Conor McPherson writes Irish ghost stories ("The Weir" "Shining City"), and his latest is no exception, though it is the first play of his I have seen. "The Seafarer" is set in an intensely shabby Dublin apartment where Sharky Harkin (played with delicious restraint by David Morse) has returned to his father's home after a chauffeuring job in Lahinch went wrong. Sharky is also trying to go on the wagon, as his drinking is preventing him from being a sailor.
Unfortunately, the Harkin household is not the most supportive place to get dry, especially on Christmas Eve. Patriarch Richard Sharkey has gone recently blind (could it be the illegal poteen he sometimes gets from one of the neighbors?), but that only means he has to rely on friends and family to bring him the prodigious amounts of whiskey and beer he downs each day. As Christmas Eve morning dawns, Sharky is cleaning up the mess from the previous night's bingeing by his elder brother and their friend Ivan (brilliant sloppiness from Conleth Hill). When Sharky is upstairs, Richard and Ivan scurry to find the dregs from any bottles that were left.
The story doesn't really kick into gear until another friend of the family, another (surprise!) alcoholic, Nicky (Sean Mahon), arrives with Mr. Lockhart (the menacing Ciaran Hinds) in tow. Mr. Lockhart, we soon learn, is Satan himself, come to collect the soul Sharky promised him many years ago.
But the story isn't really the draw here. The main reason to see "The Seafarer" is the crackling dialogue delivered by a truly world-class ensemble. Stage acting doesn't get a whole lot better than this.