Now playing at the Booth Theatre on Broadway.
The most memorable passage of The Seafarer is a monologue about Hell—Hell as a place, not a mere concept, but not the traditional inferno either. To the contrary, The Seafarer describes Hell as a place of cold—cold, isolation, and self-loathing. The more I think about it, the more I like that description. Flames might be more frightening from a physical standpoint, but from an emotional standpoint, cold is worse. A cold person is capable of much more terrible cruelty than a fiery person. What’s more, cold is not a thing itself; it is absence, the absence of heat. Cold is abandonment, loneliness, rejection or, worse, indifference. Fire might be physical agony, but cold goes deeper. To experience a cold Hell is to experience profound loss, the loss of everything warm and good and beautiful.
I listened, rapt, as Ciarán Hinds delivered the Hell monologue in The Seafarer, just as I listened, rapt, to the monologues in The Weir, an earlier work by the same playwright, Conor McPherson, when it saw it in London nearly ten years ago. But unlike The Weir, The Seafarer didn’t really capture my imagination beyond that monologue. Unlike in The Weir, the monologue was really the only thing that felt fresh.