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Theater review by Adam Feldman
Enda Walsh crams big themes into small spaces; his characters often live in hermetic, sometimes imaginary worlds that strain to keep the outside at a distance. In the Irish playwright-director’s 2014 smashing play Ballyturk, two nameless men coinhabit a room that suggests the warehouse of a Goodwill store, its shabby furniture crammed with knickknacks and costumes. The lanky 1 (a charming Tadhg Murphy) is younger, goofier, inchoately curious; 2 (Mikel Murfi, an excellent physical comic) is older, bulkier, more protective. They pass their time in hyperactive routines of fun and games: dancing to records of hits from the 1980s, trading evocative idle chatter and playacting scenes of life in a small Irish town called Ballyturk, populated by characters of their own invention, with dialogue informed by snatches of conversation they seem to overhear through their walls. (The name is a nod to Ballybeg, the setting of Brian Friel’s plays.)
After immersing us in this busily static space—Beckett on uppers—Walsh pulls it down with the dramatic arrival of 3 (the magnetic Olwen Fouéré), a god of some kind with long gray hair and an air of worldly cool. One of the two men, she says, must leave the room, which surely entails death—but may also entail a realer relationship to life. What this deliberately mysterious play “means” is left to the audience to imagine. To me, it feels like a theatrical metaphor about the attractions and limits of theater itself; your mileage may vary, but Walsh offers plenty to consider and enjoy along the road.
St. Ann's Warehouse (Off Broadway). By Enda Walsh. Directed by Walsh. With Tadhg Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Olwen Fouéré. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission. Through January 28.