Though Cillian Murphy and his famous blue eyes easily dominate the massive St. Anne's Warehouse stage in his New York stage debut, the real star of Enda Walsh's one-man show Misterman is the remarkable sound design by Gregory Clarke. From Doris Day at the top to the dead silence before the curtain call, Clarke's clever design (along with Donnacha Dennehy's compositions) is almost distractingly good. Which makes sense since as a series of reel-to-reel recordings are a crucial plot point in this tight play that initially appears to cover a day in the life of a troubled, deeply religious Irishman in Innisfree.
In a role written and directed by Walsh, movie star Murphy gives the kind of intense (and briefly arguably too intense) performance filmgoers have come to expect from the Red Eye guy who played Scarecrow. As the audience watches, Murphy's character Thomas Magill relives a day in his hometown, using an array of audio recordings he's arranged around his giant abandoned warehouse. Murphy plays pretty much the whole town on the enormous set and, as the day goes on, the audience becomes increasingly aware that something is not quite right with their host for the evening. After Magill meets an angel while indulging in some cheesecake things only get more disturbing. Our Town this is not.
The play, a zippy 80 minutes with no intermission, is the kind of Irish Catholic drama you've probably seen before—sadly no matter how well Murphy sells it, and he does, the surprise at the end isn't all that much of a surprise—but that's okay. Walsh, who played the titular role in its original production in 1999, clearly knows the material he wrote and his show never lags. Murphy seems totally at ease on the exquisitely deteriorated stage (designed by Jamie Vartan), even as he pours buckets of sweat out onto his shirt, bangs on walls, and banters with a recording of his 'Mammy' in a manner that brings to mind Psycho as much as anything else. He seems to fully relish his time on stage. This isn't a movie star working the boards for a paycheck, this is an actor fully embracing a role. If you can get your hands on a ticket, do. The show runs until December 22.