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by Martin McDonagh

APRIL 29, 2009 - JUNE 7, 2009

"I've never seen a play so brilliant and so funny." - CBS TV


"Wee Thomas" the cat has been killed. What's worse, he was the beloved pet of Padraic-a ruthless Irish hitman who considers the IRA "too soft". As the folks back home fight over who has to break the bad news, the violence escalates-recalling Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino at their bloody best. A few murders, several dismemberments and a smattering of cow mutilations later, all is finally right with the world again. Or is it?


In this wickedly funny black comedy from the author of The Cripple of Inishmaan, A Skull in Connemara and the recent film In Bruges, McDonagh considers the implications of outrageous reactions to small misunderstandings.

Interview with Director BJ Jones

by Meghan Beals McCarthy
March 5, 2009


MBM: What draws you to McDonagh's work?


BJ: I remember reading The Cripple of Inishmaan for the first time. At first blush it was as funny on the page as any play I've ever read, full of outsized characters and outlandish twists of plot. Behind the façade, however, was the story of a tight community and of a young man's yearning to experience the world beyond the confines of his infirmities, the remote island he lives on and his constricting family ties.


McDonagh sets up an initial conceit of character and plot, which are always brilliantly conceived and craftily constructed. But as the fireworks of his craftsmanship fade, his purpose emerges. In the case of Inishmore, he is examining the folly of violence, of resentment, and of holding on to principal till all meaning and purpose are stripped from it.


MBM: What are the special challenges a work like this present to us as producers and artists, and potentially for our audiences?


BJ: It can be a rough go for those in the audience who like their theatre like a weak tea. But if you like yours with a shot of Jameson in it, you've come to the right play. Our production, like the others that have been produced, requires a special effects co-coordinator: in our case, the brilliant Steve Tolin-but I don't want to spoil any of the surprises here for our readers.
I am drawn to McDonagh's outrageous and politically-incorrect language, his audacity and his fearless theatricality. You will walk out of the theatre either outraged or exhilarated, but knowing that you have not seen anything quite like it in the live theatre before.


MBM: What are you looking forward to most for rehearsals?


BJ: Killing the cat.




Killer Comedy - Martin McDonagh's Bloody Satire


Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore features a dead cat, multiple gunfights and dismemberments, and an Irish nationalist so psychopathic that the IRA wanted no part of him.


And it's a comedy.


How can a play that is so explicitly gory also be one of the most successful comedies in recent years?


McDonagh, one of the most celebrated and popular playwrights working today, treats violence as a muse, using it to highlight his observations on the dynamics of family, small town life and the world at large. And, in much of his work, he takes the human capacity for cruelty to such extremes that the only reasonable response is to laugh at its absurdity.


McDonagh's affinity for social commentary through violence was first brought to Northlight audiences in 1998's production of The Cripple of Inishmaan (directed by BJ Jones), set on the desolate Aran islands, where violence is a matter of everyday life. Men are eaten by sharks, beleaguered sons try to bump off their mothers and feuds are settled with a blow from a lead pipe. Most telling, however, is the characters' inability to conceive of any other way to behave, shown in this brief dialogue:


Billy: Do ya have to be so violent, Helen?
Helen: I do have to be so violent, if I'm not to be taken advantage of.


Here, McDonagh uses the hostility of Inishmaan as a symbol for the turmoil in the whole of Ireland at the time.


Northlight's second McDonagh production was A Skull in Connemara in 2002 (also directed by BJ Jones). Driven by years of hateful insinuations made by petty people, the protagonist Mick is driven to kill, explaining, "If it's a murderer ye've always wanted living in yer midst, ye can have one." And the vent for his frustrations? He shatters the bones of exhumed bodies from the over-crowded graveyard-just as we sense he'd like to shatter the rumors about him that should also have remained buried.


In Northlight's upcoming production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, McDonagh takes on his most overtly violent topic yet-the political conflict that engulfed Ireland throughout the 20th Century. In true McDonagh fashion, the parable enacted on Inishmore - a ruthless hit man avenging the death of his beloved pet cat - is taken to absurd levels.


As with the rest of McDonagh's work, however, once the violence has played itself out, we see that the play is making a much greater observation about humanity, Ireland, the world, and the consequences of outrageous reactions to small misunderstandings.



