”I?ve never courted,” proclaims the 45-year-old, virginal fisherman Colm (Patrick Fitzgerald) near the start of Sea Marks, Gardner McKay’s 1971 sweetly old-fashioned two-hander, now given a warm revival at Off Broadway’s Irish Repertory Theatre (playing through June 15). It’s been decades since the late McKay’s play has been seen in New York, and it remains a disarming bit of blarney.
Like John Patrick Shanley’s Tony-nominated Irish ditty Outside Mullingar, Sea Marks features a set-in-his-ways, aging Irishman and his bumbling attempts at romance. Unlike Mullingar, it’s the guy who’s abrasive. Colm begins his courtship by mail after a chance meeting at a wedding in the late 1960s. There he meets Timothea, an Englishwoman with ”city eyes” (played by the fetching Xanthe Elbrick of Coram Boy fame) who works in a publishing house. Before long, he’s shacking up with her in England, publishing his poetic correspondence in an anthology, and adjusting to fast-paced city life.
Sea Marks suggests a Gaelic-infused Neil Simon comedy, but the delightful wordplay doesn’t quite mask the serious lack of narrative progress; McKay has a habit of introducing potential conflicts (Timothea’s ex, for example) only to deflate them with a line or two. But the well-matched Fitzgerald and Elbrick are such fun to watch — and so unrushed by director Ciarán O’Reilly — that their gentle duet smooths over some of the play?s occasional lapses (including a rather weak, sputtering conclusion). While they?re a-courtin’, you’ll be a-carin’. B