- Last Updated: 12:26 AM, December 7, 2011
- Posted: 10:42 PM, December 5, 2011
St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water St., Brooklyn; 718-254-8779. Through Dec. 21.
There’s an intense, otherworldly quality to Cillian Murphy. Maybe it’s the Irish star’s memorable, piercing-blue eyes. Maybe it’s the way in which he disappears into his roles, whether it’s the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins,” a transgender youth in “Breakfast on Pluto” or an IRA militant in “The Wind That Shakes the Barley.”
This makes Murphy particularly well-suited for Enda Walsh’s 90-minute solo show “Misterman,” in which he plays a mysterious obsessive and voices his family, neighbors and hallucinations.
A harrowing trip through a doomsday of the mind, the show zeroes in on one Thomas Magill as he relives an eventful day in the Irish village of Inishfree.
We have an inkling that all is not well as soon as we take in Jamie Vartan’s 80-foot-wide post-apocalyptic loft — it takes up the entire width of St. Ann’s Warehouse, where the show recently opened. This is the kind of place where a survivor would hunker down, with jerry-rigged furniture and canned food.
Thomas does look like the last man on Earth in his filthy clothes and scruffy whiskers. He’s haggard and harried — Murphy gets quite a workout, constantly running around that enormous space.
Thomas hears things, too, even if it’s unclear whether the songs (Doris Day!) and voices come from one of the several reel-to-reel recorders that litter the place, or from our narrator’s head.
Walsh — whose “Penelope” and “The New Electric Ballroom” also played St. Ann’s — doesn’t make things easy for us. He writes in a disjointed manner, giving away just enough of a thread to keep us hooked. There are brief moments of slightly surreal humor, as when Thomas evokes Mrs. Cleary’s famous cheesecake — “How anyone could think that a whisked bit of cheese with a broken biscuit base could set the baking world on fire,” he marvels.
This doesn’t last. Tho-mas’ religious visions become increasingly dark, and when he talks about killing a dog, you realize the man’s not eccentric-nuts: He’s scary-nuts.
“Misterman” isn’t without problems, especially when Walsh, who has great facility as a writer, indulges in some obvious, audience-baiting tricks.
Murphy, on the other hand, resists actorly histrionics — his focus and discipline make Thomas scary. Playing deranged confusion demands no less.