Jamie Abelson (Davey)
Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic)
Matt DeCaro (Donny)
Keith Gallagher (James/Joey)
John Judd (Christy)
Andy Luther (Brendan)
Kelly O'Sullivan (Mairead)



BJ Jones (Director)
Todd Rosenthal (Set Design)
Rachel Anne Healy (Costume Design)

Chris Binder (Lighting Design)

Andre Pluess (Sound Design)
Steve Tolin (Special Effects)
Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager)



Jamie Abelson (Davey) is honored to make his Northlight Mainstage debut after playing the role of Jordy for the Interplay reading of In and understudying the role of Cates in Northlight's production of Inherit the Wind.  Recent projects include Eurydice at Victory Gardens, Scenes from the Big Picture with Seanachai Theatre Company, As Told by the Vivian Girls with Dog and Pony and columbinus at Raven Theatre.  Other Chicago credits include Hope Springs Infernal (House Theatre), Dorian (Bailiwick), Tooth of Crime (Stawdog), and Honus and Me (Chicago Children's Theatre).  Assistant directing credits include: A Year with Frog and Toad and Go, Dog. Go! with Chicago Children's Theatre, and Golden Child and Merchant On Venice with Silk Road Theatre Project.  Jamie is a graduate of the "Cherub" Program at Northwestern University and holds a BFA in Drama from the Tisch School at NYU.


Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) was last seen at Northlight as The Tin Woodsman in The House Theatre of Chicago's transfer of The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz.  Other Chicago credits include Magnolia, The Ballad of Emmett Till and Oedipus Complex at The Goodman; Superior Donuts and Theatrical Essays at Steppenwolf; The Sparrow (Non-Equity Jeff Award, Ensemble) and Hatfield and McCoy at The House Theatre of Chicago; Dolly West's Kitchen at Timeline; Bus Stop at Writers; The U.N. Inspector at Next; Arcadia at Remy Bumppo; and Can You Spot Me?, Bottle Can Draft, and Where We Live at Sandbox Theatre Project, where he is a founding member.  He is a Company Member with The House Theatre of Chicago, an ensemble member and teacher with Barrel of Monkeys, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and The School at Steppenwolf, and a proud husband to his darling, Robyn.


Matt DeCaro (Donny) reprises his Inishmore role following productions at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.  Northlight audiences may remember Matt from The Old Neighborhood, Talley's Folly, Dinah Was and Away.  Chicago credits include: David Mamet's Romance and The Play About the Baby; Rebecca Gilman's Spinning Into Butter and Boy Gets Girl  (roles he reprised at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club); as well as Heartbreak House, Richard II and Night of the Iguana (Goodman); Glengarry Glen Ross, Perfect Mendacity, Our Lady of 121st St., Slaughterhouse V and Men of Tortuga (Steppenwolf); Driving Miss Daisy, Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Briar St. Theatre); and A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Mystery Cycle and The House of Blue Leaves (Court).  Regional: Dallas Theater Center, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre, Santa Fe Stages, and San Francisco's ACT Theatre.  Film and TV: Prison Break (recurring role as C.O. Geary), U.S. Marshals, Curb Your Enthusiasm, CSI, Law & Order: SVU, Boston Legal, 24 and The Office, among many others.


Keith Gallagher (James/Joey) is making his Northlight Theatre debut.  His Chicago credits include Shining City at The Goodman Theatre, Arcadia at Court Theatre, The Real Thing at Remy Bumppo, Tracks with TUTA Chicago, and The Boxcar Children with Chicago Playworks.  He is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.


John Judd (Christy) last appeared at Northlight in The Cripple of Inishmaan.  He appeared most recently in Magnolia and last season's Shining City at The Goodman.  John has performed at Steppenwolf (The Dresser, Last of the Boys, Orson's Shadow, The Butcher of Baraboo), at Writers' Theatre (The Price, Crime and Punishment, Othello), at Lookingglass (Great Men of Science), at Court Theatre (Lettice and Lovage, Gross Indecency), at Next Theatre (A Number, The Boarding House), at About Face (Execution of Justice), at Shattered Globe Theatre (Come Back Little Sheba) and numerous others.  Off-Broadway:  Barrow Street Theatre (Orson's Shadow, An Oak Tree) and 59E59th Theatres (Crime and Punishment).  Regional: Huntington Theatre - Boston (Shining City), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Orson's Shadow), Westport Country Playhouse (Orson's Shadow), Beaver Creek Theatre Festival (Orson's Shadow) and Galway Arts Festival (Long Day's Journey into Night).  His most recent motion picture work includes Public Enemies and Cherry.


