Let me begin by saying that in watching Mikel Murfi perform his one man show, "The Man In The Woman's Shoes," I experienced one of the most satisfying evenings of theater that I have known in a long while. When Aer Lingus delivered Mr. Murfi from Sligo County to Hell's Kitchen, they did all of us a big favor. This One Act picaresque journey through the byways and characters of Sligo is brilliantly conceived and just as brilliantly performed.
Mr. Murfi walks out onto a stage that contains a pair of woman's pumps, a pair of men's shoes with unusually thick soles and a long handled shoe horn. With these simple props, the playwright/actor takes the audience on a journey that is both hilarious and poignant.
He begins enigmatically by making animal noises and miming that there are windows upstage. Then, after taking a long, hard stare at the audience, he begins to tell us who he is. He is Pat Farnon, the village cobbler. After a bit of exposition, he shocks the audience by proclaiming "I cannot speak. What you are hearing are the voices inside my head saying the things I would say if I were able to speak." With that revelation, we see and hear this man in a whole new way.
The genesis of this play springs from an Eden in Sligo County. Mr. Murfi was commissioned by Hawks Well Theatre and by the Sligo County Council Arts Office to interview senior citizens about their lives. He has magically and artistically taken the seeds of those oral histories and sowed a field full of memorable characters and anecdotes. The skeleton of the structure is that he has repaired a pair of shoes for the woman who coaches the village's Irish Football team. To ensure that the shoes will be nice and flexible for Kitsy Rainey, he puts them on and makes the five mile walk into the village, narrating for the audience as he goes the sights and individuals he encounters along the way.
"'The Man In The Woman’s Shoes' follows Pat as he walks the five miles from his white cottage to town and back again. He meets unforgettable characters along the way, including water diviner Huby Patterson, GAA enthusiast extraordinaire Kitsy Rainey, big voiced Casimir Marshall, an array of farmers all named Gilmartin and Kemp, a man whose idea of a good time is to direct traffic wherever he may find it. Pat may be an aging man but he has a boundless enthusiasm for life."
I suggest that you make a life-changing decision to put on some comfortable shoes and make your way to the Irish Arts Center between now and March 14. The audience members that were in attendance the evening that I saw the show were delirious in their approbation of Mr. Murfi's work - a standing ovation and long and loud shouts of "Bravo!" filled the air as he took his bows. The combination of Irish wit, a genius for storytelling and a brogue that would bring a tear to the eye of the most callous cynic had won the day. The house was full, so I urge you to get your tickets while some remain. If you miss out on this opportunity, I would not want to be in your shoes!
Irish Arts Center Website