I saw “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”, Martin McDonagh’s play, at the New Repertory Theater recently. It was funnier and less creepy than the “Pillowman” the other McDonagh play I saw also at the New Rep about a couple of years ago. It was a pretty bloody play, involving torture, shootings, dead cats, dead people and dead people being cut in pieces. Lovely, you might think, but actually this black comedy was rather entertaining, if gore could be allowed to be the source of your entertainment.
A dead black cat is found on the island of Inishmore by Davey and Donny; but it is not a random cat, it is Wee Thomas, Padraic’s beloved cat, left in the care of his father Donny, while Padraic is away from home, busy planting bombs and torturing drug dealers. Padraic has formed his own splinter group of the Irish National Liberation Army, because he is apparently too crazy even for the IRA. In the “sweet home” we see Donny and Davey going crazy wondering about their own fate when Padraic finds out what happened to his beloved cat. Neither of them is responsible for the cat’s death, but most likely Padraic won’t care. They come up with absurd and ridiculous scenarios about how to postpone the announcement of the news to Padraic and formulate good excuses. Initially they call Padraic on his cell phone while he’s torturing a drug dealer and tell him that the cat is “poorly” and will not eat. The dealer is only spared because he recommends that the cat is fed some kind of pellets. So Padraic decides to go back home and see the cat.
In the meantime Davey steals another cat that’s not black and looks like the only available cat on the island. He tries painting it black with shoe polish and present it as Wee Thomas. Needless to say it won’t work. They end up sniffing the shoe polish, drink, eat Frosties and go to bed. When Padraic realizes that Wee Thomas is dead he weeps; it’s the only moment he shows some sentiment and then turns the gun to his father’s head, cause he failed taking care of the cat. Dad is spared but not the real killers and neither the half-painted cat.
There are some interesting plot twists and turns, and I was not disappointed as the crowd was open to the comedy of it all. In the end there is some more killing and a blood fest, in a scene which the majority of the crowd did not find funny, but there were two people still laughing, which was annoying.
I liked the play and the production, and the performances were very, very good. What I concluded from the play is that all this empty violence is for nothing. It’s a joke; it’s an excuse to use a gun, to use a knife. Ultimately camaraderie is what these people seek. United fighting towards… what? More killings, more blood, to feed the vicious cycle…
Martin McDonagh is a wunderkind of a playwright, and also the “bad boy” of contemporary theater due to his often use of violence and profanity. He left school at the age of 16 and wrote his entire body of theatrical work during one nine-month period when he was 24. He has not written any new play since (now he’s 38), but went on to win an Oscar for his short film “Six Shooter” back in 2006 and recently wrote and directed the movie “In Bruges”.
A last note that is not directly related to the play: So far whenever I’ve been to a theater play the crowd tends to be middle aged and older. But I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty faces in their 20s and 30s at this play on Saturday. I think one of the main factors contributing to the age, is that ticket prices tend to be high; $49 for a ticket is a lot and generally not the most common form of entertainment for people in their 20s and 30s. I do realize that theater productions are expensive, but theater ticket prices are just not affordable. So what I do is I buy (almost) half-price tickets from BosTix. I paid $26.5 for a $49 ticket. They have two booths, one in Faneuil Hall and one in Copley Square, where you can buy only same day tickets, which is OK most of the time since theater plays tend to not sell out. And usually they carry tickets for every theater play production in Boston. Next plays on my list Tom Stoppard’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and David Mamet’s “November”.