Andy Luther (Brendan) is delighted to make his debut performance with Northlight.   Recently, he performed for EP Theater's production of Mr. Paradise in the title role.  Previous work includes The Library Theater at Feltre's production of Antigone, and understudy roles at various theaters around Chicago including Writers' (Picnic), Chicago Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida), Lookinglass (Argonautica), and Seanachi (War).   He has appeared in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival productions of Comedy of Errors, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Henry VIII and Twelfth Night.  Andy can also be seen in various regional commercials and in the film The Dark Knight in the role of Brian Douglas.   He first started acting in New York City at The Acting Studio, Inc. after which he obtained a B.A. in Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University and an M.F.A. in Acting from Illinois State University.  When off the stage, he works as an independent contractor.


Kelly O'Sullivan (Mairead) is thrilled to be working at Northlight for the first time and overjoyed to finally be working on an Irish play.  Kelly's Chicago credits include Good Boys and True, The Crucible, and 100 Saints You Should Know (Steppenwolf Theatre), Jon (Collaboraction), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (American Theater Co.), Hot 'n Throbbing (Pine Box Theatre), The Glory of Living (Profiles Theatre), and Mr. Marmalade (Dog & Pony Theatre) - Non-Equity Jeff Nomination for Principal Actress in a Play.  She has performed in staged readings and workshops with Northlight, The Goodman, TimeLine, Chicago Dramatists, and Rivendell Theatres.  Kelly is a graduate of Northwestern University and The School at Steppenwolf.  Huge thanks to BJ, Lynn and wonderful friends and family.


BJ Jones (Director/Northlight Artistic Director) is in his 11th year as Artistic Director of Northlight Theatre, where he has piloted the world premieres of Craig Wright's Lady, Better Late (by Larry Gelbart & Craig Wright), Rounding Third, Sky Girls and Cat Feet. As a producer he guided the world premieres of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, The Gamester, and Studs Terkel's 'The Good War.' Mr. Jones has directed at Steppenwolf, Intiman Theatre in Seattle, Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, The Utah Shakespearean Festival, The Asolo Theatre in Sarasota, and Next Theatre in Evanston. Directorial work includes Northlight's Grey Gardens, The Lady with All the Answers, The Retreat From Moscow, A Skull in Connemara, The Cripple of Inishmaan, and An Experiment With an Airpump, as well as productions of A Number, Twelfth Night, Glengarry Glen Ross (Suzie Bass Nominee - Best Director), Pygmalion, The Price (Jeff Nomination - Best Director,) and 100 Saints You Should Know. A two-time Jeff Award winner, he has appeared at Northlight in dozens of productions and has performed at virtually every major theatre in Chicago, including The Goodman in The Guys and House and Garden, Steppenwolf in The Royal Family and Playboy of the Western World, and Court in Candide and Comedy of Errors. Film/TV credits include The Fugitive, Body Double, Law and Order:Criminal Intent, Early Edition, Cupid and Turks, among others.


Martin McDonagh (Playwright) Plays: The Pillowman (Tony nominee, Best Play 2005; Olivier Award Winner 2004), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Olivier Award Winner, Best Comedy 2003), The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Tony nominee, Best Play 1998), The Lonesome West (Tony nominee, Best Play 1999), A Skull in Connemara, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Banshees of Inisheer, The Retard is Out in the Cold, Dead Day at Coney. Other works include Barney Nenagh's Shotgun Circus, Suicide on Sixth Street, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Six Shooter (Oscar, Best Short 2006).


Todd Rosenthal (Scenic Design) designs at theatres across the country and Europe, including: The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, The Alley Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Repertory, Paper Mill Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Center Stage, Chicago Shakespeare, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Atlantic Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre, The Lyric Opera, The National Theatre in London, and others. Currently designing: August: Osage County for North American Tour; A Delicate Balance for Arena Stage; Happy Days for California Shakespeare Festival;  Magnolia for Goodman Theatre, and Fake for Steppenwolf Theatre.  Winner:  2008 Tony® Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play (August: Osage County).  Set designer for New York's Big Apple Circus.  Exhibitor at 2007 Prague Quadrennial in the Czech Republic.  Only American to receive London's Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Set Design.  Teacher: Northwestern University.  Graduate:Yale School of Drama.  Website: toddar.com.


