You always hurt the one you love.
Martin McDonagh’s play The Lonesome West is a dark comedy about the battling Connor brothers, Valene and Coleman, whose constant petty fighting comes to a head with the death of their father. Playing referee, and trying to shepherd the brothers to some kind of reconciliation and redemption, is young Father Welsh – all witnessed by local school girl Girleen, who works delivering poteen (potent Irish moonshine) around the village.
Directed for the Toronto Irish Players (TIP) by Jim Ivers and produced by Geraldine Browne, The Lonesome West has an excellent cast. Stephen Farrell (Valene) and Ronan P. Byrne (Coleman) are both hilarious and brutal as the squabbling brothers, their family history littered with petty arguments and harsh acts of revenge. Foul-mouthed and childish, and constantly at each others’ throats, they seem to be on the verge of killing each other at any moment. Gregory Cruikshank is both heartbreaking and funny as the lost, alcoholic Father Welsh (who often gets called “Walsh” by his village parishioners), desperately trying to bring peace to the embattled Connor household even as he battles his own demons. The most tender scene in the play is at the beginning of Act Two, when Welsh and Girleen (played by Katherine O’Brien) sit on a seaside bench – the location of several village suicides, including a recent one from the parish – Welsh drunk and despondent, and Girleen a bit older than her years and harbouring a secret crush on the young priest.
Set and lighting designer Rodel Manoy did a lovely job with the Connor home. Peopled solely by men for years, the place is covered in a layer of grime and it is only after the family patriarch’s death that Valene purchases a gas stove, comically positioned inside the fireplace. The shelves are covered with Valene’s huge collection of saint figurines, and furniture and objects are emblazoned with a black “V” – indicating Valene’s ownership.
It’s frank, brutal even in its comedy, with some lovely tender moments – and not for the faint of heart.
The Lonesome West runs on the Alumnae Theatre main stage until March 10. For details and reservations, visit the TIP website: http://torontoirishplayers.com/