Review: San Jose Stage’s bloody ‘Lieutenant of Inishmore’ turns black comedy red

Mad Padraic (Rob August) is sent into a fit of rage when he learns of the demise of his cat in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” at San Jose Stage through Oct. 21st. (Dave Lepori photo)

There is nothing Mad Padraic does that’s not loaded with passion.

It’s one of the joys of the 2001 Tony-nominated Martin McDonagh play “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” now running through Oct. 21st at San Jose Stage. Take note of a few things Padraic does with absolute fire:

  • Rips off the toenails of drug pushers
  • Threatens an impromptu boob job on the same drug pusher who is now hanging upside down. Small detail – he’s not a trained surgeon.
  • Kissing with a ferocity that would suffocate mere mortals

And loves his cat with an absurdity that is quite funny.

The production does not always fully engage, but certainly entertains. It’s a play that moves swiftly, directed by Joshua Marx and his nice blend of gratuitous gore and cartoony violence. Characters don’t enter the stage as much as they explode onto it. It’s also a compelling story that has many wonderful twists and turns, a piece of dark comedy that spoofs sectarian strife with a wild and wooly energy.

You get a sense that everything that International National Liberation Army splinter group leader Padraic (wholly committed Rob August) does is done with rage, getting himself thrown out of the Irish Republican Army for being too violent. In this instance, it doesn’t take a long time for him to turn on a dime before he decides that the nippleage removal of James (Andy Cooperfauss) is not his priority. He gets a call that his cat, Wee Thomas (no credit listed, but a fine performance nonetheless), has met his demise.

This certainly sends the raged one into, like, more rage, and it is off he goes to get to the bottom of the tragedy in order to settle some scores.

The play is dotted with solid performances, playing an effective style that delves deeper into an anti-naturalistic, heavily absurdist bent where characters seem to say the word “feck” with constant glee.

Certainly, August’s turn as Padraic needs an uncompromising commitment, which he takes on with unflinching reverie. The interpretation of long-haired Davey from Trevor March is littered with hilarity, a young man swallowed whole by life – be it his damaged bicycle, his head being used as target practice or his horrid plan which involves an orange cat and shoe polish. Randall King, playing his senior sidekick Donny, delivers his usual grizzled gravitas.

A delightful portrayal in plenty of scene stealing moments is Carley Herlihy as Mairead, Davey’s little sister who proves that, with only a pop gun and trigger finger that spells bullseye, no one’s eyeballs are safe. She is a fiery pistol of a young woman, a 16-year-old who, like Padraic, loves guns, loves cats and with Herlihy’s golden-throated pipes as her vessel, sings beautiful songs of Irish resistance. Their union, like everything else in their lives, is often built on a cacophony of unsteady violence.

The production has many nice touches, most notably lots of crimson and gore, which had to be a satisfying playground for Marx as well as special effects team Ashley Garlick and Bill Vujevich. And in probably the funnest job title on the show, Tunuviel Luv didn’t just design props, but also designed blood.

McDonagh’s play is set in 1993, but like so much theatre in our current time, can easily be connected to what we experience at present. The premise of a man who loves a cat so much, that he goes on a knife and gun-wielding quest for vengeance is certainly silly, but makes a bigger point. If violence is the answer for everything, where are we headed next? As absurd as the play’s denouement is, it’s that absurdity that makes a more poignant point.

As a villager once said to the milkman Tevye, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Which prompted Tevye’s perfect response:

“Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.”

Or in the case of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” it may mean legless, headless and a whole lot more less less.


San Jose Stage Company presents “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Joshua Marx
The Word: Despite some levels of disengagement, a gritty, dark comedy that basks in its own blood.
Stars: 4 out of 5
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Through Oct. 21st
San Jose Stage Company
490 First Street, San Jose, CA
Tickets range from $30 – $65
For tickets, call (408) 283-7142 or visit

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