CIRCLEVILLE - A Christmas Eve poker game takes an unexpected turn Friday as "The Seafarer," a play by Conor McPherson, opens on the Roundtown Players stage at Memorial Hall.
The play centers on Sharky (Joel Derkin), an alcoholic who returns home to Ireland to care for his blind brother, Richard (Chad Anderson). As Sharky struggles to stay off the drink and turn his life around, the task is made more difficult as a group of old drinking buddies gather for a friendly game of cards.
Tensions are already high between Sharky and Nicky (John Grote), who is now dating Sharky's former girlfriend. But the arrival of a stranger, Mr. Lockhart (Charles Seebach), reveals the true, dark nature of the game - Sharky can't escape his past, and Lockhart is playing for his soul.
Christopher Johnson, director of the production, said he was drawn to the play after seeing it in New York in 2006 and having the opportunity to meet McPherson, the playwright and director.
Johnson said the play resonates with the message that familial relationships, either through blood or friendship, have the ability to change your life.
"I think it has a language that is beautiful and articulate, and it's a common theme that people can grab hold of," Johnson said. "No matter what happens to you - natural, supernatural, good or bad - something you can always rely on is the people in your life."
The cast, which also includes Jack Miller as Ivan, is a mixture of some familiar Roundtown Players faces as well as some new to the Circleville stage.
The play does contain strong language and adult themes, and it runs about two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Johnson said he hopes the audience will take away from the play what he took from it.
"The force in this play is something everyone can recognize," he said. "The ability to overcome that force is huge. If people can grab ahold of that and take it away with them, then I've done my job."
"The Seafarer" opens this week with 8 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday at Memorial Hall. It returns next weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28, and a matinee performance at 2:30 p.m. March 1.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students.