Review: “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” (Northlight)


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.


Jamie Abelson (Davey)
Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic)
Matt DeCaro (Donny)
Keith Gallagher (James/Joey)
John Judd (Christy)
Andy Luther (Brendan)
Kelly O’Sullivan (Mairead)


BJ Jones (Director)
Todd Rosenthal (Set Design)
Rachel Anne Healy (Costume Design)

Chris Binder (Lighting Design)

Andre Pluess (Sound Design)
Steve Tolin (Special Effects)
Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager)


Jamie Abelson (Davey) is honored to make his Northlight Mainstage debut after playing the role of Jordy for the Interplay reading of In and understudying the role of Cates in Northlight’s production of Inherit the Wind.  Recent projects include Eurydice at Victory Gardens, Scenes from the Big Picture with Seanachai Theatre Company, As Told by the Vivian Girls with Dog and Pony and columbinus at Raven Theatre.  Other Chicago credits include Hope Springs Infernal (House Theatre), Dorian (Bailiwick), Tooth of Crime (Stawdog), and Honus and Me (Chicago Children’s Theatre).  Assistant directing credits include: A Year with Frog and Toad and Go, Dog. Go! with Chicago Children’s Theatre, and Golden Child and Merchant On Venice with Silk Road Theatre Project.  Jamie is a graduate of the “Cherub” Program at Northwestern University and holds a BFA in Drama from the Tisch School at NYU.

Cliff Chamberlain (Padraic) was last seen at Northlight as The Tin Woodsman in The House Theatre of Chicago’s transfer of The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz.  Other Chicago credits include Magnolia, The Ballad of Emmett Till and Oedipus Complex at The Goodman; Superior Donuts and Theatrical Essays at Steppenwolf; The Sparrow (Non-Equity Jeff Award, Ensemble) and Hatfield and McCoy at The House Theatre of Chicago; Dolly West’s Kitchen at Timeline; Bus Stop at Writers; The U.N. Inspector at Next; Arcadia at Remy Bumppo; and Can You Spot Me?, Bottle Can Draft, and Where We Live at Sandbox Theatre Project, where he is a founding member.  He is a Company Member with The House Theatre of Chicago, an ensemble member and teacher with Barrel of Monkeys, a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and The School at Steppenwolf, and a proud husband to his darling, Robyn.


Matt DeCaro (Donny) reprises his Inishmore role following productions at Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.  Northlight audiences may remember Matt from The Old Neighborhood, Talley’s Folly, Dinah Was and Away.  Chicago credits include: David Mamet’s Romance and The Play About the Baby; Rebecca Gilman’s Spinning Into Butter and Boy Gets Girl  (roles he reprised at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club); as well as Heartbreak House, Richard II and Night of the Iguana (Goodman); Glengarry Glen Ross, Perfect Mendacity, Our Lady of 121st St., Slaughterhouse V and Men of Tortuga (Steppenwolf); Driving Miss Daisy, Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Briar St. Theatre); and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Mystery Cycle and The House of Blue Leaves (Court).  Regional: Dallas Theater Center, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre, Santa Fe Stages, and San Francisco’s ACT Theatre.  Film and TV: Prison Break (recurring role as C.O. Geary), U.S. Marshals, Curb Your Enthusiasm, CSI, Law & Order: SVU, Boston Legal, 24 and The Office, among many others.

Keith Gallagher (James/Joey) is making his Northlight Theatre debut.  His Chicago credits include Shining City at The Goodman Theatre, Arcadia at Court Theatre, The Real Thing at Remy Bumppo, Tracks with TUTA Chicago, and The Boxcar Children with Chicago Playworks.  He is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.

John Judd (Christy) last appeared at Northlight in The Cripple of Inishmaan.  He appeared most recently in Magnolia and last season’s Shining City at The Goodman.  John has performed at Steppenwolf (The Dresser, Last of the Boys, Orson’s Shadow, The Butcher of Baraboo), at Writers’ Theatre (The Price, Crime and Punishment, Othello), at Lookingglass (Great Men of Science), at Court Theatre (Lettice and Lovage, Gross Indecency), at Next Theatre (A Number, The Boarding House), at About Face (Execution of Justice), at Shattered Globe Theatre (Come Back Little Sheba) and numerous others.  Off-Broadway:  Barrow Street Theatre (Orson’s Shadow, An Oak Tree) and 59E59th Theatres (Crime and Punishment).  Regional: Huntington Theatre – Boston (Shining City), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Orson’s Shadow), Westport Country Playhouse (Orson’s Shadow), Beaver Creek Theatre Festival (Orson’s Shadow) and Galway Arts Festival (Long Day’s Journey into Night).  His most recent motion picture work includes Public Enemies and Cherry.

