Wednesday, July 14, 2010

review - The Lieutenant of Inishmore

CRITIC'S PICK /The Lieutenant of Inishmore/by Martin McDonagh/directed by Wilson Milam/Mark Taper Forum/through August 8

"It's incidents like this put tourists off Ireland!" mutters Donny (Sean G. Griffin) looking over the blood-soaked floor of his Home Sweet Home Irish cottage in Martin McDonagh's brutal over-the-top dark comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore. INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) rebels spend two hours pretty much wiping each other out of existence in a theatrical nightmare that is bound to peak and hold your interest.

Even the most sheepish will be mesmerized by what they see and hear. The IRA (Irish Republican Army) was founded some 5o years ago to free Ireland from British control. Over the years the IRA split into various factions, especially by the 80s, creating more chaos than unity. Consistently senseless violence erupted, keeping the country divided.

As the play opens there is a plot to bring back a cocksure local lieutenant named Padraic (Chris Pine) to account for his actions. It seems that he has been brutally torturing drug dealers upon whom many of the rebels have come to rely for sustenance. Donny has been caring for Padraic's pet cat Wee Thomas and when the cat gets killed, Donny and young Davey (Coby Getzug), who swears he's not responsible, hilariously concoct a stupid plan to dupe Padraic into believing that the cat is alive but ailing. Greasing an orange cat with black shoe polish provides some inane but infectiously funny moments. Within a short space of time, as the rebels close in on Padraic, who has returned home to his da Donny, everyone is thrust into immediate danger, and McDonagh brilliantly uses an excessive number of criminal acts to illustrate the futility of violence. This is a bloody good ... bloody play, literally.

Under Milam's meticulous direction, the ensemble is outstanding. Pine is an obstinate psychotic as Padraic, who will destroy for his principles and out of love for Wee Thomas. Zoe Perry is wonderful as Mairead, Davey's sister who has been training herself to join the army and to win Padraic's heart. Griffin and Getzug make an irrational pair of misfits: slow, hardly dimwitted, but appearing so, loyal and throroughly loveable Irish creatures. Andrew Connolly, Kevin Kearns and Ian Alda beautifully play Padraic's enemies, an eclectic assortment of characters whose hopeless outlook is bleak at best. There's an all too serious attempt at a political discussion, quoting and misquoting Marx and the Jesuits in the same breath, that provokes tremendous laughs. Brett Ryback as the drug dealer James has one very strenuous and memorable scene as he hangs suspended upside down in an unbelievable round of torture (see photo above). It's a great scene and Ryback is physically and emotionally in tune. Pine is at his best here, fearlessly forceful, then reduced to a whimpering mess of insecurity when he learns of his cat's illness.

This is not a play for grandma or the wee ones - too graphic! Leave them at home. Prepare yourself for the unexpected, and trust your imagination to make sense of the action. This is theatre where anything can, should and does occur to propel your mind to new levels of enjoyment.
5 out of 5 stars

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