MARTIN MCDONAGH’S DARK COMIC GORE, ‘THE LT OF INISHMORE’ IS THE BEST THRILLER FOR YOUR
OCTOBER HOLIDAY SEASON
A lost cat “Wee Thomas” is at the center of Martin McDonagh’s grisly black comedy, THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE. The cat is lost at San Jose Stage company theatre through Oct 21. Wee Thomas could brush up to any of us as we watch this neurotic funny dark story about a father, and his son the slasher of death and terrorism. Artistic director of SJSC Randall King is excited about his new 36th Season. King plays the father in LIEUTENANT, and said; “(this is) a darkly hilarious examination of the roots and the impact of senseless violence from the incendiary mind of master playwright Martin McDonagh. This marks our 5th McDonagh production.”
McDonagh says; “I suppose I walk that line between comedy and cruelty because I think one illuminates the other. We're all cruel, aren't we? We are all extreme in one way or another at times and that's what drama, since the Greeks, has dealt with.” Directed by actor and fight coach the clever Joshua Marx, brings his precision staging to this blood bath. The cast of eight colorful characters are authentic “feaking” rich Irish mugs coached by dialect expert Kimberly Mohne Hill. The accents are thick with humor and on Christopher Fitzer’s solid farmhouse interior set that needs to be washed down at the end of each performance. The texture of the walls are full of stories you can see in the depth of Fitzers stylized work.
The story and trauma begins when long haired young Davey played by the likable Trevor March finds a dead black cat in the road. The cat could be Wee Thomas, the beloved pet of Padraic played by the buffed smart Rob August, a soldier with the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in Northern Ireland. He is called “Mad Padraic” because he’s so violent that even the IRA rejected him. He is the locally well-known psychopath using his handsome swagger for killing. Padraic leaves a path of blood wherever he goes. Davey and Padraic’s father, Donny played by the terrific Randall King has to come up with a reason to tell his son that his cat is “poorly” and “just a tadeen off his feed.” They hope these excuses will keep mad Padraic from rushing home, and discover Wee Thomas with his brains a goo mess. All the gore and blood bombs are created with pure George A. Romero class by Ashley Garlick, Bill Vujevich and blood expert Tunuviel Luv.
Donny sends Davey out to find another black cat to replace Wee Thomas as we meet Padraic in next scene. He enters with James tied up and flung over this massive shoulder. The half naked local favorite Andy Cooperfauss performs his lines as he hangs upside down by his heels. Padraic has just finished slicing off James’ toenails for his crime of selling marijuana to high school kids “at fair rates” but Padraic objects. Cooperfauss does a incredible performance of managing dialogue while upside down, including pointing out that he has his own cat that wins over the madman.
The 90-minute romp is set on the island of Inishmore in Galway the year is 1993, when the Irish peace process was in its early stages. The “Good Friday Agreement”, which ended the almost 30 years of civil war known as the “Troubles” was on the table. Padraic gets a call from his dad, Donny “How is it on Inishmore, Dad?” Padraic says “I haven’t been up to much lately. I put bombs in a couple of chip shops, but they didn’t go off - the fella who makes our bombs, he’s fecking useless - one thing about the IRA anyways, as much as I hate the bastards, they know how to make a decent bomb.” After hearing about Wee Thomas’ illness, Padraic says “I’ll be home on the first fecking boat in the fecking morning.”
The next day, Mairead, played by Carley Herlihy, Davey’s 16-year-old radical sister, attacks Davey and his bicycle. She’s sympathetic to the INLA, loves Padraic, wears army trousers and carries an air rifle, which she uses with perfect skill on Davey and his bike. A tough, trigger-happy youngster, Herlihy lights up the stage as the clever teen. The local lass worships Padraic and shares his love of bloodshed and cats. The two don't have a strong physical chemistry, but they look good together onstage and their moments of passion are hilarious. When Padraic returns for his cat he meets a trio of the discordant gangsters Christy, Joey and Brendon played by the screwball John Flanagan, Loki Miller and Brendan Quick who are hunting Padraic. They reveal a back story about a cat-killing story that should be the lyrics of an Irish punk band. The punching punk ska moves every scene change as sound designer Steve Schoenbeck plays some iconic ska beats .
