Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

at Northlight Theatre

Directed by BJ Jones

At Northlight Theatre

Bloody in-your-face farce depicts the uselessness of violence

“Many’s the time I trampled on my mama when she was alive,” he says. “After she died, I stopped. There seemed no sense.”—Donny from the Lieutenant of Inshore

“Trampling on your mam all them times’ll do for a start-off,” his son explains. When dear old dad pleads for mercy because that’s ancient history, Padraic retorts, “There’s no statute of limitations on mam trampling.”

Kudos to BJ Jones and the folks at Northlight Theatre to have the bravery to mount a most important and controversial theatrical event—Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore—a most gruesome yet hilariously dark comedy about the absurdity of political violence. This amazing production illustrates the power of live theatre to reach into the hearts and souls in a most visceral and earthy manner. The vividly bloody excess exclaims the callousness of perpetrators of political violence as a means of change. The show features dead cats, cows with their eyes shot out, psychotic hitmen and sentimental patriots caught up in a cycle of absurd violence.

“All of McDonagh’s work sets up an initial conceit of character and plot, which are always brilliantly conceived and craftily constructed. But as the fireworks of his craftsmanship fade, his purpose emerges. In the case of Inishmore, he is examining the folly of violence, of resentment, and of holding on to principal till all meaning and purpose are stripped from it,” says the play’s director BJ Jones.

The Lieutenant of Inishmore
The Lieutenant of Inishmore

When ‘Wee Thomas,’ the cat is killed, Davey (Jamie Abelson) and Donny (Matt DeCarlo) fret because the cat is Irish hitman Padraic’s (Cliff Chamberlain) favorite and only friend. As the folks home in Aran Island fight over how to break the news to Pardraic, the violence escalates into absurdity as the laughs ensue from the distinct Irish sense of self loathing humor. This is a most perverse story of the callousness that some (INLA or IRA) terrorists experience that finds torture, killing and mutilation just part of their jobs. The deadpan delivery of McDonagh’s dialogue adds to the humor and folly of gruesome acts. It’s all in a day’s work. Padraic is so mean that he left the IRA because they were “too soft.”

The cast of the Lieutenant of Inishmore

This show is an unapologetic satirical black comedy filled with brutal force and generous splattering of blood as the body count mounts. The special effects by the world renown Steve Tolino is thrilling, scary and all too real. Guns shots and flying blood and limbs being chopped off can be hard to watch—so be warned. McDonagh pushes the art form to new heights making Quentin Tarantino seem tame. You’ll not soon forget seeing this blood soaked show splatter in your face.


BJ Jones’ production, despite some shaky Irish brogues, features outstanding dark comedy from Cliff Chamberlain—who is emerging as a major player in Chicago. Kelly O’Sullivan is excellent as the tom-boy dead-eye shot while Matt DeCarlo, Jamie Abelson and John Judd offer yeomen’s turns. The ensemble work here, together with the fabulous special effects, are mesmerizing. BJ Jones wisely eliminated the blackouts and made the show a swiftly paced one act that escalated the dramatic tension making for heightened emotional impact. Jones’ production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore one of the finest, most moving theatrical events of the season. Young folks need to witness this compelling production to see how effective live stage shows can be. This is thrilling, gutsy and shocking theatre. Don’t miss it.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Jeff Recommneded

Northlight Theatre, Center for the Performing Arts, 9301 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, Il. 847-673-6300. Tickets are $25-$55 .Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 1 and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 and 7 p.m., running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through June 7.


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