should not be going around with another woman. Rather, they are two single men to whom the mention of a young woman new to town is particularly interesting.

Jim enters and talks of driving his elderly mother to visit her sister, and he and Jack talk about work they will do the next day. The talk again turns to Finbar and the woman, identified by Jim as nice looking. They speculate about the nature of that relationship, whether Brendan would sell or rent the land for tourists’ caravans, and the beginning of the...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The play happens in real time, taking about one hundred minutes in performance, and thus the audience essentially is eavesdropping on the characters’ conversation, as though they were customers in the bar. The dialogue is informal, easygoing, comic, and arguably a bit quaint, as some reviewers found the play an exercise in Irish picturesque. It is, however, very realistic, rhythmic, and natural, easily engaging the audience through generally likable if imperfect characters. While much of the dialogue between stories may seem like aimless banter, it provides glimpses of each character’s private thoughts. Since the play is essentially one act without action, the only changes onstage are the characters’ entrances and momentary exits that alter the dynamics between them. For example, Valerie’s visit to the ladies’ room after hearing the third ghost story allows the men to argue, then decide not to tell more stories that might upset or frighten her, thus increasing the tension and irony of their own fear and horror when they later hear Valerie’s story. Like any evening full of storytelling, drink, and lonely characters, the play moves from light comedy to intriguing mystery about what frailties each of the characters is trying to hide, to deeply poignant silences. The final movement of the play occurs when Jack, the most world-weary figure, unveils his own sorrows and, in sharing them with Brendan and Valerie, allows them to drop their masks and speak honestly, gently, and as kindred wandering spirits.


(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Adam, Michelle. “A Stage for the Irish.” World of Hibernia 6 (Summer, 2000): 70.

Brantley, Ben. “Dark Yarns Casting Light.” New York Times, April 2, 1999, p. E1.

McPherson, Conor. “Late Nights and Proclamations.” American Theatre 16 (April, 1999): 45-46.

Renner, Pamela. “Haunts of the Very Irish.” American Theatre 15 (July/August, 1998): 16-19.

“The Weir Breaks on Broadway.” World of Hibernia 5 (Summer, 1999): 13.