Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
March 18, 2011
Blood, guts, gore and guffaws. Grab your poteen and hold onto your tam o’ shanter ; you’ve just entered the wild Irish world of Martin McDonagh , who loves to expose the dark green underbelly of his homeland.
Before the bloody, grisly “Lieutenant of Inishmore ” begins, ion theatre co-founders Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza warn that you may be in the ‘splash zone,’ if you’re sitting in the first three rows. Of course, there are only three rows in their tiny space. Which brings you that much closer to the vicious, sadistic action.
It’s 1993, on one of the Aran Islands, and also in Northern Ireland , where hot-headed Padraic has been ejected from the IRA because he’s considered a nutcase. So he’s a member of a splinter group, of which he’s a self-proclaimed Lieutenant, though he’s thinking of splintering off again. He’s been amusing himself by bombing fish and chips shops, while back home in Inishmore , he’s left his best friend, Wee Thomas, in the care of his drunken wastrel of a father.
When we meet Wee Thomas, a 15 year-old black cat, he’s just been brought in off the street, bleeding and beheaded. In a panic, the dim-witted young man who found him, and Padraic’s eternally inebriated Da , try to doctor up an orange cat, painting it with shoe polish to create a stand-in for the decapitated feline.
When Padraic finds out there’s something wrong with Wee Thomas, he’s in the midst of torturing a man who’s hanging from the ceiling, but he helpfully offers bus-fare to the hospital. Then he’s off to see his beloved buddy. Meanwhile, a trio of bumbling, argumentative thugs is out to get him, and so’s a neighborhood girl who’s been practicing to join the revolution by shooting the eyes out of cows.
I didn’t say it was gonna be pretty; limbs are sawed and severed right and left, guns are fired and the blood gushes and spurts freely. But as ghastly and grotesque as the proceedings are, they’re also hilariously funny. No, seriously. Laugh-out-loud funny.
McDonagh is making mock and mincemeat of the “ feckin eejits ” who call themselves freedom fighters, blithely committed to absurdly random violence. And ion theatre, San Diego ’s edgiest company, is perfectly up to the task. This is their third foray into McDonagh -land and its deliciously warped sensibility.
With outstanding backup from the sets, lighting and effects, director Raygoza gives a bloody good going-over to his terrific cast, which features a few welcome new faces, most notably Kyle Sorrell, whose Padraic is a dense, menacing bully, with a dollop of sensitivity on the side. Ion regulars Walter Ritter and Morgan Trant are a hoot as Padraic’s delightfully moronic father and ruthless main squeeze.
If you can hack all the hacking, you deserve a break today – from McDonagh .
The San Diego premiere of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore ” continues through April 9 at ion theatre’s BlkBox in Hillcrest.
©2011 PAT LAUNER