Sunday, July 16, 2006

Shanties and Shabeens

The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh's play at the Lyceum Theater, is a delightful monstrosity. The work about the mindless vicious cycle of violence by members of an IRA splinter group in a remote island in County Galway resonates with the voices, rebel songs, and the cries of Ireland; and it does so with what has to be the most graphic violence ever depicted on a Broadway stage. Last season McDonagh offered us The Pillowman, his first and only play not set in Ireland, and it was a macabre tale where the chills and thrills made you jump right out of your seat, as in a scary movie: a kind of theatrical homage to John Carpenter, if you will. The Lieutenant of Inishmore tips its hat to the violent posturing of Quentin Tarantino, and it borrows buckets of blood and gore from George Romero. All that McDonagh needs are Romero's zombies, but then again, the characters in this play seem to be sleepwalking through life, all of them transfixed on a personal idée fixe that goes from hair narcissism, to blinding cows, to an unnatural devotion to a pet cat and to the cause of Irish freedom. If you have a strong stomach go to see it, just don't expect this old sod to resemble John Ford's The Quiet Man. The absurd situations that put the plot in motion, bring to mind the theatrical world of Samuel Beckett. Indeed, McDonagh's characters are the grown-up, dysfunctional grandchildren of Vladimir and Estragon.

As in Waiting for Godot, and the other works of Beckett, the language of The Lieutenant of Inishmore is truly enchanting. One of McDonagh's great gifts is his way about the English tongue. He can write the most vulgar sentence and let it give off the smell of roses. His words can elevate the shanty to the level of white linen.

Don't miss this production. It is an unforgettable night in the theater. It's the perfect play to see for Halloween, mind you, but don't wait that long, it may not be around come October. See it now!

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