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High-Octane 'Ballyturk' bends it like Beckett.

Two cheerfully ludicrous characters stuck in the same place play extravagantly with language and each other as they jockey for position and kill time. And although their seemingly mad activities gradually reveal an internal logic, they have no one literal "meaning." If Enda Walsh's new play, "Ballyturk," sounds a lot like "Waiting for Godot," Walsh's own grandly staged, high-octane production, with dazzlingly fast-paced performances by Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi, is more like Beckett on Benzedrine.

In fact, the Beckett to which it is most deeply indebted is his bitterly comic "Play," a 20-minute wonder in which characters trapped in funeral urns ceaselessly race through their relation ships with one another. But where those characters were in Purgatory, Walsh's men--simply named 1 and 2 (Murphy and Murfi, respectively)--are less precisely located. That is, at least, until the arrival of 3 (Stephen Rea), who demands that one of them follow him to a place it would be ruinous to reveal.

Before and, to a degree, after the summons, they riff at comic top speed on their situation and memories of a rural life in the fictional Ballyturk. One minute they're racing around playing '80s pop songs, the next they're recounting the deprivations of small-town life, with Murphy springing to the top of a wardrobe to play tiny-voiced Joyce from the village shop, a peevish character not a million miles away from the Aunties of Martin McDonagh's "The Cripple of Inishmaan."

Walsh's affectionate command of word-spinning feels initially like a succession of routines that, in its repetitiveness, indicate the trapped situation of the men. But the tone gradually shifts to somber.

Murphy, in particular, with his trademark intensity and lean physicality, switches from hyper to haunted in the blink of his pale but fierce gaze. Murfi, the weightier of the two in every sense, seems older and wiser even as he races about Jamie Vartan's carefully scrappy set, which is gradually littered with detritus and toys springing and sprung from cupboards.

There are points where the richness of the language alone holds the audience, and the more meditative passages have the advantage of both melancholy and surprise. But as the play proceeds across its 90 minutes, there are longueurs, not least from Rea whose self-conscious delivery hits a self-indulgent pace that cumulatively does the work few favors.

As the director of his own text, Walsh brings flair and energy to the proceedings, which end with an undeniably sad ache. But there are points where the metaphysics feel overly stretched. Like his previous monologue for Murphy, "Misterman," this is a high-end production that more than merits future festival life. The work's longevity, however, is a little more doubtful.

Ballyturk Lyttelton, National Theater, London; 898 seats

Playwright: Enda Walsh

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Stephen Rea

CREDITS A Landmark Prods, and Galway Intl. Arts Festival presentation of a play in one act by Enda Walsh. DIRECTED BY Enda Walsh. SETS AND COSTUMES, Jamie Vartan; LIGHTING. Adam Silverman; SOUND, Helen Atkinson; MUSIC, Teho Teardo; PRODUCTION STAGE MANAGER, Clive Welsh. OPENED, REVIEWED Sept. 18, 2014. RUNNING TIME: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN. CAST: Cillian Murphy, Mikel Murfi, Stephen Rea



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Title Annotation:National Theater
Author:Benedict, David
Article Type:Theater review
Date:Sep 23, 2014
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