Berkeley Rep's production of Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore is definitely not for everyone but I haven't had such a good time in a theater since I saw Urinetown, not that these plays have anything in common whatsoever. First of all, props to Berkeley Rep for staging what is the theatrical equivalent of a Herschell Gordon Lewis moviein the world's most PC town. I never thought Berkeley would host such an outre production.
Ostensibly this is a play that is supposed to parody/criticize the violence in Ireland. While one can certainly read such political sentiments into that if you're into that sort of thing, to me it reads as a terrific excuse to let loose some terrific jokes and completely over-the-top gore at the expense of Irish nationalism, PETA, family values and Berkeley's own political/ social correctness. This is really a production that feels more like Tenderloin Grand Guignol with a great budget, cast and attitude to burn rather than anything you'd see in the East Bay's bastion of rectitude. One person I spoke with afterward compared it to Tarantino's Kill Bill without Uma Thurman and that's not far off the mark though I was thinking more of Reanimator discovers Snatch as I was laughing my ass off.
The cast, though it has some problems with maintaining a proper Irish brogue (and not cracking itself up) is thoroughly first rate, with special kudos due to Adam Farabee's turn as Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Dismember and James Carpenter, who deserves the lead if anyone ever decides to make Titus Andronicus II: Father to Mayhem. As the title character Blake Ellis reminds me of Woody Harrelson doing both his Cheers and Natural Born Killers roles simultaneously and never making a distinction between the two. That is a compliment but you have to see it to believe it. Molly Camp is also terrific as the lone woman in the play who becomes the center of gravity/ epicenter of violence all while donning a cute neon yellow summer dress during the second act.
I, for one, can't help but love a play which includes the lines, " Worse and worse the story gets" as body parts and pools of blood fill the floor of the stage as well as "Spines are awfully hard solid to cut through." This isn't going to be to everyone's taste of course, but for those who can take it, this play delivers a fiendishly good time. Director Les Waters has the comic timing down to perfection, the sets are terrific, and the "special effects" by Tolin FX are appropriately beyond the pale and are a masterclass in glorious gory glee.
The plot? If you have to ask, you ought not go.
Note to Berkeley Rep's sound design team: the gunshots and the music that masks the set changes are way too loud. Please turn it down.