Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
It may be kind of rough for animal lovers, and most of the laughs are internal. But if you can hang in there till the last 20 minutes, The Lieutenant of Inishmore becomes amazing by any standard. And it definitely fits the description of "Monty Python, turned up to 11." There are grand speeches and spats over the meaning of life, and frequent side trips into Irish dialect humor. If a "dead parrot sketch" or a bloodthirsty little bunny can make you laugh, you might possibly be up to speed for this one.
In this one hour forty-five minute show, it helps tremendously that Charlie Barron is playing Mad Padraic, the "lieutenant": an Irish nationalist with a particular love of grievance and violence, a man deemed too unstable for the IRA (in 1993). Padraic's beloved, 15-year-old cat has been found killed in the road when the lights come up, provoking a comical terror of revengeand then, well, revenge. And you could hardly do better than having Chuck Winning here as Christy, Padraic's opponent in the secret war among Irish factions, all of whom are divided in their hatred of the British occupation in County Galway.
Both actors are always exceptional in local Shakespeare productions, and it works to their advantage (and ours) in this debut production by Theatre Macabre, presented by Theatre Lab STL: both actors are dripping with charming menace (and with blood, in the final 20 minutes). But Mr. Barron, in the title role, gets more elbow room to create madnessand even more, to parody grand Shakespearean speechifying with his own subversive wit.
Director Nick Kelly is a very funny actor in his own right, and he knows where and how to get a laugh, even when there's a (fake) headless feline right out there on the table, its head apparently blasted up into Earth orbit somewhere. But everything grows out of character, and Martin McDonagh's 2001 blood-drenched comedy gets all the humorous support it needs, in some very dicey moments. And in the astonishing final scene, the mind reels when the whole story seems to change into something entirely different.
Chuck Brinkley plays Padraic's dad, hunkered down in this miserable squabbling war zone. He and Mark Saunders make for a very good comic team: dreading their likely fate when the cat-daddy comes home. Ultimately, it's a bit like the end of Blue Velvet, blood-soaked, but with robins chirping through the carnage. The last scene is cross-stitched with amazing plot twists, and one or two huge surprises in the end. It's a comedy I've always wanted to see, and dead cat or no, it's both original and unforgettable.
Mr. Saunders plays Davey, the brother of Mairead, the very game young lass who's mad for Mad Padraic. Larissa White makes this lone female character into a wildly enthusiastic partisan, showing great comic acumen. And there are three younger men in the show, too, who all do terrifically as anti-British rebels.
Presented by Theatre Lab STL, Theatre Macabre's The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs through June 25, 2017, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand, just north of SLU. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/MacabreSTL/. For tickets, visit www.metrotix.com.
* Denotes member, Actors Equity Association
The Production Staff