Thursday, May 11, 2006

From the Cheap Seats: The Lieutenant of Inishmore

The hell with Doubt. Forget Mamma Mia. If you're looking for a truly, purely entertaining evening of theater... and you have a strong stomach... check out Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore. You won't recognize most of the names involved, unless you're something of a theater buff; playwright Mr. McDonagh's name may not even be familiar, though you might know that he just won an Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action) - check it out on iTunes. He specializes in funny, unsentimental, bleak, dark, sometimes gross, yet somehow charming plays - and Inishmore is a great example of his ouevre.

I confess that I didn't see this one from the cheap seats - my friend Medea slipped me a comp ticket and I was down in the orchestra, although a still respectable number of rows back. I saw the show on a Sunday evening, and I suspect that comps had been slipped to casts of most of the other shows on Broadway, because every other face was recognizable to me. Hello, Jena Malone - you're cute even though you'll need some voice training to make you worthy of your role in Doubt. Hello, Cherry Jones - you look like someone's cool aunt, and also very happy. I wish I'd seen you in Doubt and I'm glad you're smiling because you're insanely talented and I only hope that I might breathe in a bit of it as you walk by. Hi, Juliana Margulies - nice hair. Hey, That Guy! Hello, That Girl!

So it was certainly a sympathetic audience that surrounded me for this performance, though they certainly weren't necessary. This was, for me, a great production because:

1) I never once thought about the acting

2) Nothing distracted me from the story - no missteps in staging, costuming, plotting, nothing

3) I laughed my ass off.

I'm sure it could be argued that this play isn't for everybody. There are buckets of blood, shootings, torture, mistreated cats (dead and alive), swearing, bodies being sawed up! ... all in vivid detail, enough to make me squirm and groan, but not enough to keep me from laughing at, and through, it all.

I don't want to give away too much - but the basic story is this: in the village of Inishmore, two total incompetents, one a local boy and the other the father of a complete psycho named Padraic, panic when they discover that Padraic's cat Wee Thomas, the only thing he loves in the world, is dead. They struggle, and fail miserably, to keep this knowledge from him when he returns to check on his beloved pet. Padraic is a one-man splinter group - the IRA wouldn't accept him because he is too crazy - and he spends his time blowing up chip shops because they are easy targets, and torturing drug dealers. When we first meet him, he's taking a cellphone call about his cat in the middle of pulling out one unfortunate's toenails.

Also inhabiting this world is Mairead, a teenage girl who has a crush on Padraic and wants to join his group. She's been practicing to become a sharpshooter by taking out the eyes of local cows with her BB gun. Three local members of the IRA are also staking out Padraic's house, waiting to take their revenge on him for reasons unclear until the end of the play.

This play is not deep. It reminded me of nothing so much as Pulp Fiction. I kept trying to get away from the comparison, because I think Inishmore is better, but it's apt. Both are very entertaining, and both recreate a world where the vicious mixes with the stupid and banal to make something appallingly funny.

So here's why Inishmore is better: it isn't slick. None of these characters are rich, or hip, or even beautiful in any obvious way. It takes place in a village, probably one of those bucolic ones pictured on brochures (one character even worries that Padriac's behavior is the type of thing that drives away tourists), and everyone, even the most vicious killers, are simple people who don't understand much - and especially not politics - and love animals. And guns. And knives.

Just see it.

PS - For anyone who's wondering, I hope to have some closure on the Hottie issue sometime next week.

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posted by Addy @ 5/11/2006 06:40:00 AM |


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