Talk about slice of life theater.  Consider yourself plopped down on a lumpy sofa, one that has certainly seen better days and one that would have plenty of colorful stories to impart if it could speak.  Said sofa is in the corner of a dingy lower level apartment in the seamy side of Dublin, in a struggle to find something cheery to boast about for the Christmas holiday.
    The flat, decorated in early beer can, is peopled with a sad lot of humanity, mostly drunk and hardly ever sober.  Enter the world craftily created by Conor McPherson in his new play “The Seafarer,” comfortably  established , on a set cunningly designed by Adrian W. Jones, at Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, December 21.
    One of Ireland’s best known contemporary playwrights, McPherson has skillfully drawn a motley crew of characters with his sharpened quill.  It’s Christmas Eve and what better way to celebrate the savior’s birth then with a bottle or three of whiskey and a rousing game of poker.  The stakes for the game are exceptionally high, even if most of the players are clueless.
    Edmond Genest is wonderfully wrapped in the role of Richard, a curmudgeon recently blinded in a freak accident, who loves to make his brother “Sharky” (Dean Nolen) dance to his piper’s tune.  Their poor friend Ivan (John Ahlin) seeks refuge  at their place, to give himself time to sober up and only manages to make his home situation mountains worse.  Richard invites his brother’s nemesis Nicky (Chris Genebach) over to share a brew, the man “Sharky” blames for much of his disappointing life and Nicky, in turn,  introduces a stranger into their pathetic Christmas pageant.  Will the unknown Mr. Lockhart (Allen McCullough) be Scrooge or Santa or someone altogether sinister?
    Henry Wishcamper directs this Irish tale, peppered as it is with salty language, with a firm and steady hand and a fine cast of talented blokes.
    For tickets ($37-47-58), call Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at ; Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
    Pull up a chair and ante up for a spirited game of chance where you may lose or win much more than you bargained to wager.

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