Eulogy for a Whirlwind.
Kitsy Rainer is dead. As formidable in death as she was in life, Kitsy has left specific instructions for her funeral service, which are carried out to the letter. And that’s essentially it when it comes to the plot of “I Hear You And Rejoice,” Mikel Murfi’s somewhat disappointing sequel to his wonderful “The Man In The Woman’s Shoes.” Preaching to the converted, Murfi’s less inventive follow-on suffers the dreaded curse of the sequel; being far less interesting or engaging than the first. There’s still plenty of comedy, plenty of sighs, plenty of Murfi’s impeccable performance skills, and more strands of nostalgia and sentimentality than you'd find on a stick of candy floss. Yet this eulogy for a whirlwind is absent a whirlwind, despite some genuinely touching and hilarious moments.
As he reminisces about her funeral in 1985, seven years after they got married in “The Man In The Woman’s Shoes”, mute cobbler, Pat Farnon, laments the loss of the love of his life, Kitsy. Beginning with a funereal dirge for the self-proclaimed sister of the Holy Ghost, “I Hear You And Rejoice,” reintroduces characters from the prequel who serve up eulogies and flashbacks for a woman we barely knew, and who we only get to know marginally better. Though Farnon eventually dominates as the narrative voice, the often confused lack of focus suggests multiple voices talking all at once. If you’ve met these alternating characters previously, “I Hear You And Rejoice,” offers a slightly deeper level of engagement. Which is helpful, for they are far less successfully brought to life here. In the end, only two characters really matter. And if it’s a neat device how two become one, it also highlights the rest of the play's deficiencies in comparison.
A one man monologue delivered from a chair, or else standing, “I Hear You And Rejoice” is far less engaging theatrically, or dramatically, than its predecessor. In fairness to Murfi, maybe that's the point. Maybe Murfi is trying to capture an experience of those final later years where, for some, the drama of life is left behind. Years no longer defined by an excitement for what life lies ahead, but by a wistful recalling of life's journeys and experiences previously known. For those seeking such a theatrical, and non-dramatic, sense of rest, steeped in the afterglow of memory and nostalgia, “I Hear You And Rejoice” can certainly offer something of a pleasure. But even so, this journey of the solitary mute returning to his hermit life sees Murfi doing even less theatrically, or dramatically, than before, with his incredible vocal skills left to carry most of the weight.
Compared to the prequel, and on its own terms, “I Hear You And Rejoice” is lacking in inventiveness and is a far less engaging piece than Murfi is capable of delivering. For those unfamiliar with the characters, and even for many who are familiar with them, it can feel like attending a service for the relative of a work colleague you barely know. You know there’s grief in the air, you sense it all around you, but you don't really feel any personal connection. Instead, you feel like you're listening in on somebody else's conversation, observing somebody else's life and grief, the distance never closed, with only glimpses offered by strangers of the person that was, of the moments that defined them, with the jokes in the eulogy being the best part of the service. But it’s not enough to make them matter enough. You might walk away knowing more of the privilege that life is, and that time is fleeting, so spend it well. Yet this is something “I Hear You And Rejoice” could have practiced as much as it preached. For despite its laughs, and sentiment, and Murfi’s irresistible presence, “I Hear You And Rejoice” has too many moments that could have been time better spent. Something Murfi has an abundance of talent to make happen.
“I Hear You And Rejoice,” written and performed by Mikel Murfi, along with its prequel “The Man In The Woman’s Shoes” both produced by Loco and Reckless Productions, runs at The Pavilion Theatre until July 29th
For more information, visit The Pavilion Theatre