The conversation turns to cats, including Mairead’s cat, Sir Roger. Davey can find only a ginger cat and he covers the cat with black shoe polish to match the black Wee Thomas. Padraic arrives to find the shoe-polished ginger cat. Angry and hot headed he threatens to kill both Davey and his dad. He cuts off Davey’s ponytail with a bowie knife. The wonderful muts of wigs that are cut to pieces for each performance are designed by talented Sharon Ridge. At this point everything spins masterfully out of control.
Irish gangsters arrive at the Farmhouse to carry out Padraic’s demise. Their leader, Christy wears a black eye patch because Padraic shot his eye out. Murder and body butchery begin, with skilled Mairead as the back up in the blood bath. McDonagh is at his best with smart fast banter, mad comedy with an explosive skill, and in the hands of King and March, the pair's comic timing sings. Donny says “It’s incidents like this does put tourists off Ireland.”. But Davey says it like a gem “Four dead fellas, two dead cats - me hairstyle ruined! Did I miss anything?”
Director Marx does an excellent job moving us through this wild romp and choreographing the blood, dead cats and human body parts. The Celtic punk rock music arranged by sound designer Schoenbeck creates just the right atmosphere. Schoenbeck keeps the gun fire loud and associate Director Allison Rich is on the team to keep the pace smooth. Stage manager Cirby Hatano has a huge task of moving the bodies and gore from scene to scene, as John Bernard’s keen lighting design glistens in the puddles of blood.
Hill has done a capable task with the dialectic of the company, and Marx brings the twists and surprises in McDonagh's script as he kept building the comic tension. Marx who is also a keen fight director brings the gooey final its humor with a blood drenched look to Abra Berman's costumes and the inventive carnage of Tunviel Luv’'s special props soaked in blood as brain and guts sprout amid the bodies being dismembered onstage.
Quentin Tarantino and Joe Orton could not have done better, this corrosive black comedy is a brutally a killing farce that gleefully features wonderful slaughter onstage. THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE is non-stop cursing, heartless wisecracks about terrorism and its victims. Most disturbing are the dead cats that easily out stage “Sweeney Todd”. Those who like their comedy very dark, which includes any fan of playwright Martin McDonagh, should be filling their Halloween candy bags with tickets to this comedy of gore. Next up the as the San Jose Stage Company explodes their 36th season is BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY than opens Nov 21. In April 2019 the new Luis Valdez play ADIOS MAMA CARLOTA has its World Premiere. But in the meantime as Donny and Davey hack apart the bodies, look for a black cat that might scramble out from under your seat. It could be "Wee Thomas" has come home from his exploring the streets of San Jose and hungry for some Halloween Treats..
SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY PRESENTS
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Joshua Marx
Tunviel Luv, Ashley Garlick, Bill Vujevich
MUST CLOSE OCT 21
SAN JOSE STAGE
490 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113
90 minutes no intermission
For tickets contact San Jose Stage Company
box office at 408-283-7142, or www.thestage.org
Photos by Dave Lepori
CAST Rob August, Randall King, Carley Herlihy, Trevor March, John Flanagan, Loki Miller, Brendan Quirk, and Andy Cooperfauss
Is a British-Irish playwright, screenwriter, and director. Born and brought up in London, the son of Irish parents. He is among the most acclaimed living Irish playwrights. McDonagh has been nominated for three Academy Awards, and in 2018 won three British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards from four nominations and two Golden Globe Awards from three nominations for his film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Separated into two trilogies, McDonagh's first six plays are located in and around County Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first is set in Leenane, a small village on the west coast of Ireland, and consists of The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), A Skull in Connemara (1997) and The Lonesome West (1997). His second trilogy is set across the Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway, and consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) and The Banshees of Inisheer.
McDonagh's first non-Irish play, The Pillowman, is set in a fictitious totalitarian state and premiered at the Royal National Theatre in 2003, after a reading in Galway in 1997. A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play that is set in the United States and it premiered on Broadway in March 2010. Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth. McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.