tAMPA — A mad Irish terrorist leaves his beloved black cat with his dad. Then a neighbor on a pink bicycle discovers a dead cat in the road. He and the dad worry that the terrorist will be furious to learn that his best friend is gone. And, yes, he is. When the terrorist returns to the island of Inishmore off the west coast of Ireland, a bloodbath ensues. • But The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a comedy — a very dark comedy in which four people (and two cats) get killed and chopped up onstage. • "It's black, it's pitch black, but I think it's very funny,'' said David Jenkins, director of the Jobsite Theater production of the Martin McDonagh play. "It's a beautiful commentary on the absurdity of violence.'' • Still, the carnage is pretty amazing, and a program note warns, "This play is not intended for the easily offended.'' Jobsite has pulled out all the stops in its special effects, presided over by Chris Holcom, who also plays the part of a drug dealer who gets hoisted up on a winch by his feet and has a pair of toenails removed by the terrorist. • Here are a few of the things that go into staging the bloody mayhem.
Bottles of blood
A small room backstage contains a rack of squeeze bottles of stage blood, which is made from corn syrup, detergent and red, blue and green food coloring.
Actors wear rigs beneath their costumes made of PVC pipe and rubber tubing with pressurized spouts. At the push of an electric switch, they release a gush of blood through holes cut into their shirts. A cat carrier and an easy chair are equipped with "blood mortars'' that go off when someone is shot at point-blank range.
Treating the stage
The set is covered with six coats of glossy polyurethane to keep the red dye from seeping into the wood floor and walls, and to prevent ants from being drawn to the corn syrup.
By the numbers
6: gallons of stage blood used per performance
31: gunshots in the play
3: cats that make an appearance
A prop list posted backstage: "Bag O' Pieces, Saw, Hammer, Arms, Legs, BLOOD.'' Also on hand: removable jaws, brain matter from a cat, teeth.
"Get on with your chopping, you two,'' the terrorist instructs his father and the guy with the pink bicycle, as they dismember corpses on the cottage floor. The gruesome mess comes from condoms filled with stage blood.
After each performance, actors and crew members use squeegees to push the blood into a trough at the front of the stage. They have to scrub the walls and floor with soap and hot water. Bloody clothes and shoes and props are dumped in bins to get cleaned for the next show. Blood-splattered curtains and tablecloths have to be washed. The guns need to be stripped and cleaned. Brass blank bullet casings strewn around the stage are collected for recycling.
If you go: The Jobsite Theater staging of the dark comedy by Martin McDonagh opens tonight and runs through April 12 at the Shimberg Playhouse of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. $24.50, with $10 rush tickets for students, seniors and military 30 minutes before curtain. (813) 229-7827; tbpac.org.