Published May 21, 2018 | By Adrienne Proctor
Martin McDonagh is a playwright whose works are famous for two things- being based in Ireland, and violence. The second to last production of Carpenter Square Theatre’s 34th season, The Lonesome West, is no exception to that rule. Based in Galway, Ireland in 1997, The Lonesome West features two brothers who just can’t seem to get along. Their father has just been killed in an ambiguously accidental shooting by one of his two sons. Because of this, and the addition of two other recent deaths, the priest is having trouble coming to terms with the realities of the parish he’s attempting to shepherd.
Michael Relland stars as Coleman Connor, the elder brother, and the one who’s done the shooting. Relland’s task is to portray one of the most unlikeable characters ever created for the stage, with nary a redeeming quality to be found. Though not an easy task, Relland makes him enjoyable. Coleman is never sober, and Relland plays the stumbling, father-killing drunk with charm and humor. Rick Lockett is Valene, the younger brother and the more sympathetic of the two. Lockett is quirky and bouncy, light on his feet and in his speaking tone. Lockett and Relland both banter back and forth, at times tussling physically on the stage. Their connection seems natural, like a brotherly interaction. Their comedic timing is perfect, and they both bring several lighthearted moments to an overall tragically dark play. The presence of love, competition, and animosity are reminiscent of brothers at all ages, a dynamic that begins at childhood and continues long into their adult lives.
Matthew Moreillon is Father Welsh, the disenfranchised town priest. Moreillon’s character is a sad sight. He’s struggling with genuine concerns that fall mostly on deaf ears with the self-centered brothers. A brilliant aspect of Moreillon’s performance is his monologue in the second act. Poignant, effective, and touching, it’s a turning point in the show and an emotional punch to the audience’s collective gut. Moreillon delivers the scene with true sensitivity and emotion.
Katlyn Skaggs is Girleen Kelleher*, a schoolgirl selling bootlegged booze for extra cash. Skaggs is a breath of fresh air, brightening the darkness that envelopes the entire production. Skaggs starts off sweet and harmless, rolling her Irish accent in a cutesy cadence that sounds like a kitten’s purr. That empty cuteness soon gives way to a powerful force of emotion. All the tragedy of a lovesick teenager is amplified by reality as darker events unfold. Skaggs rips away the school-girl image with force. She’ll tear your heart out and can cry like no other. Quite simply, she steals every scene she’s in.
The four actors in the show speak authentic Irish accents. The accents become a fifth character, as they’re a focal point for any audience member who doesn’t often hear Irish accents. All the actors keep up the accents, even when yelling, and it’s impressive to hear how authentic they sound. Often, however, the accents are too good, the 1997 era jokes are too dated, and the European terminology is too unfamiliar. What comes across in these moments is dialogue that is nearly impossible to understand. Several would-be funny moments fall flat, and all the actors are guilty of the mishap at least once.
If a show is only as strong as its weakest link, consider this production solid. Despite the slight accent debacle, every actor is consistent and strong. They work well together. Rhonda Clark, artistic director of Carpenter Square, steps in as director for this Rated R production. Clark’s direction has produced a dynamic cast. Not even a tricky prop can throw them off. The oven that falls open out of turn several times doesn’t faze anyone, and they work with it easily.
Given the subject matter of this play, a word of caution must be offered. Consider your own personal triggers before attending. The Lonesome West, while handled with great sensitivity and honesty, still contains several cautionary scenes. Elements of domestic violence, abuse, murder, depression and suicide are all featured in the production. Tragedy ensues and not all ends are tied up neatly. Proceed with your own comfort in mind. And remember, the ultimate goal in the theatre is to be entertained and moved. That is something you’ll find here in abundance.
*As a production note, Alexis Perry alternates alongside Katlyn Skaggs as Girleen Kelleher.
To complement the production of The Lonesome West, CST is displaying lovely artwork by local artist Heidi Ghassempour. Ghassempour’s works adorn the walls of the lobby and are worth a stop before or after the show.