Stuffed Happens

A post-strike round-up: four Broadway openings, plus a little Off-Broadway Darwinism

And if acting's what you shell out for, Conor McPherson's The Seafarer (Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street, 212-239-6200) gives another plentiful helping, under the author's direction, with deeper grounding and little or no gratuitous italicizing. The trouble is McPherson's script, another of his no-blend combinations of grottily detailed low-life naturalism with a piece of folk kitsch left over from the era when all supernatural beings came onstage via trap doors or fly wires. He doesn't seem to understand that his context kills his dramatic substance—it's like setting Peter Pan in a natural-history museum. The killing works in reverse, too: These low-life souls are so scruffy it's hard to see why Satan wants them so desperately; he could be making hay at Republican Party headquarters instead. But McPherson's actors make the lowlifes juicily real, and the two central performances—by David Morse as the soul in deepest torment and Ciaràn Hinds as the stranger gambling on his destruction—anchor the factitious script with the dour, towering strength of weathered steel pylons.

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