Rachel Anne Healy (Costume Design) returns to Northlight Theatre with The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  Previous Northlight credits include: Lady Windermere's Fan, She Stoops to Conquer, The Chalk Garden, The Miser, Rounding Third, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Skull in Conemarra, and The Gamester.   Additional Chicago credits include: The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Children's Theatre, Court Theatre, Appletree Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Timeline Theatre, The Next Theatre, and Remy Bumppo Theatre.  Regionally, she has designed with the Alliance Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, First Stage Childrens' Theatre of Milwaukee, American Players Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre.  Upcoming productions including Ms. Healy's designs can be seen in The Goodman Theatre's premiere production of Rebecca Gilman's The Crowd You're In With and at Writers' Theatre in the world premiere musical A Ministers Wife.


Chris Binder (Lighting Designer) has designed for Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Court, Redmoon, About Face, and Lookingglass.  Chris' opera designs include work at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, San Diego Opera, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Theatre an der Wein in Vienna, Austria.  Recent designs include:  The Brothers Karamazov for Lookingglass Theatre Company, Dancing at Lughnasa for The Theatre School, and Madama Butterfly for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Upcoming work includes La Clemenza di Tito and La Tragedie de Carmen for Chicago Opera Theatre, and The Merry Widow, Faust and Tosca for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Ms. Binder has received 2 Jeff Citations for her work with Redmoon Theatre (Frankenstein and Frankie and Johnny), and has been Jeff-nominated for work with Court, Northlight and Lookingglass.  She is an Artistic Associate with Lookingglass and is the Head of Lighting for The Theatre School at DePaul University.


Andre Pluess (Sound Design) previously designed for Northlight's Po Boy Tango, Inherit the Wind, The Retreat from Moscow and Red Herring.  Design and composition credits include projects for Lookingglass (artistic associate), Court (1999-02 resident artist), Victory Gardens (resident designer), About Face (associate artist), the Goodman, Steppenwolf and many other Chicago and regional theaters.   Broadway credits: I Am My Own Wife and Metamorphoses. Awards: nine Joseph Jefferson Awards and Citations, an L.A. Ovation Award, a Drama Critics Circle Award and a Lortel nomination for composition and sound design.   Recent projects: After the Quake, (Steppenwolf/Long Wharf), Silk  (Goodman Theatre), Pericles (Washington D.C. Shakes/Goodman Theatre), Honour (Berkeley Rep), Lady Windermere's Fan (Williamstown), The Secret in the Wings (Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, McCarter Theatre), and The Clean House (Yale Rep/Goodman). Currently, Andre is writing the score for Argonautika directed by Mary Zimmerman for Lookingglass and preparing to design The Clean House for Lincoln Center. 


Steve Tolin (Special Effects) is thrilled to be making his debut collaboration with Northlight with The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  Steve lives in Pittsburgh, where he owns and operates his special FX shop TolinFX.  His work can be seen in film, on TV, and on the stage.  Favorite theatre credits include: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre- Pittsburgh, PA), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Fusion Theatre-Albuquerque, NM), El Teniente de Inishmore (Teatro La Plaza ISIL- Lima, Peru), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (St. Louis Repertory Theatre- St. Louis, MI), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (New Rep- Boston, MA), and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Berkeley Repertory Theatre- Berkeley, CA).  Steve is also currently producing his first feature motion picture, It Came from Yesterday, and is in pre-production on his second.  You can see more of Steve 's work at www.tolinfx.com and learn more about his film at www.itcamefromyesterday.com.  Steve would like to dedicate his work on this show to the memory of his best furry friend Sundance, without whom these FX would not have been possible.


Meghan Beals McCarthy (Production Dramaturg) is the Literary Manager & Resident Dramaturg for Northlight Theatre.  Previously she served as Program Assistant for Steppenwolf's First Look Repertory of New Work, most notably acting as artistic liaison for "First Look 101" (an audience-enrichment series).  Before Chicago, Meghan was the Artistic Associate at The Pearl Theatre Company in New York City; she served as casting director and manager of the resident company's extensive research and development programs.  As a director, she has helmed productions, workshops and readings in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Edinburgh, Scotland working with companies such as The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists and Collaboraction (Chicago) and the Women's Project and Productions, Abingdon Theatre and The Pearl (New York).  Meghan is an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists and a Trustee of Caffeine Theatre.  She earned her MFA in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University and her BA in Theatre from the University of Southern California.


Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager) is delighted to be collaborating once again with the talented people at Northlight.  Previous Northlight stage management credits include this season's Mauritius and Grey Gardens as well as last season's The Miser and Gee's Bend.  Elsewhere, her recent credits include The Producers, Phantom, Knute Rockne - All-American and many other productions at Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN; the world premieres of Free Man of Color and Court-Martial at Fort Devens, among others, for Victory Gardens Theatre; Once Upon a Time in New Jersey and Into the Woods at Marriott Lincolnshire; and 18 productions for Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park.  Rita has been the set designer at Harold Washington College since 2001 and is a member of the newly founded Route 66 Theatre Company in Chicago.  She is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and a proud member of Actors Equity.  Special thanks to Cori and to the amazing Northlight crew!




All photos by Michael Brosilow

Photo Gallery

Click on any image to start the slideshow  Click on images to start slideshow

Kelly OSullivan (Mairead) with Betty.  Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) in backgroundCliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Kelly OSullivan (Mairead)Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Kelly OSullivan (Mairead)Matt DeCaro (Donny) and Jamie Abelson (Davey)Matt DeCaro (Donny) and Jamie Abelson (Davey)Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Keith Gallagher (James)Kelly OSullivan (Mairead)Jamie Abelson (Davey) and Kelly OSullivan (Mairead)Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Kelly OSullivan (Mairead)Jamie Abelson (Davey) and Matt DeCaro (Donny)
Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Jamie Abelson (Davey)Jamie Abelson (Davey)Standing: Keith Gallagher (Joey), Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic), John Judd (Christy) and Andy Luther (Brendan).  Kneeling: Jamie Abelson (Davey) and Matt DeCaro (Donny)Standing: John Judd (Christy), Keith Gallagher (Joey), Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) and Andy Luther (Brendan).  Kneeling: Jamie Abelson (Davey) and Matt DeCaro (Donny)Andy Luther (Brendan)Kelly OSullivan (Mairead) and Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic)Kelly OSullivan (Mairead) and Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic)

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Interview with Director BJ Jones
Inishmore Music Video

Theater Review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Windy City Times

By Catey Sullivan
May 13, 2009


For those who like their humor drenched in bodily fluids and so pitch-black that you can't see the hand in front of your face, nirvana awaits in the sticky severed limbs and oozing cats of Northlight Theatre's marvelous production of Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Forget leprechauns and rolling emerald hills. This corner of Ireland is a place of cat killers who leave felines leaking brains all over the kitchen table; of winsome young lasses who practice marksmanship by shooting the eyeballs out of cows; and of members of splinter groups of the IRA ( Irish Republican Army ) splinter groups who-in the name of a free Ireland-cut the nipples off petty marijuana dealers. In short, McDonagh makes Quentin Tarantino look like Walt Disney.

Does the playwright go soaring hundreds of miles over the top as he covers the stage with ankle-deep carnage and hacksaw-wielding protagonists? Yes. Does he occasionally rely more on violence than on substance? Yes. Does he manipulate the audience through sheer, jaw-dropping shocks? Yes. Did we enjoy every last blood-soaked second of this rollicking splatter-fest? Oh, yes. Directed by BJ Jones, every ounce of so-twisted-it's-mutilated humor and seeping viscera shines through. The result is a gruesome delight.

Much of the guilty pleasure here comes from the killer cast Jones has assembled. John Judd and Matt DeCaro are the elder statesmen of the ensemble, actors at the top of their craft whose presence in any given cast tends to automatically elevate it toward the realms of the superior. Going toe to toe with them is Cliff Chamberlain as Padraic, the magnificently deranged title character-a man so madly sadistic and short-tempered ( never a good combination, that ) that even IRA splinter groups won't have him.

DeCaro is Donny, Padraic's sad-eyed, less than whip-smart father-not that family ties would stop father from executing son or vice versa should the situation call for it ( and, of course, the situation eventually does call for just that. ) Judd is a hulking, one-eyed menace and on a self-appointed mission to kill Padraic, a mission that eventually proves both literally and figuratively short-sighted.

