VIEWPOINTS – Enda Walsh then and now: Galvanizing productions of DISCO PIGS and BALLYTURK light up New York

Over the last two decades, Enda Walsh has emerged as one of the most distinctive and uncompromising voices in contemporary theater, joining the ranks of Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh as one of Ireland’s most renowned and recognizable currently-working playwrights. This winter, New York theatergoers are being treated to two galvanizing productions of Enda Walsh plays, each bookending what continues to be a fascinatingly varied (remember, he co-wrote the Tony-winning musical Once) and remarkably prolific career. Together, these two productions have lit up the New York theater season with their unique incandescent glow.

Evanna Lynch and Colin Campbell in Enda Walsh's "Disco Pigs" at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

Evanna Lynch and Colin Campbell in Enda Walsh’s “Disco Pigs” at the Irish Repertory Theatre.

Currently running at the Irish Repertory Theatre is a thoroughly smashing revival of of Disco Pigs (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). The production is touted as the twentieth anniversary production of Walsh’s breakthrough 1997 two-hander which depicts the angst, adrenaline, and anxiety of blooming adolescence in a dead-end Irish town. Long story short, John Haidar’s hallucinatory, impressionistic staging is a stunner, largely due to the intensity of the performances of Evanna Lynch and Colin Campbell as the self-christened Runt and Pig. Ms. Lynch and Mr. Cambell fit these roles like a glove, which is not surprising having been with the production for more than a year now since playing the West End’s Trafalgar Studios. Mr. Campbell, in particular, is magnetic; his swagger and relentlessness oozes dangerous charisma. Ms. Lynch brings a slightly more introspective perspective, and she’s just as superb. More than twenty years on, Walsh’s demented, word-drunk play astonishingly retains its ability to shock and awe. And as performed and staged (first-rate sound and lighting design by Giles Thomas and Elliot Griggs, respectively) here, it’s absolutely sensational theater. Disco Pigs has been extended to March 4th; don’t miss it.

Mikel Murfi and Tadhg Murphy in Enda Walsh's "Ballyturk" at St. Ann's Warehouse.

Mikel Murfi and Tadhg Murphy in Enda Walsh’s “Ballyturk” at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Also playing New York was Walsh’s Ballyturk (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). The production, which unfortunately just ended its brief run at St. Ann’s Warehouse, was thrilling all around. As directed by the playwright himself, all elements of production – the writing, the acting, the design – seamlessly came together to create a layered, meticulously realized tapestry. Unlike Disco Pigs, which allows the its daringly convoluted linguistic formula (or lack thereof) to unspool the story, Ballyturk starts out with a concrete visual premise: two men are stuck in a room, for what appears to have been years, and cannot get out. Eventually it becomes clear that Ballyturk is an allegory for our societal and personal limitations, but it’s also a play that celebrates theatrical traditions (it tips its hat to Beckett, as well as the vaudevillian tradition, but not without first acknowledging Pinter). The cast, comprised of Olwen Fouéré, Mikel Murfi, and Tadhg Murphy, is magnificent. Like Ms. Lynch and Mr. Campbell in Disco Pigs, the impassioned Mr. Murfi and Mr. Murphy all but chew up the scenery with their hyper-physical, supremely skilled performances. As the Pinter-esque visitor, Ms. Fouéré is appropriately coolly menacing. But despite the spectacle of it all, it all comes back to the language, and, on this count, Ballyturk undoubtedly delivers.  The play is an defiant and intoxicating display of verbal dexterity and wild imagination that’s unmistakably Enda Walsh’s.


Off-Broadway, Play
The Irish Repertory Theatre
1 hour, 15 minutes (without an intermission)
Through March 4

Off-Broadway, Play
St. Ann’s Warehouse
1 hour, 30 minutes (without an intermission)

Categories: Off-Broadway, Theater

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