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Strollers Theatre kills for fun in The Lieutenant of Inishmore
<i>The Lieutenant of Inishmore</i> is a neatly calibrated cycle of violence and absurdity.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a neatly calibrated cycle of violence and absurdity.
Credit:Strollers Theatre

Mutilated cats, blinded cows, a man's nose fed to his cocker spaniel; brace yourself. You might find PETA picketing the Bartell. The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Martin McDonagh's boisterous send-up of feckless Irish terrorists and soppy Irish sentimentality, is an uninterrupted 85 minutes of bloody black comedy. Outrageous, but very funny.

Two frowzy bunglers, Davey (Ken Urso) and Donny (the excellent J. Patrick), regard the mangled remains of a black cat on the table in their grimy Galway lodgings. Wee Thomas was the beloved best friend -- the only friend -- of Donny's psychotic son Padraic, a man so insanely violent he's been kicked out of the IRA.

They need to let Padraic down slowly: "Tell him Wee Thomas is feelin' poorly." The capable Strollers cast have practiced their brogues.

Padraic's cell phone rings just as he's razoring off the toes of James (Andy Ortman), who's chained to the ceiling by his heels. Padraic (Patrick O'Hara) has become a one-man terrorist splinter group. O'Hara plays the murderously volatile Padraic with artful control. Head close-shaved and bristling with weapons, he still has such a sweet smile. Then his eyes swerve off and he slips over the brink again.

"It's me Dad," he politely says to the groaning James as he takes the call. "Dad, I'm at work right now."

It's this daft mix of the gruesome with everyday banality that gives McDonagh's satire such a twist. Lieutenant is a neatly calibrated cycle of violence and absurdity. Between scenes we hear those threadbare old ballads: "Rising of the Moon" or "The Patriot Game," wry comments on a romanticized past.

Donny and Davey, now very drunk, disguise a substitute yellow cat with shoe polish; Padraic explodes; a trio of Irish National Liberation Army hit men arrive to settle old scores; many shots are exchanged; more blood is spattered. "It's incidents like this that does put tourists off Ireland," Donny observes.

Davey's hot little sister (Lauren Peterson, vicious and sexy) intervenes with her air gun and captures Padraic's amorous attentions. There's a surprise ending but this isn't it. Meanwhile there's cleanup to be done. Butchery, in fact -- and a small chainsaw is involved.

I'd warn the squeamish, but who among us is still squeamish after seasons of CSI? And The Lieutenant of Inishmore is much funnier.

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