Chamberlain's Padraic, it must be noted, isn't entirely without heart. He loves his cat, Wee Thomas, with the slobbering, sentimental devotion of the world's most earnest Hallmark card. Midway through a workaday morning slicing body parts from a strapping young lad screaming for mercy, Padraic abruptly cuts his ( newly toenail-free ) victim loose after said victim provides him with some timely advice about treating feline ringworm.

It's the cat, brains bashed in-or rather, out-that ignites an avalanche of violence that eventually boasts a body count to rival the final scenes of the Oresteia cycle.

Chamberlain-who has been turning in solid supporting work for years -gets a breakout role as Padraic. Whether cradling a headless cat or taking a straight-razor to somebody's nipples, he's pitch-perfect. Also utterly wonderful is Jamie Abelson as Davey, a shoe polish-huffing young man who has more hair than brains.

And a huge tip of the hat goes to prop designer Daniel Katz for creating the unfortunate animal who becomes one with the asphalt as well the corpses that eventually cover the stage. When Davey energetically takes a bolt cutter to these works of art, the moment is stomach churning in its realism.

As McDonagh puts it in one of oh-so-many gems that pock the dialogue: "It's incidents like this what put the tourists off Ireland." To which we'll add that it's plays like this that make BJ Jones and Northlight Theatre absolutely indispensable.

See original posting on Windy City Times website>


McDonagh's bloody 'Lieutenant of Inishmore' is unsentimental about Ireland, and cats

Chicago Tribune

By Chris Jones
May 10, 2009


As blood gushes, stringy entrails spew, and dead cats and severed limbs pile up like bloody bangers on a fleshy bed of mashed potatoes, one of the wiseguys in Martin McDonagh 's gruesome bloodbath, "The Lieutenant of Inishmore," makes a little observation.


"It's incidents like this," he says, "does put tourists off Ireland." That line reveals a lot about this 2003 play, produced on Broadway in 2006 and now in a wholly entertaining Chicago premiere at Northlight Theatre under the spirited if overly cautious direction of BJ Jones.


On one level, the line is a joke. And indeed, this play by the bad boy of Irish drama is intended as a farce-albeit one with more scenes of butchery than even the Showtime serial killer Dexter Morgan could stomach (and these messy Irish boys lack Dexter's clinical precision).


On another level, it's McDonagh chaffing against the rural romanticism associated with much of Irish drama, a style that this writer, whose main influences were David Mamet and Sam Shepard and not Yeats or Brian Friel, has dedicated much of his life to blowing to bits.


In the case of this gleefully gruesome play, he does so, literally. And yet that line also reveals the show's main point.


This is the story of a group of petty, violent terrorists in rural Ireland, men (and one trigger-loving woman) for whom any macro-political struggle takes a back seat to the sheer quotidian pleasure of, say, blowing off a cat's head before tea. The cats, I should pause here to note, are played by furry kitty facsimiles, which may (depending on your level of feline love) assuage your horror at their sudden demises. But the point is that this play's endless succession of violence is sparked by trivial disagreements and misunderstandings and is carried out as a grisly component of one's everyday routine.


If you think about it, a great deal of global terrorism falls into that context. That's one of the reasons it's so hard to stamp out.


It should be clear by now that "Lieutenant" is not for all tastes (although I think it's one of McDonagh's best plays). Jones' new production is certainly a lively, imaginative and superbly paced show with the capable likes of Jamie Abelson, Cliff Chamberlain, Matt DeCaro and Kelly O'Sullivan throwing themselves into the pitch-black farcical style. This is a tricky piece to stage, and with the help of Todd Rosenthal 's whip-smart set and Steve Tolin' s eye-popping special effects, Northlight pulls it all off in frequently spectacular fashion.


There are moments, though, when it feels as though punches are pulled, realistic horrors are overly assuaged and actors don't descend as deeply as they should into McDonagh's messed-up emotional world. You realize this when the remarkable Chicago actor John Judd shows up as a nasty fellow called Christy and raises the searing emotional stakes to the level they should be the whole time.


In between the sick jokes.


One would have genuine worries with this play about offending the audience. But if you're gonna do it-and thinking persons will see it's a savvy, worthy brilliantly structured piece-you may as well swing that dead cat as hard as you can.


See original posting on Chicago Tribune website >



The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Time Out Chicago

By Kris Vire
May 11, 2009


The comedy in The Lieutenant of Inishmore isn't black so much as blood red. McDonagh's work has often portrayed the brutality of life in rural Ireland; from The Cripple of Inishmaan to The Beauty Queen of Leenane, he's depicted interfamilial abuse and opportunities denied. Inishmore takes these themes to gruesome comic extremes, while retaining McDonagh's characteristic compassion for often-repellent characters.


