Conor McPhersons pristine study in urban loneliness, first produced in 2004, unfolds in a Dublin walkup where a sexually confused therapist, Ian (William Dennis Hurley), listens, and listens, and listens some more to the half completed sentences spewed by his despondent client, John (Morlan Higgins), who keeps bursting into paroxysms of sobbing over the loss of his wife, killed in an auto accident. Making matters worse, the couple were estranged at the time, and what will eventually unfold is Johns story of his blazingly pathetic and unconsumed adultery with someone he met at a party his blunderings, his selfishness, and his need not so much for sex but for the validation that comes from human contact, which his nowlate wife couldnt provide to his satisfaction. John is haunted by her ghost, and Ian must ever so gently tell him that what he saw or heard was real, but ghosts simply arent. (That gently yet smugly articulated theory will be challenged, along with every other pretense of whats real, and what isnt.) While listening to his forlorn client, and answering with such kindness and sensitivity, Ian is himself going through hell: A former priest, he must now explain to his flummoxed wife (Kerrie Blaisdell, imagine the multiple reactions of a cat thats just been thrown out a window) that hes leaving her, and their child, though he will move mountains to continue to support them financially. Ians plight becomes a tad clearer with the visit of a male prostitute (Benjamin Keepers) in yet another pathetic and almost farcical endeavor to connect with another human being. Director Stephen Sachs meticulous attention to detail manifests itself in the specificity with which Ian places his chair, in the sounds of offstage footsteps on the almost abandoned buildings stairwell (sound design by Peter Bayne), in the ebbs and flows of verbiage and silence, in Higgins hulking tenderness, and in the palate of emotions reflected in the slender Hurleys withering facial reactions. This is a moving portrait, in every sense: delicate, comical, desolate and profoundly humane. Its probably a bit too long, the denouement lingers to margins of indulgence, but thats a quibble in a production of such rare beauty. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 19. (323) 663-1525.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 19. Continues through Dec. 19, 2009