The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Mark Taper - Wicked Wit

Padraic (Chris Pine) is the self-appointed lieutenant of a terrorist splinter group

Macabre Wins the Day

(Los Angeles, Calif. - July 11. 2010)  Bloody mayhem makes for dark Irish comedy in this play about contentious factions within a nasty group of remarkably stupid terrorists during the "Troubles." Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore , features a young hothead Padraic ( Chris Pine) who has broken away from the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), one of several paramilitary groups fighting British rule in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s. Padraic's former cohorts Christy ( Andrew Connolly), Brendan (Kevin Kearns) and Joey ( Ian Alda) are out to get him. They lure him into a trap that also involves Padraic's unwitting father Donny ( Sean G. Griffin) and their teenage neighbors Davey ( Coby Getzug) and Mairead ( Zoe Perry). Along the way, drug dealer James ( Brett Ryback) makes the mistake of getting caught in the feud.

Padraic (L) tortures James (Brett Ryback) for drug dealing, ignoring the fact that a share of the revenue supports his cause

This production at the Mark Taper Forum is directed by Wilson Milam and runs through August 8. The play was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2001 and then had a run on Broadway with the Atlantic Theater Company.

Georja: Although I am totally onboard with the style and themes of this play and its masterful production at the Taper, as an animal advocate I have to say upfront that the first two thirds of the piece, relying heavily on animal cruelty jokes, was a big turnoff. I love black humor, and am totally with Goya who depicts surrealistic images of war scenes, and Sweeney Todd which brings humor to killing.  But when it involves poor defenseless animals suffering yet again at the hand of unfeeling humans, it turns my stomach.

Davey (L, Coby Getzug) and Donny (Sean G. Griffin) worry Padraic will find their "sin" unforgivable

Gerald: The gore in this play makes Sweeney Todd seem like an amateur rehearsal. When I was reading up on that hack-'em-up play, I learned that it was actually a revival of an old genre in British theater of the homicidal barber. Some 19th century theaters were even equipped with spring-loaded barber chairs that disappeared below the floorboards, only to pop back up bearing a blood-smeared mannequin. Suffice it to say that playwright McDonagh is playing to the same sense of "fun."

Georja: The characters in Lieutenant are so well drawn and enacted, the wit so integral to the story, that most of the play seemed quite plausible and even realistic.  Right down to the Irish accents. Kudos to every actor in the piece for excellent work! Great directing by Wilson Milam.

Gerald: It is performed in Irish dialect, which takes some getting used to. The program has a helpful glossary, but after a few minutes, everyone will know what "feck" means. You'd also do well to learn "biteen" and "tadeen" (a little bit and a little bit more), "loveen" (my little love), "eejit" (idiot), and "poteen" (pronounced po-sheen and meaning potion, or potato liquor).

Christy (Andrew Connolly) leads a rebel group Padraic deserted

Georja: When the second act escalated into a violent free for all and a bloody ghoulish feast, I suddenly became happier.  It was easier to accept the humor when it was full blown macabre absurdity. Especially when all concerned got their come-uppance.  Even the leading feline prevailed.  The only two somewhat endearing characters, Donny (Sean G. Griffin) and Davey (Coby Getzug), who carry the bulk of the dimwitted fun, and are too pacifistic to shoot a gun.  They are the only ones able to survive, along with the upcoming young female heroine of the Irish cause, Mairead (Zoe Perry), the new "Lieutenant of Inishmore."  Great writing!

Gerald: The point, I suppose, is the stupidity of cruelty. Contemporary audiences will find this familiar theme in Pulp Fiction and in just about every screw-up criminal character created by Elmore Leonard. Either you buy into this brand of comedy, or you don't.

Padraic returns home to find the next-door neighbor Mairead (Zoe Perry) turned wannabe revolutionary

Georja: Along with the hilarity and the shocking violence one did get a glimpse of what life must have been like for the average Irish citizen in those days. They grew up and were pulled their whole lives by a deep sense of patriotism fueled by anti-British propaganda. So surrounded by and used to violence were they, that it was an every day occurrence to point their guns at one another.

Gerald: The Irish troubles were "settled" (more or less) through a combination of pacification, poltical negotiation, and tax breaks for big corporations that were induced to move operations there. Street brawls and fire bombings gave way to IBM call-centers answered by lasses with Irish lilts. Fecking boring, if you ask Padriac, and hardly the stuff  plays are made of.

(L to R) Brendan (Kevin Kearns), Christy, and Joey (Ian Alda) plot revenge against Padraic

Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.

Photos by Craig Schwartz

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Mark Taper Forum
Center Theatre Group
601 W. Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-2272

June 30 - August 8, 2010

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