Wee Thomas, the beloved cat and "only friend" of Padraic (Chamberlain), a bloodthirsty foot soldier of an IRA splinter group, has had his wee head bashed in, leaving Padraic's half-daft da (DeCaro) and airy teen neighbor Davey (Abelson) scrambling to keep Padraic in the dark. Davey's sister Mairead (O'Sullivan), who harbors lustful feelings for both Padraic and the cause, has her own designs on the situation.


McDonagh's canny script doles out the gore in exponential increments - Nick Sandys's violence direction and Steve Tolin's astoundingly precise spatter-craft are enough to induce hyperventilation - while subtly (and hilariously) making a case for the utter absurdity of violence that begets violence. (It's not lost on us that McDonagh's characters have more sympathy for pets - be they cats, dogs or an imagined goldfish - than their fellow humans.) Chamberlain, regularly underutilized at the Goodman and Steppenwolf, finally scores in a breakout leading role. Director Jones deserves praise both for his exacting direction and for programming what might be a risky sell in Skokie.


The playwright's mastery of poetically absurd language, hammering such compound gerunds as "cat-battering" and "mum-trampling," brings Inishmore closer to Ionesco than Tarantino. For a game audience, it's a bloody good time.


See original posting on TimeOut website >



The Lieutenant of Inishmore

New City

By Fabrizio O. Almeida
May 11, 2009


I remember reading Martin McDonagh's "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" when it was first published several years ago and thinking that it was the kind of play that Quentin Tarantino might have written had he been a playwright. I still think this is partially true, at least for the part of the play that demands mutilated pussy cats, human craniums splattering open and onto walls and the severing of human bodies into small pieces, all of these disturbing stage directions simulated, of course, but nonetheless staged convincingly in Theatre Northlight's perversely enjoyable new revival of the play. On opening night I couldn't decide what was more entertaining, watching the performance or keeping my eye on the woman sitting one row in front of me, looking pissed and uncomfortable as she kept flashing a "why did you bring me to this?" angry gaze to her male companion. Unfortunately for him, she was probably a cat person or card-carrying member of the Anti-Cruelty Society.


After all, the cats that figure into this blackest of black comedies aren't the ones that frolic and sing to Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes about which one of them is going to kitty-cat heaven. In "Inishmore," four Northern Irish terrorists butcher the beloved black cat (Wee Thomas) of their adversary Padraic, a man so violent and unpredictable even the IRA rejected his membership application, in order to lure him back into town. Padraic, in the middle of torturing a drug-pusher-Padraic's ripped off two of his toe nails and is negotiating with the man on which nipple he should cut off next-receives the news and rushes back home. Meanwhile, Padraic's nervous father-having misled his son about Wee Thomas' demise and fearing his son's violent wrath-kidnaps an orange cat and begins applying black shoe polish to its coat in order to pass him off as the real thing. To reveal any more would be to spoil a large part of the feline foul play and fun that ensues, but suffice it to say that by the end the stage is soaked in buckets of blood (the stage management must hate their jobs right now) and a brilliant twist in the end prompts one character to ask if all the violence was for naught. Yes is the answer that follows, making clear this maverick playwright's brave critique of his country's extremists, as well as his condemnation of their violent methods. In other words, at the heart of every macho terrorist that blows up human beings for a living is a mawkish and sentimental idiot, and all that fighting really is for nothing. If Tarentino's films rarely had a point to their gratuitous gore, McDonagh's stomach-curling violence is ultimately used to make a conservative and pacifist one. What's the Gaelic word for brilliant?


Director BJ Jones knows the secret to diffusing any possible repugnance to the play's violence by carefully calibrating his actors'-and their characters'-deadpan delivery of McDonagh's hilarious and ironic lines with a little mix of mirth and humor, ensuring that most moments end with a chuckle rather than a nauseous convulsion. And while the piece is truly an ensemble effort, Cliff Chamberlain as the mad Padraic-whom last I enjoyed wielding his brawn and comic timing in Next Theatre's "The UN Inspector"-stands out and deserves every critical accolade I hope he receives. I'd like to see the Northlight blue-rinse set try to snooze through this one.


See original posting on New City website >