The Lieutenant of Inishmore

play_inishmore.jpgThe Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Off-Ramp Series







It’s a sad time when your best friend dies, especially if it’s sudden and unexpected. And it’s even more painful when the death is violent; in this case, the victim is battered and decapitated. Such was the fate of Thomas (affectionately known as "Wee Thomas"), and Padraic (David Whalen) is taking it hard. He’d left Thomas at his father’s—Donny’s (Matt DeCaro)—house on the barren island of Inishmore, and when he learns that Thomas is ailing, he comes home immediately. On the way, he runs into a neighbor girl, 16-year-old Mairead (Keira Keeley) who carries a B.B. gun and a grudge. When he arrives at his dad’s, he finds Donny and Mairead’s brother Davey (Dan McCabe) asleep. Sounds rather ordinary so far, right?

Okay, there are a few things you need to know: Wee Thomas is (or was) a cat. Padraic (pronounced "Porrig") is known locally as "Mad Padraig" who was turned away from the I.R.A. because he was too crazy. He has joined a splinter group called the "I.N.L.A," and was, in fact, in the midst of torturing a drug dealer (Sean Meehan) when his father called to say Thomas was "unwell." Donny figured Padraic would become completely unhinged (although how could we tell?) if he knew the cat had been killed. Donny and Mairead think Davey ran over Thomas with his bicycle, but he’s innocent. As the play unfolds, we learn who killed Thomas and find out about a good number of other things, as well.

The Rep’s Off-Ramp series went a bit safe last year with three tame shows, but The Lieutenant of Inishmore goes a long way in making up for that. It’s bloody enough to make Quentin Tarantino hurl his Royale with cheese, but is also hilariously funny. Now, mind, it takes a certain kind of audience member to appreciate it. So, ask yourself a few questions: Are you easily offended? Are you troubled by excessive and graphic violence? Do you have a taste for humor that makes Monty Python seem sophisticated? If your answers are no, no and yes, then this is your show.

We’ve seen playwright Martin McDonagh’s work in St. Louis before (The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman, both Rep productions) but not like this. How crazy is Padraig? So crazy that he’s thinking of planning a splinter group of his splinter group because he’s getting bored bombing chip shops and torturing folks and whatnot. A ways in, we meet three of his colleagues: Christy (Christopher McHale), Joey (Meehan) and Brendan (Keith D. Gallagher). Joey is a quite pleasant young terrorist, Christy has lost an eye to friendly fire, and Brendan is the contrarian. (Just don’t try to quote anything around him.) When the group is reunited with Padraig, sparks fly, and so do guts, brains and cats.

Donny lives in a cabin on the desolate, rocky coast of Inishmore. It’s habitable, but barely. There are old tires and other debris beside the outhouse, and Donny apparently sleeps in a chair. As always in Rep shows, the set (Gianni Downs) and lighting design (Jim French) are spot on. Director Stuart Carden is to be commended for keeping the action moving along at a good clip, and keeping a large cast from bumping into each other in a small space. It must have been a lot like herding cats, as it were.

The cast is entirely comfortable with this material, and each manages to create a unique character out of his or her caricature. The whole play is a statement on the absurdity of the "Troubles," of course, but this goes beyond parody or satire to being theater of the absurd in its most literal sense: It is theater, and it is absurd. The laughs get a bit fewer and farther between in the last quarter of the show because it appears that McDonagh wasn’t entirely sure how to finish, and one bit drags on way too long. Still, I haven’t laughed this much since I first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Maybe you won’t want to take your sweet little granny or the weans, but I can’t imagine most folks not having a fine time with Mad Padraig and Co. | Andrea Braun


The Lieutenant of Inishmore runs through Oct. 12 at the Grandel Theatre. Ticket prices start at $15 and top out at $50, with plenty of levels in between. For more information and to make reservations, call the box office (314-968-4925) or visit online at

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