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Review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh (Oct. 27)

The Lieutenant of Inishmore” presented by FUSION Theatre Company is the comically gruesome story of a man and his cat that only Irish playwright of the macabre Martin McDonagh could envision. The Cell Theatre production of this searing satire is the blackest of humor, an early Halloween gift enacted with gory glee by an excellent cast under the grisly guidance of director Jacqueline Reid.

Ireland has a history of violent rebellion, and ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” takes that violence to impossible extremes as the stage and walls run red with blood, dead men are hacked and mutilated (compare “The Sopranos”), and murder stimulates sexual passion. And the audience can’t stop laughing! The title character is 21-year-old “Mad Padraic,” a terrorist so vicious that the IRA wouldn’t let him join “because he was too mad.” We meet Padraic nonchalantly torturing James, who is hanging upside down. As Padraic is about to slice off a nipple and feed it to his victim, his father calls to inform him his cat, Wee Thomas, is “poorly.” Padraic is reduced to tears at the threat to his “best friend in the world” In fact, Wee Thomas’s brains have been bashed out as Padraic learns when he returns to his Inishmore home. The play revolves around the expanding violence surrounding revenge for dead cats. The bizarre plot is ingeniously constructed, and the ending includes the reversals and twists that mark McDonagh’s other work.

Special Effects Master Steve Tolin provides a realistic array of exploding wounds, dismembered heads and limbs, and decapitated cats. The three villains killed by Padraic and his BB gun moll Mairead are humorously portrayed by Bruce Holmes, Aaron Worley, and Will Peebles. Each character is an individual thanks to Jacqueline Reid’s direction. Zane Baker earns special commendation for his convincing rendition of James, the inverted torture victim. Jen Grigg is filled with butch attitude as Mairead, although she plays older than her character’s 16 years. William Sterchi is masterful as Padraic’s father Donny. His face is comic silly putty. Justin Lenderking as Davey, Mairead’s brother, interacts well with Sterchi in their scenes of frightened, overlapping dialogue. They are hilarious as they await death at Padraic’s hands. (When interrupted, Padraic apologizes to his visitors, “I’m just in the middle of shooting me dad.”) As Padraic, FUSION regular Ross Kelly gives another exceptional portrayal. He makes his character’s essential madness seem normal, even humdrum. His stage presence is commanding yet appears effortless. The characters keep speaking of the “principle” behind what they are saying and doing; indeed, it is “principle” that keeps much of the world in the turmoil of political violence, as McDonagh’s farce demonstrates.

“The Lieutenant of Inishmore” by Martin McDonagh at The Cell, 700 First Street NW, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through November 18. General public $25; seniors, students $20. Reservations 766-9412