Get our free newsletter
Financial and political bloodbaths got you looking for distraction? Signature Theatre’s splatter-farce The Lieutenant of Inishmore could be just the ticket. With its blinded cows, trampled mams, battered cats, choked dogs (who’ve been fed their masters’ noses), and toenail-deprived drug dealers, it’s quite the festive little cartoon massacre. And all of that’s mere prelude to a reckoning amongst stumblebum splinter-group Irish terrorists who’d make the gang that couldn’t shoot straight look like Corleones. The death of a cat—Wee Thomas, belonging to a dedicated, glib young Irish torturer named Padraic—sets things in motion. Padraic gets the news that his cat is “poorly” (actually its brain has just thwapped onto a table) as he’s preparing to slice up a drug dealer for distracting Irish kids with marijuana when they really ought, in his view, to be chucking stones at police. What follows when Padraic returns home and confronts the dumb-and-dumber Inishmorons for whose liberty he’s theoretically fighting won’t seem particularly novel to anyone who’s seen a Tarantino flick. But in Jeremy Skidmore’s antic, deliriously overstated mounting, it qualifies as both decently startling and pretty hilarious as the guignol gets grander. Like Wee Thomas, the play hasn’t a brain in its head. But it does have Karl Miller’s sparkling turn as a dude to whom patricide seems no more remarkable than quaffing a pint but who is as determined as any Noel Coward character to observe social niceties during the execution. Also delectable in their variously idiotic ways are Michael Glenn as a killer to whom verbal precision is paramount, Casie Platt as a crooning 16-year-old spitfire who can put out a cow’s eye at 30 paces, and Matthew McGloin as a lad whose hair seems to mean more to him than life itself. What has any of this to do with the Irish Troubles? Well, playwright Martin McDonagh’s on record saying that what fueled the play is his “pacifist rage” at the endless bloodshed over Ulster, though it’s hard to take that too seriously when he’s populated the evening entirely with nutjobs and buffoons. Still, if the dream of a free Ireland is barely referenced while whole scenes are given over to sawing up corpses and declaiming on the joys of eating shoe polish, that’ll just make the evening larkier, for anyone in a Halloweeny frame of mind.