Review: “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (AstonRep Theatre Company)

(left to right) Scott Wolf and John Wehrman in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE by Martin McDonagh, directed by Derek Bertelsen.  Photo by Emily Schwartz.
(left to right) Scott Wolf and John Wehrman in AstonRep Theatre Company’s production THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE by Martin McDonagh, directed by Derek Bertelsen. Photo by Emily Schwartz.

Show: The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Company: AstonRep Theatre Company

Venue: West Stage of the Raven Theatre Complex

Die Roll: 19

Martin McDonagh has written some really messed-up plays.  And he’s also written some really brilliant ones.  More often than not, his plays are both.  “Lieutenant of Inishmore” is one of his brilliantly dark scripts.  So, I was very much looking forward to seeing a local production of the show.

The play is a timeless tale of a psychopathic killer/freedom fighter (played by John Wehrman) whose life is thrown into a whirling tempest when his pet cat is killed.  Basically, it is one absurdity heaped upon another upon another for an hour and a half.

Really, it’s a farce.  And in any farce, the whole premise is that there is a lie, that is then protected by telling another lie.  One lie on top of another results in hilarity as things are done to prevent the discovery of the lie.  Unlike other farces, though, the solution isn’t always that everything works out in the end.  Instead, there is blood and destruction.

So, from the very first scene, the play is put forth with a tongue-in-cheek campiness and self-awareness that destroys the best farces.  For a play like this one to be really successful, the punchlines must be delivered as sincerely as possible.  When Davey (played by Matthew Harris) discovers a dead cat that he assumes to belong to Wehrman’s Padraic (the killer mentioned above) he does a clumsy reveal of the fact that it’s been brained as an attempt at shock humor.  It does succeed in getting the laugh, but it sets the tone for a production that cheapens the work itself.

Because of the approach, the scary man around whom the play revolves doesn’t seem so scary.  Even when he’s torturing a man (Scott Wolf) who hangs from an impressive steel rig, he seems to be a buffoon.  The other men within the cast who are supposed to be villains are also nothing more than clowns.  The set design is somewhat simplistic and scattered, which adds to the feeling of unreality in a show that could really shine were it to be well executed.

Most of the blood work resembled orange watercolor paint smeared on the clothing.  Which is a shame, because the costumes themselves were one of the few things that were well done in the production.  kClare McKellaston assembled a collection of garb that felt both rough and right.

I do recommend seeing “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”.  However, I would recommend seeing someone else’s production to get the real experience of a dark comedy done right.

TEN WORD SUMMARY:  A dark comedy is neither when played as camp.  Bummer.

RATING: d6 “Has Some Merit”