BWW Reviews: MISTERMAN at Boulder's Dairy Center
The mind of someone with a mental illness is a stimulating place to visit, currently being explored in a Boulder production of Misterman by Enda Walsh.
This production of Misterman premiered at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts last fall, where it played to sold-out crowds. The original played Off-Broadway in 2011, starring Cillian Murphy. Walsh, an Irish playwright, is probably most-widely known for penning the book to the Tony Award-winning musical Once.
Misterman centers on a well-intentioned young evangelist, Thomas Magill (a feisty Craig Macarthur), who lives with his mammy. He sets off to encounter his neighbors in the Irish community of Inishfree, equipped with a tape recorder, doing the Lord's work. The day is essentially reenacted in a junk-filled warehouse, strewn with Fanta cans and tape recorders, where the schizophrenic Thomas is holed up.
Macarthur is a tour de force as the seemingly harmless Thomas. His character, well aware of the audience, radiates a blissful fieriness as he bounces back and forth between scenes he's created, effortlessly engaging in conversations with prerecorded actors. At some points he plays the other characters himself, almost mockingly. Retrospectively, it's difficult for me to imagine Macarthur was by himself the entire time; his impressions were so varied and well acted, I picture other people there with him.
Misterman also features the voices of Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis and Denver's Henry Award winner John Ashton, along with Ryan Wuestewald, Julie Foh, Matt Bittner, Jordan Spoon, Kate Lydic, Will Hardyman, Tim Moore and Christina Norris.
Director Melissa Firlit's vision is a visceral immersion in Thomas's mind. His perception of the world is special, but they ground him as a somewhat relatable guy. Elaine Wong's lighting design transports the audiences, frenetically flashing like a race through Thomas's head. Matt Bittner's crisp sound design is worth noting, as it shapes so many of the show's major moments.
Misterman, which plays a mere 90 minutes, is an enigmatic excursion through the mind of a man trying to interpret his own journey. It doesn't give you a second to think for yourself...you're in Thomas's world, and what a curious place it is.
When you see it, stay for the talkback. Your mind will thank you.
Misterman plays at Boulder's Dairy Center for the Arts (2590 Walnut Street) through April 3 as part of Boulder Arts Week. (No performance March 31.) All performances are at 8 p.m. All performances will also be followed by a talkback. This is the final stop before the production relocates to New York for in the fall.