What's to Love about McDonagh?

posted by Director Eric Brant

One of the things that I love about Chicago Street Theatre is that we've gained a reputation for taking risks with new plays and edgier works. This season Daena Sisk and I feel very fortunate to be directing The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh. I have been a long-time fan of his work since first being introduced to it back in the late 90's with Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

Martin McDonaghChicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre has always been know for its in-your-face style of theatre that was what I loved about seeing McDonagh's Beauty Queen. Within in this work were the elements of American playwrights like David Mamet and Sam Shepard mixed with more absurd influences like Harold Pinter and Edward Albee. The characters and the drama unfolding onstage was revealing and biting. McDonagh's knack for dialogue about random and pointless things told you as much about the characters as the awkward silences and looks to one another.

Those of you who were able to experience The Beauty Queen of Leenane when CST produced it two years ago know that the play has incredible moments of beauty and longing. Underlying  those qualities is an ugliness and a harshness that McDonagh unravels with a dark wit and unflinching ferocity. Those fierce moments explode unexpectedly. As an audience member who had never read the play before, I watched Steppenwolf's production with shock and awe thinking, "Did they just really do that on stage?!!"

Through the years Chicago Street has tackled other productions of McDonagh's. As a director I watched our outstanding performances of The Cripple of InishmannThe Pillowman, and Beauty Queen with delight and the hope that one day I might get to direct one of his plays. That day has arrived with our upcoming production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore

Like McDonagh's other works, Lieutenant has many of the playwright's trademarks with this unlikely tale of an INLA officer's love for his cat. The dialogue in this dark comedy is smartly written and reveals the wonderfully complex characters--warts and all. In true form, McDonagh is not afraid to attack the vulnerabilities of his characters nor to shy away from their viciousness. Humor flows out of the sometimes loving and often brutal absurdity of these characters' agendas. In addition to the well-drawn studies of people from his Irish homeland, I can also say that there are plenty of those "shock and awe" moments throughout the show.

My co-director, Daena Sisk, and I hope that audiences will come to love McDonagh's work the way we have.  If you are looking for a theatre experience that is darkly funny, original and totally unexpected, right now seems like the perfect time to shake the winter blues with Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

If you are in doubt of his status as one of the greatest living playwrights, take a look at this list:

  • Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright
    • 1996: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Won)
  • Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play
    • 1998: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Won)
    • 2005: The Pillowman (Nomination)
    • 2006: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Nomination)
  • Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy
    • 1997: A Skull in Connemara (Nomination)
    • 2003: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Won)
  • Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play
    • 1997: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Nomination)
    • 2004: The Pillowman (Won)
  • Tony Award for Best Play
    • 1998: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Nomination)
    • 1999: The Lonesome West (Nomination)
    • 2005: The Pillowman (Nomination)
    • 2006: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Nomination)