Misterman by Frank Theatre performing at the Southern

John Catron in Misterman.  Photo provided by Frank Theatre.

John Catron in Misterman. Photo provided by Frank Theatre.

If you missed John Catron‘s intensely silly, hootingly funny and utterly astonishing work in The Winter’s Tale at the Flying G a few seasons back, you should endeavor to journey back in time and check it out.  Failing that, you should see Misterman, at Frank Theatre (performing at the Southern, through April 28).  Catron brings the same roistering comic fervor to his performance (it’s a one man show) in Misterman: he dashes about the stage, switching on the dozens of tape recorders, cooking meals for himself, slipping effortlessly into a variety of characters, speaking to disembodied voices, scratching his shaven head, grinning and holding forth like the madman he is.

As always, Frank founder and AD Wendy Knox‘s direction is wildly exuberant and fiercely somber at the same time.  Praise is also due to designer Michael Sommers for his brilliantly cluttered set (featuring a gorgeously Naïve set of glowing pop can crucifixes) and to Kathy Kohl for the wonderful suit (see the play and you’ll see what I’m referring to).  Frank has many strengths but their ability to make first rate theater on a budget always amazes.

So.  What happens in Enda Walsh‘s hallucinatory Misterman is as follows.  Ahem.   You see, our narrator, Thomas Magill, he…  What he does, is he…

All right, I can’t tell you precisely what happens in this piece.  It moves too quickly, the writing is too dense, too fantastical, and the narrator lives in a delirium of religiosity, violence and crazed creativity.  Here’s my best interpretation of the action of Misterman: Thomas Magill, inhabiting the small fictitious Irish town, Inishfree—

(A quick note regarding Walsh’s name for the town: I couldn’t get William Butler Yeats’s serenely beautiful poem The Lake Isle Of Innisfree out of my mind and I’ll bet Irish audiences have the same issue.  If you’re going to see this show, do yourself a favor and read the poem – it will only require five minutes)

—where he hears voices (the recorders) and encounters real people (the various characters).  As the story builds, Magill frightens everyone in Inishfree with his religious fervor and its disturbing potential for violence.  Magill is similarly disenchanted with the town: “Everything is not good, Daddy,” he intones.  At the end he meets a sweet local girl, Eva, whom he perceives to be an angel.

But I could be wrong.  And, Frankly, this is one of those plays that defy easy rational interpretation.  If this is going to bother you (and to a certain extent I will confess that it bothered me), you may find Misterman to be on the dull side.

My advice: don’t try to figure it out.  Let Walsh’s fervid writing wash over you, and let Catron’s energetic work transport you.

For more information about John Olive, please visit his website.


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