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A CurtainUp Review
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
The original review by Elyse Sommer
Don't be fooled by the Home Sweet Home sign over the door of the Island of Inishmore cottage in which most of the action in The Lieutenant of Inishmore plays out. In this latest in Martin McDonagh's Inishmore plays to cross the Atlantic, McDonagh's penchant for black as black can be comedies peopled by characters in whom the milk of human kindness has soured gets quite a workout.
The blood shed by Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, over at Studio 54 will seem like a trickle compared to what you'll see spilled all over the floor of the cottage that's home to a good-looking but mean-spirited terrorist named Padraic when he's not blowing up and torturing people as a member of a group that split off from the IRA, whose methods are sort of an Irish blend of Monty Python and the Keystone Cops.
Like the half dozen McDonagh plays that have now been produced, The Lieutenant. . . is part of a 1994 burst of inspiration. Thus this grotesque satire of the violence within the Irish Republican Army has had a chance to age during a period when the fighting abated in the face of a much needed economic upturn, so that it's easier to laugh about it. The audience at the Atlantic Theater, which also launched The Beauty Queen of Leenane, is certainly laughing up a storm -- so much so that first night reviews and word of mouth have already led to an announcement of the show's transfer to Broadway (see production notes for details).
Having heard about the play's excessive violence, which includes a prisoner hung upside down and having his toenails razored off, bloody shootings and body parts being hacked apart to destroy any evidence as to their identity, I admit that I was a bit nervous when I saw that my tickets were for the second row. But, lo and behold, all this Grand Guignol butchery is indeed funny and I never really felt the need to flinch or look away. Mind you, it's not as moving as The Beauty Queen of Leenane or as complex as The Pillowman. That's because it's basically a shaggy dog story turned into a shaggy cat with nine lives tale with a political twist. You see, the gun toting quick with a knife or razor Padraic is deeply attached to his cat, Wee Thomas, and it is that cat as the first body we see that drives the plot to its hilarious conclusion.
I'm loathe to spoil things by detailing all the bizarre plot twists and turns: Padraic's dad Donny (Peter Gerety) and Davey, a dull-witted, pony-tailed neighbor (Dominall Gleeson) efforts to break the news of Wee Thomas's demise to his doting owner. . . Padraic's weird romance with Mairead (Kerry Condon) who happens to share his love for violence and cats. . . the deadly fight with three INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) incompetents who resent Padraic's extreme dealings with the drug dealers and major contributors to their treasury. (If you want more details immediately, check out Lizzie Loveridge's review of the London production linked below).
The reason the show is such a hoot in the face of its appallingly entertaining shenanigans is McDonagh's ear for the language of these County Galway ruffians and louts, the superior performances of the actors who play them and Wilson Milam's well-paced and authentic production. The appearance of three of the actors from the Olivier Award winning London production -- David Wilmot as Padraic, Kerry Condon as the pistol packing gun moll and Domhnall Gleeson as Davey with his Samson-like attachment to his long tresses is a special plus. However, the American cast fits right in as does the four-pawed guest who makes a brief appearance.
The onstage carnage prompts a wry bit of dialogue -- " It's incidents like this does put tourists off Ireland." But it's unlikely to put off audiences with a taste for comedies with take no prisoners violence.
LINKS TO OTHER MCDONAGH PLAY REVIEWS
The Lieutenant of Inishmore--London
The Beauty Queen of Leenane
The Lonesome West
The Cripple of Inishmaan
A Skull in Connemara
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