"The Lonesome West" opens with a bang
A pair of rifle shots, a kitchen knife, a host of broken figurines and more than a fair share of curses ushered in Tower Fine Arts’ second mainstage production, Martin McDonagh’s, “The Lonesome West.”
The play follows two brothers, Coleman and Valene, played by junior Jake Dion and sophomore Patrick Hall respectively. The brothers have a less-than-healthy relationship, Valene being a tight fisted money hoarder and Coleman being a mischievous mooch. The town priest, Father Welsh, played by senior Kevin Plinzke, tries to get them to see eye-to-eye, but is unsuccessful. As the brothers continue to argue and bicker, it is revealed that the accidental death of their father was hardly an accident at all, and Coleman killed their father over an insult about his hair. Valene promised not to tell anyone so long as he was the sole inheritor of their father’s estate.
Father Welsh, disheartened by his inability to help his congregation, drowns himself in the sea like many before him in that town. He leaves behind a note, asking Coleman and Valene to settle their differences. At his behest in the letter and the heated confrontation of Girleen, played by Brigette Meskell, who is grieving over the death of Father Welsh, the brothers make an effort to apologize for their past bickering and cruelties towards one another, but in the end they cannot help but revert to (literally) being at each other’s throats, almost killing each other on several occasions.
Despite the seemingly dark nature of the production, the play is full of laughs and outrageous humor. The pace of the production could certainly be measured by the audience’s reception. The play is a delicate balance of dark humor and darker messages about death, love, and the often difficult definition of the word “family.”
The true pull of this play is its duality; at one moment you can’t stop laughing at the outrageous behavior of these two bickering brothers or the priest who can’t seem to get a handle of religion, and the next moment you are stunned and afraid one brother is going to kill the other right before your eyes, only to once again be laughing. The play does its best to give the audience no rest in the tug of war between comedy and tragedy.
The set of the play resembles a simple Irish home, with a large fireplace in the center and two bedrooms for the brothers on each side of the fireplace. After the first scene a stove is added after Valene spends $300 for it, placing a large “V” on it to claim it as his own. The set took a heavy beating during the course of the production, everything from priests standing on tables to Valene being tossed at chairs to gunshots blowing off the doors of Valene’s stove. The acting in this play surely called for a sturdy set. It was rarely clean, even before the end of the first scene. The entire show was a hilarious hodgepodge of crushed potato chips, smashed mugs, melted plastic saints and furniture thrown helter skelter.
The audience themselves seemed to enjoy the play a considerable amount, there was hardly a pause at times between their laughter at the shenanigans and dark humor of Coleman and Valene.
Director Richard St. George was pleased with the premiere of the show. He commented on the addiction of the audience for the first time while working on this particular production. “I think it went great, it makes a big difference with an audience to feed off of,” St. George said.
It was certainly the case that the audience gave the actors every opportunity to feed off their thorough enjoyment of their performance. The liberty with which cursing is used in this production was certainly a big attraction of the show. The program even warns the audience that the “F” word is used quite liberally in the play, as in Irish culture it is treated as less of a taboo to use in everyday conversation. That just made it all the more comical for the audience.
Hall also commented on the opening night of the show.
“The audience changes everything for sure,” Hall said. “[The opening night was] one of the best times we’ve done a run of the show.”
It was impossible not to feel the beaming energy of a successful performance coming from Patrick, the thrill of completing a strong opening night on the mainstage.
“The Lonesome West” will also be playing December 10, through 12, hopefully finishing just as strong as they opened, closing the first semester this year on a fantastic note.
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