Tag Archives: Conor McPherson

Link: killing cats in Inishmore

Artists Repertory Theatre playbill logo

By Bob Hicks

On Saturday night, Mr. Scatter put on his professional drama-critic hat (it’s a metaphorical hat; it was a blustery evening, so he actually wore a rain jacket with a hood) and went to Artists Repertory Theatre to see Martin McDonagh‘s nasty little comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He means that “nasty little comedy” bit in the nicest possible way: Inishmore is savage and bloody and brutal, and it’s true that more than one cat, in addition to several humans, who seem to deserve it more, comes to a violent end. But it’s also genuinely funny, in that nervous why-am-I-laughing-at-this way.

A brief review ran in Monday morning’s Oregonian, and you can read Mr. Scatter’s much more complete version online here at Oregon Live. He can imagine a more violently scary ¬†production, and he can imagine a more broadly comic one, but he thinks Artists Rep director Jon Kretzu and his cast got the balance about right.

McDonagh is a transgressive writer, dealing in that unruly space between myth and reality: another of his plays, The Pillowman, is about what happens when a writer’s tales of fantasy mayhem seem to be playing themselves out in real life. Like a lot of male playwrights (David Mamet and Neil LaBute come to mind) he’s fascinated with the nature and character of aggression, and his plays can slice both ways, reveling in the stuff as they dissect it. That makes the audience … not complicit, exactly, but responsible for sorting out its own attitudes on the subject.

Then again, that’s a good deal of what theater, or literature, or any art form is about: the beginning of a conversation. In the aggressive male metaphor, the first shot. It’s not just a conversation. The artist sets the terms, and to a significant degree is in charge of the show. But a willing and perceptive audience completes the connection and sets off ripples of meaning, each meaning a little bit different for every individual involved in the encounter.

McDonagh is a terrific storyteller, and he has some fascinating things to say about aggression, which if he’s wary about he also frankly enjoys. He’s got swagger and a bit of a bad-boy reputation, as this year-old story by Foster Kamer in the Village Voice suggests. It relates, among other things, McDonagh’s obscenity-laced threat to beat up fellow Irish playwright Conor McPherson (whose play The Seafarer was a hit for Artists Rep last season) for a perceived insult.

Just so long as he leaves McPherson’s cat alone.

Late scatter: All hail the Devil and Rudolph Valentino

Tobias Andersen, Bill Geisslinger, Todd Van Voris, The Seafarer

What with arts politics and scratchy throat and other everyday interruptions I’ve avoided actually writing about any art since talking about Portland Opera’s The Turn of the Screw and the finale of the Fertile Ground new-plays festival a couple of weeks ago.

But I don’t want Artists Repertory Theatre‘s brilliant version of The Seafarer and Opera Theater Oregon‘s campy but gorgeous Camille/La Traviata to get any farther in the rear view mirror without picking up my virtual pen. Both shows have ended their runs, which turns this into something more of an afterglow than what’s sometimes known in the biz as a “money review.”

Still, darned near everything in The Seafarer was pretty much right on the money, beginning with Irishman Conor McPherson‘s multiply layered script and extending to Allen Nause’s precise yet lively direction of one of the best ensemble casts you’re likely to see in a long while.

McPherson broke on the scene in 1999 with The Weir, when he was still in his late 20s, and although he’s become a leading voice in contemporary theater he’s something of a classicist: The Seafarer, which was first produced in 2006, is an old-fashioned play in a lot of good ways.
It revels in language (the way McPherson lobs curses is much funnier and, dare I say, humanitarian than the way Mamet usually does). It’s a “well-made play,” a form that’s fallen out of fashion but has historical staying power. It plays with checks and balances and dramatic weight, encouraging you to shift your view now and again about who the “central” character in this cosmic-showdown drama really is. It’s — hold your breath here — entertaining, a basic value that all too often gets lost in the name of cultural relevance and Art.

Continue reading Late scatter: All hail the Devil and Rudolph Valentino