Signature's Lieutenant of Inishmore

Martin McDonagh is my favorite living playwright. So I am predisposed to be excited about a production of one of his plays. McDonagh is shocking. McDonagh is funny. McDonagh is shockingly funny. I was first introduced to his work when I saw the original production of The Pillowman in London. That production engaged and enthralled me in a way that I had never experienced before, even when watching the works of the love of my life, Billy Shakes. You cannot be a passive audience member when watching a McDonagh play. You will laugh, you will gasp, you will literally sit on the edge of your seat, you will wonder what the heck is possibly coming next. He is not for the weak of heart or the weak of stomach. His plays are gruesome and his characters delight in cruelty. But McDonagh is brilliant – he is not writing solely for shock value. Beneath their cruelty, all his characters have a touching humanity. His plots are carefully constructed. The events which seem most random always come back to have great significance. And McDonagh is a master at holding an audience in his palm and twisting your every expectation.

Signature’s current production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, with its deft direction by Jeremy Skidmore gets all the McDonagh trademarks right. We laugh at the comedy, gasp at the gruesomeness, but are involved with the characters and what happens to them. And though these characters include animal killers and renegade political activists with guns, we like them.

The plot concerns the mysterious death of Wee Thomas, a cat living on one of the Aran Islands in Ireland. Normally, this would not be such a big deal. But this cat is the pet and closest friend of Padriac (Karl Miller), an somewhat unhinged terrorist. Padraic is a member of a splinter group, because he was too mad for the IRA. Miller is the highlight of this production, striking the balance just right of playing some rather ridiculous situations without ever seeming ridiculous. Miller is able to go from torturing a drug dealer (a notably funny and extremely physical performance from Jason Stiles) to holding back tears when he hears his cat is doing “poorly.” Miller is completely believable in these extremes. He also manages to be strangely charming even when playing a character who is willing to kill his own father over the death of a cat.

Casie Platt also gives a strong and nuanced performance as Mairead, Padraic’s love interest, a 16 year old tomboy with a penchant for guns. Platt is charismatic, funny, and more than a little scary. I thoroughly enjoyed Platt’s performance in Woolly Mammoth’s Current Nobody last season, and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. And you know I’m always hardest on actresses in my own age group, so if I say she’s good, it means she’s good.

The production is rounded out by solid performances from the rest of the cast, and a remarkably detailed and believable job by the production staff. Blood and bodies and bullets, oh my!

4 stars
Through November 16th


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