BOTTOM LINE: not a passive theatre experience...funny and interesting, but only if you can keep up.
The Seafarer is written and directed by Conor McPherson, an Irish guy who received critical acclaim last year for Broadway's Shining City. He's a fantastic storyteller and for The Seafarer he has created five interesting characters who are both farcical and sympathetic. The writing is witty and maintains that great dry humor from the UK. At times the script is wordy, but it's paced well and consistently funny so my interest was always piqued.
Here's where it gets tricky...between the Irish accents and quick pace, I had some difficulties keeping up with the details of the plot, especially at first. Also, the script requires work from the audience. It's not an easily digestible, fluffy story that absolves the audience of effort. It's somewhat challenging and thought-provoking, so if you're looking for the mind-numbing escapism that theatre can provide, this is not for you.
At the risk of revealing too much about the plot, I'll just borrow TheatreSource's synopsis: "It's Christmas Eve and Sharky has returned to Dublin to look after his irascible, aging brother who's recently gone blind. Old drinking buddies Ivan and Nicky are holed up at the house too, hoping to play some cards. But with the arrival of a stranger from the distant past, the stakes are raised ever higher. In fact, Sharky may be playing for his very soul."
The high points for me in The Seafarer were the performances and the humor. The cast is brilliant...it's five guys you've seen many times before but probably don't know their names. The low point was the story development. Even though Act One is all exposition, by the time the plot got to the main conflict, I wasn't really sure how we'd gotten there. And sure, I know I lost a few details (see second paragraph), but the plot still had a couple of big holes that were never fully explained. It didn't take away from my understanding of the play, it just left me with a couple of questions.
You should see The Seafarer if you like theatre that makes you think and if you like snarky humor from overseas. You should not see The Seafarer if you go to the theatre for escapism and light entertainment.
(The Seafarer is still in previews; it officially opens December 6th. It plays at The Booth Theatre at 222 W. 45th St.)