By Martin McDonagh. Directed by Evan Frayne. Produced by Cave Canem Productions. At Pacific Theatre on Saturday, October 21. Continues until November 11
“That’s the great thing about being Catholic. You can shoot your dad in the head and it doesn’t even matter at all.” Coleman (Kenton Klassen) cheerfully shares this realization with his brother, Valene (John Voth) in Pacific Theatre’s The Lonesome West. He has, in fact, just shot their father, kicking off this muscular play thick with violence, fraternal animosity, and potato hooch.
The two brothers live in a village in Connemara, in the west of Ireland. They’re idle, unemployed, and spend their days drinking a lot, fighting with each other and, to their endless dismay, not having sex.
Their father’s death upsets an unsteady détente in their tiny house. The frequent visits of the weepy, oft-fermented parish priest, Father Welsh (Sebastien Archibald) only increase the domestic tensions.
The play, by Irish/British bad boy Martin McDonagh, is tons of fun. The writing vibrates with lethal verve. It’s wordy and full of Irish slang, but the plot barrels along and expects the audience to just keep up.
There’s a lot of George F. Walker’s combative, working-class tales to the play, as well as a little of TV’s Father Ted (Father Welsh memorably yells “Feck!”, covering one-third of Father Jack Hackett’s vocabulary). McDonagh went on to write the film In Bruges, another very black comedy featuring a pair of surly Bickersons.
The cast rides this devil’s wheel very well. Klassen and Voth find the right kind of chemistry—sometimes chummy, sometimes vicious—and execute their frequent wrestling matches with a lot of skill. Kudos to fight choreographer Josh Reynolds for configuring their donnybrooks so they’re convincing from both angles of the theatre’s alley stage. Archibald brings a sardonic humour to what might have been a cliché of a role.
The text is challenging, and in the early minutes the cast struggled to find its rhythm. They were rescued by Paige Louter, who has a hilarious turn as a foul-mouthed local school girl and purveyor of Irish moonshine. From the moment she steps on-stage, Louter inhabits the character effortlessly. She also had the best Connemara accent. In fairness, she studied theatre in Galway, so she has a leg up on the rest of the cast.
I was skeptical when I first saw Sandy Margaret’s set—a naturalistic rendering of an early-’90s tiny Irish house. The playing space at the Pacific Theatre is small to begin with, and the set seemed overly busy.
Instead, it worked very well, accommodating all the brawling and other physical business the play demands. Sitting about five rows up, I was reminded of watching a bench-clearing brawl in Junior B hockey. My one small complaint was the lack of lamps. Every rural Irish house I’ve visited has been full of them.
Pacific Theatre often punches above its weight, and The Lonesome West is no exception. You wouldn’t expect patricide and Catholicism to be this much fun.More