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.
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.
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.