Andy Luther (Brendan) is delighted to make his debut performance with Northlight.   Recently, he performed for EP Theater’s production of Mr. Paradise in the title role.  Previous work includes The Library Theater at Feltre’s production of Antigone, and understudy roles at various theaters around Chicago including Writers’ (Picnic), Chicago Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida), Lookinglass (Argonautica), and Seanachi (War).   He has appeared in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival productions of Comedy of Errors, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Henry VIII and Twelfth Night.  Andy can also be seen in various regional commercials and in the film The Dark Knight in the role of Brian Douglas.   He first started acting in New York City at The Acting Studio, Inc. after which he obtained a B.A. in Theatre Performance from Western Michigan University and an M.F.A. in Acting from Illinois State University.  When off the stage, he works as an independent contractor.

Kelly O’Sullivan (Mairead) is thrilled to be working at Northlight for the first time and overjoyed to finally be working on an Irish play.  Kelly’s Chicago credits include Good Boys and True, The Crucible, and 100 Saints You Should Know (Steppenwolf Theatre), Jon (Collaboraction), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (American Theater Co.), Hot ‘n Throbbing (Pine Box Theatre), The Glory of Living (Profiles Theatre), and Mr. Marmalade (Dog & Pony Theatre) – Non-Equity Jeff Nomination for Principal Actress in a Play.  She has performed in staged readings and workshops with Northlight, The Goodman, TimeLine, Chicago Dramatists, and Rivendell Theatres.  Kelly is a graduate of Northwestern University and The School at Steppenwolf.  Huge thanks to BJ, Lynn and wonderful friends and family.

BJ Jones (Director/Northlight Artistic Director) is in his 11th year as Artistic Director of Northlight Theatre, where he has piloted the world premieres of Craig Wright’s Lady, Better Late (by Larry Gelbart & Craig Wright), Rounding Third, Sky Girls and Cat Feet. As a producer he guided the world premieres of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, The Gamester, and Studs Terkel’s ‘The Good War.’ Mr. Jones has directed at Steppenwolf, Intiman Theatre in Seattle, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, The Utah Shakespearean Festival, The Asolo Theatre in Sarasota, and Next Theatre in Evanston. Directorial work includes Northlight’s Grey Gardens, The Lady with All the Answers, The Retreat From Moscow, A Skull in Connemara, The Cripple of Inishmaan, and An Experiment With an Airpump, as well as productions of A Number, Twelfth Night, Glengarry Glen Ross (Suzie Bass Nominee – Best Director), Pygmalion, The Price (Jeff Nomination – Best Director,) and 100 Saints You Should Know. A two-time Jeff Award winner, he has appeared at Northlight in dozens of productions and has performed at virtually every major theatre in Chicago, including The Goodman in The Guys and House and Garden, Steppenwolf in The Royal Family and Playboy of the Western World, and Court in Candide and Comedy of Errors. Film/TV credits include The Fugitive, Body Double, Law and Order:Criminal Intent, Early Edition, Cupid and Turks, among others.

Martin McDonagh (Playwright) Plays: The Pillowman (Tony nominee, Best Play 2005; Olivier Award Winner 2004), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Olivier Award Winner, Best Comedy 2003), The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Tony nominee, Best Play 1998), The Lonesome West (Tony nominee, Best Play 1999), A Skull in Connemara, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Banshees of Inisheer, The Retard is Out in the Cold, Dead Day at Coney. Other works include Barney Nenagh’s Shotgun Circus, Suicide on Sixth Street, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Six Shooter (Oscar, Best Short 2006).

Todd Rosenthal (Scenic Design) designs at theatres across the country and Europe, including: The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, The Alley Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Repertory, Paper Mill Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Center Stage, Chicago Shakespeare, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Atlantic Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre, The Lyric Opera, The National Theatre in London, and others. Currently designing: August: Osage County for North American Tour; A Delicate Balance for Arena Stage; Happy Days for California Shakespeare Festival;  Magnolia for Goodman Theatre, and Fake for Steppenwolf Theatre.  Winner:  2008 Tony® Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play (August: Osage County).  Set designer for New York’s Big Apple Circus.  Exhibitor at 2007 Prague Quadrennial in the Czech Republic.  Only American to receive London’s Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Set Design.  Teacher: Northwestern University.  Graduate:Yale School of Drama.  Website:


Rachel Anne Healy (Costume Design) returns to Northlight Theatre with The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  Previous Northlight credits include: Lady Windermere’s Fan, She Stoops to Conquer, The Chalk Garden, The Miser, Rounding Third, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Skull in Conemarra, and The Gamester.  Additional Chicago credits include: The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Court Theatre, Appletree Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Timeline Theatre, The Next Theatre, and Remy Bumppo Theatre.  Regionally, she has designed with the Alliance Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, First Stage Childrens’ Theatre of Milwaukee, American Players Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre.  Upcoming productions including Ms. Healy’s designs can be seen in The Goodman Theatre’s premiere production of Rebecca Gilman’s The Crowd You’re In With and at Writers’ Theatre in the world premiere musical A Ministers Wife.

