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Full serving of gore, horror and hilarity

Paidraic, center, played by Matt Lunsford, threatens Davey (Dominic Russo), left, and his father, Donny (Ned Averill-Snell).

MARTHA RIAL | Times

Paidraic, center, played by Matt Lunsford, threatens Davey (Dominic Russo), left, and his father, Donny (Ned Averill-Snell).

TAMPA

Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore has much in common with his other best-known plays, The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Like those, both of which have received memorable stagings from Jobsite Theatre, Inishmore proffers horrific cruelties set against a familial backdrops, elegantly clever plot twists and a deliberately jarring blend of humor and tragedy.

But the difference in tone between Inishmore and McDonagh's other acclaimed plays is stunning. The earlier works have been described as "dark comedies," but they're essentially dramas injected with wry humor.

Inishmore, at least in its current Jobsite production, is outright comedy, even though, by play's end, most of the characters have been murdered before our eyes, the stage is littered with dismembered corpses and blood drips from every surface, costume and actor.

It is, as the saying goes, not for the squeamish.

It's also perhaps not for people looking for the thought-provoking pathos of other McDonagh plays. Gruesomely violent as it is, Inishmore is almost slapstick. It's as if Quentin Tarantino wrote for the Three Stooges.

The first death comes before the play opens. Wee Thomas, the beloved cat of an Irish terrorist Paidraic (Matt Lunsford), who's so crazy the IRA doesn't want him, has been found dead on a country road. His father (Ned Averill-Snell) fears his son will kill him merely for breaking the news.

So dad decides to try to be gradual, first phoning his son (who's in the midst of slicing body parts off a marijuana dealer he has kidnapped) and telling him Wee Thomas is ill.

That prompts the son to return home to Inishmore, where he encounters rival terrorists and falls in love with a teenage girl who shoots out cow's eyes with an air rifle. Hilarity, in the broadest sense of the word, ensues.

Director David Jenkins and his cast (almost all Jobsite regulars) amp up the violence and humor. The stage guns are much, much louder than real guns, and blood flows profusely (in extremely effective special effects by Chris Holcom). Not everyone in the audience will connect with the humor, and the thick but authentic-sounding Irish accents employed by the entire cast make it hard to understand some of the dialogue.

Still, there are times when this play is very funny. And because almost all of the characters are dim-witted and thoroughly repugnant, we don't feel too badly about watching them be killed.

The entire cast does fine work. Besides Averill-Snell and Lunsford, standouts include Holcom as the marijuana dealer, Kari Goetz as the teenage cow-eye shooter and Dominic Russo as an innocent local misfit who gets sucked into the violence.

Lots of people like blood, guts and mayhem, and they're the ones this production aims to please. Lots of others like subtlety and delicacy, and there's nothing here that will appeal to them.

. IF YOU GO

'Inishmore'

The Lieutenant of Inishmore, through April 12 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg playhouse. About 115 minutes. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50 plus service charge. (813) 229-7827 or tbpac.com.

Full serving of gore, horror and hilarity 03/29/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 30, 2009 2:43pm]
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