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The Seafarer Guess who's coming to play cards? If you're hell-bent on seeing Conor McPherson's brogue-laced Christian tall tale The Seafarer, read no further, because here comes a spoiler. It's Christmas Eve, and blind Richard (John Tyson), now in the care of brother Sharky (James Black), has asked buddies Ivan (Declan Mooney) and Nicky (Chris Hutchison) over to play cards. But Nicky brings an unexpected guest, someone he met at the pub who's looking for Sharky, a Mr. Lockhart (Todd Waite), mysterious but willing to join in the alcohol-fueled game. Here's the spoiler: Lockhart is the Devil. Yes, the actual ruler of Hell has come to claim Sharky's soul, which Sharky gave him 25 years ago when he beat a murder rap. Lockhart will play poker with the boys. Unbeknownst to the rest of them, if Sharky loses, it's eternal bye-bye. (Why Mr. Satan is required to play games at all for the souls he collects is never explained. Maybe the Big Guy Upstairs sets the rules.) While filled with clipped and jagged dialogue that has the air of verisimilitude, McPherson's play doesn't really surprise. The guys are lovable losers even when sloshed and acting stupid, but the story is right out of Twilight Zone, albeit punctured with nonstop profanity and regional color. The ensemble is above reproach, layering their woebegone losers with a fine Irish whiskey fog and impeccable technique, but the real surprise is newcomer Mooney, an understudy when the play opened on Broadway in 2007. His style is refreshing and unaffected. He's continuously tipsy throughout and blighted by farsightedness, and even his smallest gestures carry immense comic weight. He's just another average bloke blindly stumbling through life. The production is ravishing, with Hugh Landwehr's dank, decayed setting a major character. Director Gregory Boyd keeps the action taut, even when it flags under McPherson, and there's a lively rhythm between the guys that keeps us involved and amused. McPherson's comic little ghost story resolves into a nifty morality tale, and it's sort of shocking to see such naked faith given such a positive nod. We should be thankful for the life affirmation, if we all don't go to hell first. Through May 5. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 713-228-8421. — DLG

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