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Theater Review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a Bloody Good Time

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Chris Pine and Brett Ryback star in the black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum. | Photo: Craig Schwartz


Chris Pine and Brett Ryback star in the black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum. | Photo: Craig Schwartz
By Terry Morgan for LAist

There are two things that the average American audience member might notice about playwright Martin McDonagh’s work. The first is that his characters like to say “feck” a lot--an Irish variation on our much beloved “f-word.” The second is that the people in the plays, from the homicidal brothers of The Lonesome West to the manipulative mother of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, tend to be bastards. All that, however, was just a warm-up for the sanguinary joys of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a pitch-black comedy that serves up its violence with manic glee. The new production at the Taper is both horrifying and hilarious--not a show for the squeamish--but for the rest of us, it’s a dark delight.

In 1993 in the small Irish town of Inishmore, teenaged Davey (Coby Getzug) has brought something unpleasant into Donny’s (Séan G. Griffin) home. It’s a dead black cat, and the only black cat they know is Wee Thomas, the cat Donny is supposed to be looking after for his son Padraic (Chris Pine). Unfortunately, Padraic is a crazy bomb-thrower for an IRA splinter group, and Wee Thomas is the thing he loves most in the world. Donny and Davey, panicked, decide to kidnap another cat and paint it black, then pass it off as Wee Thomas. When Padraic gets a phone call from Donny that Thomas is doing poorly, he is overwhelmed with concern and starts traveling back to Inishmore. Teenage terrorist wannabe Mairead (Zoe Perry) hopes that Padraic will accept her into his splinter group, but the other members of the faction, led by the vengeful Christy (Andrew Connolly), are intending to assassinate the loose cannon when he arrives home.

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Pine exudes charm and menace as the weirdly polite Padraic—the sort of psycho that will pull out a man’s toenails and then offer him bus fare to the hospital. Pine anchors the show with deft humor and high energy in a rich and charismatic performance. Perry is admirably sharp as the eager Mairead, just as deranged as Padraic in her own way, particularly in the second act where her desire for violence is put to the test. Getzug is progressively funnier as the hapless Davey, moaning “Will it never fecking end” as his day just gets worse and worse, and Griffin has a lot of fun with the untrustworthy Donny. Connolly is expertly amusing as the exasperated Christy, asking his men, “Is it happy cats or an Ireland free we’re after?”

Wilson Milam, director of the original London and Broadway productions, gets the maximum humor out of the piece, but the first act pacing is a bit slack, and a couple of the Irish accents are unconvincing. The second act works so well, however, that these quibbles aren’t ultimately that important. McDonagh’s play is brilliant in its construction and daring, with a resolution that is simply perfect. The show features some of the best shooting effects I’ve ever seen onstage, designed by Waldo Warshaw, thrillingly choreographed fight direction from Steve Rankin, and the piece de resistance—a grisly plethora of special prosthetic effects from Matthew W. Mungle that turns the cozy cottage into a virtual abattoir.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Center Theatre Group
Mark Taper Forum
135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles
Tues.-Fr. at 8 pm; Sat. 2:30 pm & 8 pm; Sun. 1 pm & 6:30 pm through Aug. 8
Tickets: $20-$65