note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
New Rep is fast becoming the go-to theater for cutting edge, contemporary Irish plays. They’ve now produced three by Martin McDonagh, including last year’s grisly PILLOWMAN. The great news is that although THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE is ghastly and bloody, unlike the starker PILLOWMAN, LIEUTENANT (playing through Nov. 16th) is downright hilarious---and it packs a wallop of a political punch about violence.
Padraic is an “over-enthusiastic,” self-appointed lieutenant of a splinter IRA cell (which was itself a splinter of the IRA) who will gleefully torture an enemy with both grievous injury and convoluted insult. McDonagh’s ingenious twists and turns of plot pay off brilliantly. Just when you think the story cannot possibly become more outrageous, it does----with more and more horrible surprises. THE LIEUTENANT is not for the squeamish: The bloody special effects are spectacularly executed, as it were, and there are oodles of them. In keeping with the ghoulish spirit of the season, if you show up in costume on Halloween, you can get in free. (Call the theater for details.)
Janie E. Howland’s set looks like a plundered Stonehenge surrounding the bleakest of blighted cottages---way out in the deserted countryside, where all sorts of terrors can go unnoticed. Director David R. Gammons’ cast is perfection. I’m told that the New York and London productions were much darker but I can’t imagine tolerating the bloodshed, if it were missing the exaggerated, sardonic, “Sweeney Todd” Grand Guignol tone.
Colin Hamell is marvelously frightening as the loose cannon of a lieutenant whose warped orations are gloriously entertaining. The only person glad to see him is an idealistic sixteen year old (a glowing Lynn R. Guerra) who longs to join up with him to fight the British. Karl Baker Olson gives a tour de force performance as the misfit who proves the saying that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Rory James Kelly just about steals the show as Padraic’s drunken, slovenly father, reminding me of Falstaff’s Shakespearean sidekick, Bardolph.
The secondary plot is kept lively by Curt Klump, Ross MacDonald and Andrew Dufresne as Padriac’s terrorist competition. (Kudos to Gail Astrid Buckley, Joshua Butkiewicz and Stephen Tolin for their fabulous doppelgangers).