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Life or death, determined by the right hand

Going through “World Series of Poker” withdrawal? Then look no further than the Arena Players in East Farmingdale to quench your thirst with Conor McPherson’s brilliant comedy-drama “The Seafarer.”

Going through “World Series of Poker” withdrawal? Then look no further than the Arena Players in East Farmingdale to quench your thirst with Conor McPherson’s brilliant comedy-drama “The Seafarer,” where the stakes are far higher than a mere pot of money.

This five-hander, which played Broadway to much acclaim in 2007, is set in the home of brothers Richard and James “Sharky” Harkin on Christmas Eve in Baldoyle, North Dublin. Richard, the older, has recently gone blind in a drunken revelry accident on Halloween; Sharky, a listless wanderer, has returned to look after him, and has decided to give up the sauce in time for Christmas.

Three others make up their Christmas Eve poker-and-whiskey party: drunkards Ivan, who recently lost his glasses; Nicky, who has taken up with Sharky’s wife; and the dapper, mysterious Mr. Lockhart. Pretty soon, it’s clear who Mr. Lockhart really is, and what his intentions are. If he wins the last hand, he wins Sharky’s soul.

The ensemble, directed with precision by Thomas Donnarumma, is quite convincing in their respective roles. Rick Jimenez and Daniel Sheffield are entertaining as the befuddled Ivan and Nicky. Ray Proietti brings a great deal of inner conflict to Sharky. The showiest role, blind Richard, is convincingly played by the fully committed Robert Budnick. And Keith Cornelius is thoroughly mesmerizing as Mr. Lockhart, delivering McPherson’s beautifully haunting monologue about the loneliness and claustrophobia of hell with quiet grace.

 
 
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