The Lieutenant of Inishmore

The Phoenix Theatre

Directed by Bryan Fonseca

Through March 9

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted. Case in point: In Act 2, a (fake) cat is executed point blank. Shootings come complete with fountains of blood worthy of Kill Bill. The show has a Shakespearean body count — at one point actors are cutting up corpses on the floor, literally wallowing in blood — and the show is rife with gunshots. For the most part, the ludicrous nature of the play keeps it funny. The cat was a bit of overkill (ahem) in my personal opinion.

All of this stems from Padraic’s cat, Wee Thomas, getting brained in the middle of the road. Wee Thomas was Padraic’s only friend in the world for 15 years. There is good reason for that: Padraic is loony. When we first meet him, he has a man roped upside down. Padraic has already removed two of the man’s toenails and is about to slice off one of his nipples. The reason: The man was selling marijuana to students. Padraic is so extreme that the IRA kicked him out. When his dad, Donny, calls to tell him Wee Thomas is “poorly,” Padraic immediately heads home, much to Donny’s consternation.

Under Bryan Fonseca’s direction, the cast’s performance is tight in this character-driven show. Timing is critical in a dark comedy, and everyone delivers. Even though the show itself tends towards the gruesome, you can’t help but admire how extraordinary the production elements and acting are.

The cyclone of vengeance that is Padraic demands that Shane Chuvalas be “on” almost constantly. In a performance that must be akin to an emotional workout, Chuvalas shoots and hollers and glowers in perfect psycho form. Poor daddy Donny, Stephen Hunt, is saddled with accomplice Davey, Benjamin Snyder, who is hilarious as a not too bright, stoner-esque scapegoat. Joanne Dubach is Maidread, Davey’s 16-year-old militant sister, who is downright frightening. She shares Padraic’s streak of insanity and can take a cow’s eye out at 60 yards with a BB gun. Padraic’s comrades in the Irish National Liberation Army are Ben Ayres, Patrick Koenig and Ben Tebbe, who are out to get Padraic for creating a splinter off their splinter group.

Accents are as thick as Guinness from the tap. While authenticity is to be applauded (Rocco Dal Vera served as dialect coach), often dialogue was hard to catch until audience ears became accustomed to the pronunciation and cadence of the speech.

It’s no wonder this show is so bizarrely gruesome, since it is also the work of playwright Martin McDonagh, who wrote the Tony Award-winning play The Pillowman, also seen at the Phoenix Theatre in May 2006.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore continues through March 9 at the Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave. Tickets are $25, $15 for those 24 and under: 317-635-PLAY or www.phoenixtheatre.org.

Added bonus: Opening night saw a rocking pre- and post-show performance by Highland Reign. Catch these Celtic bands before select performances: Alair Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Hogeye Navvy Sunday, Feb. 24 and March 9 at 1:30 p.m.; Patchwork March 1, 7:30 p.m.; and Greg Ziesemer and Kriss Luckett Thursday, March 6, 7 p.m.

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