Review: “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (Northlight)

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Leave it to Martin McDonagh to find the humor in terrorism.

The Irish playwright is infamous for the intense violence and large quantity of blood in his plays. In The Lieutenant of Inishmore he satirizes the constantly splintering Irish terrorist groups that infested Ireland in the 20th Century. The current production at Northlight Theatre exploits the gruesome spectacle of the play, splashing the stage with blood, brains, and plenty of other body parts.

inishmore1 The play evokes both Quentin Tarantino and John M. Synge. McDonagh exposes the Ireland tourists aren’t familiar with, steeped in ancient traditions and convulsed by political conflict. The lieutenant of Inishmore is Padraic (Cliff Chamberlain), a crazed Irish terrorist considered too bloodthirsty for the IRA. The play begins when the men responsible for cat-sitting Padraic’s furry friend find Wee Thomas squashed on the side of the road. While those with a dead cat on their hands try to figure out how to break the news, other “patriots” enter Inishmore, and the body count slowly increases.

McDonagh had a hard time finding someone to produce the play originally; many theatres found it too controversial. It has become one of his most successful plays to date, and director BJ Jones (who has also directed McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara and The Cripple of Innishmaan) nails the Chicago premier of the dark comedy. The success of this production would not be possible, however, without special effects designer Steve Tolin, brought in from Pittsburgh. He presents a myriad of different ways to make blood spray and spurt from the actor’s bodies; it’s not often that the gore of a slasher flick is recreated on-stage.

inishmore2 Cliff Chamberlain is excellent as the bloodthirsty Padraic, balancing the craziness of a killer with the tenderness of man who loves his cats. Kelly O’Sullivan plays well against Chamberlain as Mairead, a 16-year-old fan-girl of Padraic and accurate shot with an air rifle. The funniest two of the show, though, is the duo stuck with the dead cat, the long-haired Davey (Jamie Abelson) and Padraic’s father, Donny (Matt DeCaro). The pair takes awhile to connect, but once they find it they are hilarious. John Judd, Andy Luther, and Keith Gallagher are menacing as a trio of Irish hitmen looking for Padraic. By the second act, the whole ensemble clicks together and the outcome is bloody and wickedly funny.

Jones and his team do a very precise job in finding the inherent comedy in the violence. The amount of bloodshed in the play is ridiculous, and the characters’ reasoning behind it is bizarre. With the help of Tolin and fight choreographer Nick Sandys, Jones arranges scenes that show the folly of extremist violence. And by committing to the dangerous reality the script presents, the cast can be comical while making the audience believe that they have real guns with real bullets.

McDonagh wrote the play in response to some very non-comical real events. In February, 1993, an English gas company was bombed, killing and wounding soldiers, civilians, and several children. As Americans, we have plenty of experience with the horrors of terrorism. By pointing out the ridiculousness of extremist beliefs, the play is incredibly relevant to our 21st Century world. And even though “the Troubles” in Ireland have calmed down since the 1990’s, terrorism is still alive there. In March, IRA dissidents assassinated several English soldiers near Belfast as they went to get pizza. The events depicted in Lieutenant of Inishmore are not as outlandish as they might seem at first glance.

Rating: «««½

Cast and artistic team rosters, including bios, can be found after the fold.

To see videos of this production, click here.

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‘Wizard of Oz’ Munchkin, Mickey Carroll, dies at 89

 

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2007 file photo, actor Mickey Carroll, the Town Crier with The Munchkins from 'The Wizard of Oz,' jokes as he arrives, to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of  at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, site of  'The Wizard of Oz's' 1939 premiere, in Los Angeles. One of the last surviving Munchkins from the 1939 classic film, 'The Wizard of Oz' has died. The St. Louis actor Carroll died Thursday May 7, 2009, at age 89.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)One of the last surviving Munchkins, Mickey Carroll, from the 1939 beloved film "The Wizard of Oz," died Thursday at the young-in-heart age of 89. Caretaker Linda Dodge said Carroll died in his sleep at her home in suburban Crestwood due to heart problems.

Carroll was one of more than 100 adults and children who were recruited to play the movie natives of what author L. Frank Baum called Munchkin Country in his 1900 book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."  "The Wizard of Oz" was Carroll’s only movie. When it appeared on television in the 1960s, he found a new career at charitable events, retail events and Oz-related events.

"It’s not me; it’s the movie," Carroll said. "When they see me, they think of their childhood, and it makes them smile."

Carroll told The Associated Press in a 2007 interview that the Munchkins made only $125 a week while filming the movie that would become a classic.

A pituitary condition caused Carroll’s short stature.

Carroll danced at the Muny Theater in St. Louis when he was in grade school, he once said, and in the 1920s worked in Chicago clubs and on the Orpheum Theater vaudeville circuit.

Carroll played the part of the Munchkinland "Town Crier," marched as a "Munchkin Soldier" and was the candy-striped "Fiddler" who escorted the movie’s wide-eyed orphan, Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, down the yellow brick road toward Emerald City.

In November 2007, Carroll and six other surviving Munchkins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Carroll was joined on that occasion by former Munchkin colleagues Ruth Duccini, Jerry Maren, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Clarence Swensen. (Swensen died in February 2009)

At a special screening of the film in 2005 in Los Angeles, Carroll said talking to longtime fans about the movie brought back their childhoods.

"They have tears," he said. "I’ll say, `May the magic of Oz always be with you.’ And, `Follow the yellow brick road!’ And they’re all excited. I bring back their childhood. Ain’t that something?"

 

Video: Mickey Carroll talks about meeting Judy Garland at the
Chicago World’s Fair (Judy Garland was 7 at the time, Carroll was 9)