Play: The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Group: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
Venue: Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square
Dates: Through October 12
Story: The island of Inishmore in County Galway off the west central coast of Ireland is fiercely nationalistic, and fertile territory for a firebrand terrorist such as Padraic. Trouble is, Padraic is too unstable even for the IRA, and so he has formed a splinter group of his own, blowing up shops and murdering random folks in his own pathological way. While he’s away on ‘business,’ torturing a minor drug dealer, he gets a call from his dad. Seems that Wee Thomas, a 15-year-old cat who is Padraic’s only friend, has taken ill, or so Padraic is told.
Actually, young neighbor Davey may have run over the tabby with his bicycle, and there will be hell to pay when Padraic learns the truth. Returning to his home is good news for Christy, another dimwitted thug who hopes to lure Padraic into a trap and kill him. Christy and his henchmen, Joey and Brendan, however, are unaware of the designs of Davey’s sister, Mairead, a markswoman with a thirst for blood and her romantic eyes on the maniacal title character.
Highlights: Written by Martin McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore benefits from the playwright’s expert ability to weave a tale. As with other of his works, the local folk are vividly portrayed and animated in their approach to life. While Inishmore is a farce, the best acting in The Rep’s production, under the careful direction of Stuart Carden, is a brilliant scene in Act One when David Whalen, as Padraic, unleashes a torment of the deepest anguish and disturbing anger that reveals just how dangerously unstable the title character is. It’s the quintessential moment of drama that, unfortunately, leaves too little character exploration in its wake.
Carden does expert work in bringing out the best in his terrific cast, and the production has a lively pace. Keira Keeley shines as the tomboy brigand Mairead, brimming with determination to wreak her own havoc while also lusting for the handsome local folk legend. Dan McCabe and Matt DeCaro are a treat as the thick-witted Davey and Padraic’s goofy father, respectively. Christopher McHale brings a cold and sinister style to the mysterious Christy, while Keith Gallagher and Sean Meehan comically portray his two henchmen, the former concerned about proper attribution for quotes while the latter grieves over any animal cruelty.
The true star of the show, however, is special effects designer Steve Tolin, who fills Gianni Downs’ impressively rustic set with myriad body parts, including a couple of bloody heads that stare vacuously into space. As Rep production notes accurately point out, it’s part Quentin Tarantino and much Monty Python, including a pair of ridiculously mangled tabbies.
Other Info: While entertaining to a point, this effort is considerably less skillful than several of McDonagh’s other works, including The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, two of which have been produced by The Rep. While reminiscent of goofy Python skits, it’s more a poor man’s Python and even a poor man’s McDonagh, even taking into account the obvious observation that these impoverished, ignorant and dangerous types care more for their pets than their fellow humans. This is no country for auld men.
Solid support by sound designer Elizabeth Atkinson, who contributes some rousing Celtic melodies, and by costume designer Pei-Chi Su and lighting designer Jim French. I just couldn’t stop thinking, though, of Michael Palin fighting some guy in a badly fitting lion suit.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.