By Maia Nolan
Daily News correspondant
There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong with Kokopelli Theatre Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” a play that relies heavily on elements like gunshots, Irish accents and live animals. Well, one live animal, anyway.
The good news is that it all goes hilariously right. Director Kari Mote has assembled a top-notch team of performers and technicians to stage “Inishmore,” a black comedy about a militant Irish nationalist and his beloved cat.
“Inishmore” presents a number of challenges for actors, not least of which is the fact that it calls for the entire cast to speak with Irish accents. Irish is an easy accent to do badly and a tough one to nail, but Mote’s cast does a respectable job of maintaining the dialect.
They’re also not afraid to get physical, a quality that seems necessary given the play’s violent plot.
While it is violent (and peppered with four-letter words; parents and sensitive souls, consider yourselves apprised), “Inishmore” is irresistibly, undeniably funny.
Danny Jones is absolutely delightful as Davey, an innocent bystander who gets swept up in the mess made by the lieutenant and his associates. It’s hard to look away from Jones, who manages to be incredibly expressive without overacting or stealing scenes.
His conterpart, Donny, is affably played by Jeffrey McCamish. The duo throw themselves into their parts, going for broke in ridiculous situations (one scene calls for them to smear shoe polish on a cat), with fine results.
Jones and McCamish anchor a uniformly solid ensemble cast. Porik, the lieutenant of the title — who’s a little too fringe even for the Irish Republican Army — is played with aplomb by Lane Bottemiller, who serves up barely-contained hysteria in a convincingly convicted package. Ian Herrmann, as one of Porik’s victims, deserves special props not only for turning out a great performance, but for doing it while hanging upside-down by his ankles. The sole female performer is Shelly Wozniak, who is alternately impish and maniacal as Mairead, Davey’s IRA-wannabe teenage sister. Paul Schweigert, Rodney Lamb and Michael Branson round out the cast as a trio of mercenaries with Porik in their sights.
Not that the play’s success belongs exclusively to the actors. From the Flogging Molly soundtrack and colorful cottage set to the gobs of stage blood (the Broadway production used five gallons per performance; we see a little less here, but not much) and cast of stuffed cats and human bodies,“Inishmore” bears all the marks of a dedicated and creative production team.
A word of warning: Don’t go into “Inishmore” expecting to come away with some kind of deeper insight into the turbulent politics of Irish republicanism. You’ll almost certainly be disappointed. “Inishmore” does comment on the vicious cycle of retribution that has come to characterize the Troubles, but it does so with belly laughs and punches to the gut. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino remade “Noises Off.”
Political or not, Kokopelli’s production of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” is truly a treat. Miss this gem and you’re only cheating yourself.
There'll be several more chances to see it, with shows at 3 p.m. on Sundays and at 8 p.m. Weds.-Sat. through March 25 at the Sydney Laurence Theatre. Tickets are $24 at 263-2787 or CenterTix.
CREDIT: Maia Nolan lives and writes in Anchorage.