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Lonesome West

The Connor brothers don't have much between them, just the small house in which they've lived all their lives and the tiny inheritance left by their father. They get their joy from simple pleasures: drinking, exchanging jokes with a pretty young lady, gently mocking the parish priest, swiping free food at funerals, and fighting with each other. Especially fighting with each other. Coleman and Valene will raise their voices and come to blows over whether potato chips ought to have ridges. And they live to get the better of each other. Valene, who inherited all of their father's money, lords his meager possessions over Coleman, waving his religious figurine collection in Coleman's face, and marking his new stove with a "V" to dispel any possible doubts regarding its sole owner. Coleman, for his part, gets his jollies by surreptitiously stealing from Valene's stash of alcohol, and watering down the remains.

If that was all there was to The Lonesome West, Martin McDonagh's play would be a pleasant diversion, a gently comic tale about brothers who have taken sibling rivalry so far that they only really know how to communicate by attacking each other. And it is a comedy, because, while the core of the brothers' relationship rings true to life, the lengths to which they will go to attack each other are simply unreal. But McDonagh reaches for, and gets, something more than just a comedy. The catalyst for the drama that sneaks into The Lonesome West is Father Welsh, the self-doubting priest who is certain he is a failure because of the un-Catholic behavior of his parishioners. Believing he can justify his worth by accomplishing one impossible task, he sets for himself the challenge of bringing Coleman and Valene together in friendship, and he goes about it in a very serious manner.

Lonesome West
Steve Gunning and John McKenna
Steve Gunning brings Valene to life in all his pompous glory, and John McKenna portrays Coleman with a lust for life and a true glee at pulling one over on Valene. Together, they are completely convincing as two men who have accomplished little in life save the attainment of perfect knowledge of how to get under each other's skin. At the performance reviewed, understudy Glen Vaughan was in for Father Welsh. Although his delivery was initially a bit too quick to make his brogue clearly intelligible, he slowed as the play progressed and ultimately gave a fine performance. His second act monologue, in the form of a letter to Coleman and Valene, was a highlight -- bouncing from barely-controlled anger at the brothers' prior behavior to heartfelt pleas for an amicable resolution of their war.

First-time director Thom MacNamara does an excellent job of keeping the play moving. The production clocks in at a brisk two hours, never pausing too long for a joke to get stale or a tragedy too maudlin. The result is immensely satisfying -- a comedy with just a touch of heart.

An Claidheamh Soluis/The Celtic Arts Center Theater Company presents The Lonesome West by Martin McDonagh. Directed by Thom MacNamara; Produced by Peter Wittrock; Associate Producer Jenn Mahoney; Assistant Director Ethel Gartland. Lighting Design by Joe Morrissey; Costume Design by Jennifer Michaud; Stage Manager Saja Sokol. Technical Director Timothy Ford Hannon; Sound Design Charles Dayton; Publicity Philip Sokoloff; Dramaturge Steve Gunning; Program Design Douglas R. Dean; House Managers Karen Ryan & Brian McCole.

Cast:
Steve Gunning - Valene Connor
John McKenna - Coleman Connor
Jason McCune - Father Welsh
Louise Lennon - Girleen

The Lonesome West plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 7:00 at the Celtic Arts Center in Studio City. Tickets are $15. The show runs through August 3 (the August 4 performance has been canceled), then returns for more performances September 7 - 29.


Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Los Angeles area.


- Sharon Perlmutter




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