The family holiday season has come and gone, but the Long Beach Playhouse kicks off 2011 with a dark comedy driven by a man’s love for his best friend—Martin McDonagh’s gruesomely explosive dark comedy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Director Patrick Williams leads the creative team for an “Ireland free” with Stage Manger Natalie Figaredo by his side to corral the troops. Long Beach Playhouses wholly embraces the community with this Studio Theater production: aside from Williams calling Long Beach home himself, LB State’s Theater Arts Department continues to contribute to the Playhouse with current students and alumni working together as members of the production team and the cast. Not to make LBP sound exclusive and elitist, the cast also welcomes numerous Long Beach debuts with actors from New Jersey, Minnesota, Arizona, and New York. The combination of these years of experience and artistry culminate into the most entertaining, cutting-edge theatrical adventure the Long Beach Playhouse has seen in recent past.
In the compact but versatile Studio Theater, Andrew Vonderschmitt’s scenic and Matthew Mikulka’s lighting designs welcome you into your seats, with just enough exposed to pique your interest even more pre-show without telegraphing too much. Williams’ unique use of space and blocking turns Inishmore into a nearly 360 degree experience traversing a house of a failed cat-caretaker, country roads where sibling shootings occur, temporary hideouts of head-hunting vigilantes, and a breast-takingly painful (no, that isn’t a typo) torture chamber belonging to the Lieutenant himself. Resident Costume Designer Donna Fritsche has handed over the reins to soon-to-be CSULB Alumni Martina Jeans for her first LBP Production. Jeans has designed for numerous productions including an award-winning production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, which performed at a regional event for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Patrick Rieger’s Padraic is the hub of this twisted tale involving splinter groups, splintering off of splinter groups, cow-blinding sharpshooting, forceful and unwanted amputation, and cat-bashing. Needless to say, the show is gushing with excitement and violence—literally. The content of McDonagh’s Inishmore may be too intense for some, as LBP does post several disclaimers discouraging anyone under the age of 14, disturbed by graphic blood violence, gunshots, or those easily offended from seeing this production. For those excited by such warnings, the laughs are served in less than two hours with multiple dialects, colorful costumes, and a story that is so absurd that every turn takes you by surprise.
If your expectation is that of Chris Pine’s recent performance at the Mark Taper Forum, or even David Wilmot’s portrayal of the cat-loving psycho on Broadway in 2006, you should probably pass on this production, fluff your imported-silk ascot, and take your $22.00 dry martini elsewhere. One of the many joys of theater is in its independent creativity. Each house is different. Every director is different. Every actor, designer, and stage manger is different. Every performance is different. Release yourself of all your pre-conceived notions about other productions, houses, and whatever you think you know about this show, McDonagh, Long Beach Playhouse, or theater. Each experience is different. Enjoy it as such. Definitely go enjoy this one.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 masks
Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore, directed by Patrick Williams, plays in the Long Beach Playhouse Studio Theater Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through February 12th. Call 562-494-1014 for tickets or visit the website here.
Watch the trailer here!