Sunday, December 02, 2007
Most drunks know that the bottle can lead to hell. In Conor McPherson's lively and briskly entertaining new play, transferred nearly intact from The National, it's literal: the mysterious Christmas Eve visitor to a house of hard-luck Irish drunks is The Devil personified, out to collect on a secret longstanding debt by way of a high-stakes poker game. While the play moves along engagingly at a comic clip, wringing laughs out of the whiskey-soaked logic and dysfunction of the drunkards (who, save one, are clueless that the Devil is among them), an undercurrent of dread snakes cunningly through the play once McPherson reveals the sobering gravity of the game. McPherson taps into a particular brand of alcoholic shame and self-loathing that give his supernatural story a haunting, lingering resonance beyond what might be expected of a typical ghost story: the play can be taken as an allegory or simply enjoyed as a good Faustian yarn. Either way, it's a richly evocative piece of work and this superbly performed, expertly directed production is highly recommended.