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Dan Brick
Dan Brick (Photo: Agata Peszko)
Solas Nua treads a well-balanced line with its newest production of Enda Walsh's disturbed Misterman. Playing at DCAC's small theatrical space, this violent tragicomedy captures your attention as it slowly leads you to its twisted center.

Director Linda Murray allows the story of Thomas, the village missionary, to naturally and gently unfold to its dark climax. Marianne Meadows' lighting and Chris Pifer's sound design add to the atmosphere, which in DCAC's tiny space is a wonderful venue for such a dark tale.

Only forty-five minutes long, the story is an intense experience about a small community's nightmare when a local man, who holds a grudge, decides he has to "do the Lord's work." Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, he missed the part in the Bible about turning the other cheek.

Dan Brick's portrayal of über-Christian Thomas is mischievous and chillingly matter-of-fact. Alternately filled with sunshine and then with rage, he almost seamlessly melds from one character to the next as he weaves the story of the delusional and insane grocer's son. Mr. Brick seems to take great glee in presenting the lighter, happier side of his character in order to throw us even further off-guard when we see Thomas' violent undercore.

Not a writer for everyone due to his choice of subject matter, Enda Walsh is an intense playwright who demands your attention. Oftentimes he resorts to an almost baby-like use of language and phrasing, while not utilizing much set design. These are productions that are more about the visuals created by the language; thus they require a heightened level of focus.

Walsh's Disco Pigs portrayed adolescents who were not terribly sympathetic or pleasant as they navigated their way from childhood to adulthood. In the show's two characters he seemed to sense the pulse of not just youth but also of industrial Ireland. (Disco Pigs review).

Misterman is similar in set up and spirit. The stage is bare except for a suit hanging off a hook and a swing. (Later there is a thunderstorm that Mr. Brick gamely endures and which is integral to the story's plot line.) The characters are people each of us has met before -- Irish, American, Italian or Thai -- it doesn't matter, Mr. Walsh captures the energy behind the individuals about whom he is writing.

The story follows Thomas and his mother who are trying to manage after the death of Thomas' father who was a pillar of the community and owned one of the town's grocery stores. And while Thomas and his family are still viewed with respect, the town also thinks that Thomas is a bit eccentric. Considered harmless and good-naturedly endured, he pursues his religious career of visiting people door-to-door and preaching the word of his god. It's when he finally cracks due to no one following his ministry that things -- literally -- heat up.

In this country, Thomas would be akin to a right-wing conservative Christian who bombs abortion clinics. Filled with the word of a Supreme Being, yet with none of its compassion, he becomes exactly what he has vowed to destroy. In Misterman he resembles a psychotic Anne of Green Gables wielding a hammer.

While it may not stir you to take a trip to Ireland, Solas Nua's production is compelling. It's definitely something for adventurous theatre-goers.

This review completed, I now must go read news articles about a handful of people pushing "Intelligent Design" into high school science curriculums...

by Enda Walsh
Directed by Linda Murray
with Dan Brick
Lighting Design: Marianne Meadows
Sound Design: Chris Pifer
Running Time: 45 minutes with no intermission
A production of Solas Nua
District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), 2438 18th Street NW
Telephone: 1-800-494-TIXS
THU - SUN @7:30; $13.50-$17.50
Opening 10/27/05, closing 11/20/05
Reviewed by Rich See based on 10/30/05 performance
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