note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheo
at The Gamm Theatre
Playwright Martin McDonough’s play “A Skull in Connemara” currently at the Gamm is dark and funny, propelled by vivid performances and keen direction. The 1997 Olivier Award nominee for best comedy takes a look at a gravedigger; a Connemara man hired to exhume skeletons in an overcrowded graveyard and comes upon in his duties the grave of the wife he was once accused of killing. This is the middle play in the Martin McDonagh trilogy. It asks the question of who killed Oona, the wife of Mick the gravedigger. It does not answer it but instead frolics through some dark humor with determination and quirky dialogue.
One of the issues with the play is it meanders along seemingly looking for a direction or its plot. It is by far not McDonagh’s best work. It seems as if something crucial is missing here. There is a lot unclear and it doesn’t seem to work that well.
The cast is excellent across the boards. Jim O’Brien is Mick, the dark fellow accused of murdering his wife Oona. He is totally believable as the whisky swilling, sullen and dark Mick. He is a man obsessed with dark secrets or at least the impact they have left on his life. Mick's dimwitted helper, played by Jonathan Fisher with convincing honesty and freshness is dim and slow. Steve Kidd is the other Hanlon brother, the constable, Thomas. Thomas is bubbling and ineffectual with delusions of grandeur being an ace detective a modern Sherlock Holmes a legend in his own mind. Kidd handles the role with sincerity and skill The final cast member is Wendy Overly as the grandmother to the two Hanlon boys, Maryjohnny. She is found of her whiskey, or let’s say Mick’s whiskey. She is still smarting for children’s insults to her many years before. Overly is wining in the role, delivering a sincere and amusing performance.
Director Judith Swift does her best to keep it all moving along despite the mysteries inserted into the convoluted plot.
The Michael McGarty set design which combines a cramped living room of a tiny cottage and the grave areas is vivid and evocative.
If you are a fan of McDonagh then you might enjoy this more.