Mini-review – Misterman – National Theater

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A one man show about a religious fanatic in Ireland did not sound like the kind of thing I really wanted to waste my time watching. I don’t care for religion and, based on how terrible the last two Irish plays I saw were, I thought there was little hope for Misterman to be anything other than miserable. But then the reports came back that this was full of “black humor” and … key point … had a running time of 90 minutes. And the buzz was very positive. Alright, I thought, bring on your Jesus talk, I can make it that long … and I may even enjoy myself.

As it turns out, the buzz was right. Where I expected a cutesy show about a misunderstood but kind soul, from the very beginning Thomas Magill (Cillian Murphy) does not seem to be alright. It’s funny to see him desperately scribbling angry notes when someone is rude to him, but his inability to get control over the speakers blaring music during the very first scene – which ends with him destroying the tape players – shows us that under his smile is a bad temper and a lack of control. And, it seems, he is experiencing a reality that is different from the one we are in.

Throughout the play Murphy voices a lot of different characters, some of them “through the eyes of Thomas,” others being quite simply performed as they might have been talking to him. It becomes obvious that we, the audience, need to be thinking about which of these conversations are real and which are as he wanted them to take place; and, at some point, it becomes impossible to tell if any of them are real, or if he is really just doing the whole thing by himself in a garage he’s locked himself into.

While the play dragged a little around 1:10, this was a great psychodrama and a brilliant chance for Murphy to show off his skills as an actor. Big props have to also go to Enda Walsh for the brilliant script. I try really hard to support new writing and this time it paid off: Misterman is going to get revived again and again. That said … the show at the National is really nice with an effective, electric set and everything as perfect as you hope it will be at one of the premiere stages in the UK. And it’s only 90 minutes! What’s to lose? Get your tickets now!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012. It continues through May 28th. Don’t be discouraged by the fact it looks sold out: at the National you can almost always count on a few returns on the day of or night before.)

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