Chris Binder (Lighting Designer) has designed for Steppenwolf, Chicago Shakespeare, Court, Redmoon, About Face, and Lookingglass.  Chris’ opera designs include work at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, San Diego Opera, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Theatre an der Wein in Vienna, Austria.  Recent designs include:  The Brothers Karamazov for Lookingglass Theatre Company, Dancing at Lughnasa for The Theatre School, and Madama Butterfly for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Upcoming work includes La Clemenza di Tito and La Tragedie de Carmen for Chicago Opera Theatre, and The Merry Widow, Faust and Tosca for the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Ms. Binder has received 2 Jeff Citations for her work with Redmoon Theatre (Frankenstein and Frankie and Johnny), and has been Jeff-nominated for work with Court, Northlight and Lookingglass.  She is an Artistic Associate with Lookingglass and is the Head of Lighting for The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Andre Pluess (Sound Design) previously designed for Northlight’s Po Boy Tango, Inherit the Wind, The Retreat from Moscow and Red Herring.  Design and composition credits include projects for Lookingglass (artistic associate), Court (1999-02 resident artist), Victory Gardens (resident designer), About Face (associate artist), the Goodman, Steppenwolf and many other Chicago and regional theaters.   Broadway credits: I Am My Own Wife and Metamorphoses. Awards: nine Joseph Jefferson Awards and Citations, an L.A. Ovation Award, a Drama Critics Circle Award and a Lortel nomination for composition and sound design.   Recent projects: After the Quake, (Steppenwolf/Long Wharf), Silk  (Goodman Theatre), Pericles (Washington D.C. Shakes/Goodman Theatre), Honour (Berkeley Rep), Lady Windermere’s Fan (Williamstown), The Secret in the Wings (Berkeley Rep, Seattle Rep, McCarter Theatre), and The Clean House (Yale Rep/Goodman). Currently, Andre is writing the score for Argonautika directed by Mary Zimmerman for Lookingglass and preparing to design The Clean House for Lincoln Center.


Steve Tolin (Special Effects) is thrilled to be making his debut collaboration with Northlight with The Lieutenant of Inishmore.  Steve lives in Pittsburgh, where he owns and operates his special FX shop TolinFX.  His work can be seen in film, on TV, and on the stage.  Favorite theatre credits include: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre- Pittsburgh, PA), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Fusion Theatre-Albuquerque, NM), El Teniente de Inishmore (Teatro La Plaza ISIL- Lima, Peru), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (St. Louis Repertory Theatre- St. Louis, MI), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (New Rep- Boston, MA), and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Berkeley Repertory Theatre- Berkeley, CA).  Steve is also currently producing his first feature motion picture, It Came from Yesterday, and is in pre-production on his second.  You can see more of Steve ‘s work at and learn more about his film at  Steve would like to dedicate his work on this show to the memory of his best furry friend Sundance, without whom these FX would not have been possible.

Meghan Beals McCarthy (Production Dramaturg) is the Literary Manager & Resident Dramaturg for Northlight Theatre.  Previously she served as Program Assistant for Steppenwolf’s First Look Repertory of New Work, most notably acting as artistic liaison for “First Look 101” (an audience-enrichment series).  Before Chicago, Meghan was the Artistic Associate at The Pearl Theatre Company in New York City; she served as casting director and manager of the resident company’s extensive research and development programs.  As a director, she has helmed productions, workshops and readings in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Edinburgh, Scotland working with companies such as The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Chicago Dramatists and Collaboraction (Chicago) and the Women’s Project and Productions, Abingdon Theatre and The Pearl (New York).  Meghan is an Associate Artist at Chicago Dramatists and a Trustee of Caffeine Theatre.  She earned her MFA in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University and her BA in Theatre from the University of Southern California.


Rita Vreeland (Production Stage Manager) is delighted to be collaborating once again with the talented people at Northlight.  Previous Northlight stage management credits include this season’s Mauritius and Grey Gardens as well as last season’s The Miser and Gee’s Bend.  Elsewhere, her recent credits include The Producers, Phantom, Knute Rockne – All-American and many other productions at Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN; the world premieres of Free Man of Color and Court-Martial at Fort Devens, among others, for Victory Gardens Theatre; Once Upon a Time in New Jersey and Into the Woods at Marriott Lincolnshire; and 18 productions for Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park.  Rita has been the set designer at Harold Washington College since 2001 and is a member of the newly founded Route 66 Theatre Company in Chicago.  She is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and a proud member of Actors Equity.  Special thanks to Cori and to the amazing Northlight crew!

Steve Tolin used his cat, Umlaut, right, as the model for the cat that appeared in Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre’s production of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”

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