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The Lieutenant of Inishmore
by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Nick Kelly
Theatre Macabre, presented by Theatre Lab
June 23, 2017

Cast of The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Photo by Holden Ginn
Theatre Macabre

Theatre Macabre is a new theatre company in St. Louis focusing on horror, dark comedy, and other plays with a darker atmosphere. Their first production, presented in conjunction with Theatre Lab, is Martin McDonagh’s creepy comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore. The play isn’t running anymore, as I was out of town its first week and had to catch a performance in its last weekend. While it certainly is not for all tastes, it’s a well-staged production, and if there was still time to see it, I would recommend it for the theatre patron who has a strong stomach and a penchant for a more twisted, dark-edged type of comedy.

This story, ultimately, hinges around a cat, and characters who are extremely attached to their pets. Padraic (Charlie Barron) is the prime example. He’s a lieutenant for the INLA (a splinter group from the IRA), and he’s a brutal guy, referred to as “Mad Padraic” by his colleagues and even his relatives, like his father, Donny (Chuck Brinkley). But he still loves his cat, Wee Thomas. When young neighbor Davey (Mark Saunders) discovers a dead cat while riding his bike, he brings it to Donny, who accuses Davey of running over Wee Thomas himself, which Davey denies. Then Donny decides to tell Padraic that his cat is ill, hoping it will soften the blow when he later tells him that Wee Thomas is dead. Interrupted by Donny’s phone call in the middle of torturing a drug dealer, James (Jackson Harned), Padraic immediately breaks down and decides he has to go home to be with his beloved cat. Also involved in the story are Padraic’s colleagues, Christy (Chuck Winning), Brendan (Brock Russell), and Joey (Jake Blonstein), who have their own reasons for wanting Padraic to come home. There’s also Davey’s belligerent, zealous rifle-toting sister Mairead (Larissa White), who loves Padraic and his cause, as well as her own cat Sir Roger.

That’s really all I can explain of the plot without spoiling too much. This is a fast-paced, increasingly brutal and disturbing comedy that doesn’t pull any punches, and again, is not for the squeamish. Still, even though I would usually count myself as one who would normally be grossed out by a lot of the subject matter here, the emphasis in this production is more on the comedy, and the absurdity of the situations to the point where the more gruesome aspects are somewhat easier to take, at least for me.. It’s a well-staged production, with the emphasis on the broad portrayals of its characters, led by a dynamic performance by Barron as the violent but devoted cat owner, Padraic, and also by the strong comic turns by Saunders and Brinkley as the bumbling Davey and Donny. White is also memorable as the brash, confrontational Mairead. Winning, Russell, and Blonstein make a hilariously inept trio as well, and Harned also makes a good impression playing the small role of James. ┬áThe ensemble chemistry and comic timing is excellent here, and even as increasingly absurd as the story gets, the characterizations and pacing keep it interesting.

The production values here are striking, as well. Erik Kuhn’s simple but detailed set provides a good backdrop for the action, and there’s also great work from lighting designers and Tony Anselmo and Kevin Bowman, and by effects designer Valleri Dillard. Costume designer Sarah Porter has outfitted the cast with appropriate flair, and kudos also go to dialect coach Teresa Doggett for helping the cast members achieve and maintain credible Irish accents.

This is a wild, quickly paced, increasingly macabre play, appropriate for the name of the company producing it. It’s not for everyone, as I’ve already mentioned, but if dark, gruesome comedy is something you like, this is a good example. Although this production has now closed, it has left a memorable impression. I’m curious to see what’s next for Theatre Macabre.

Larissa White, Charlie Barron
Photo by Holden Ginn
Theatre Macabre

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