Chris Pine in The Lieutenant of Inishmore
(© Craig Schwartz)
Chris Pine in The Lieutenant of Inishmore
(© Craig Schwartz)
Neither for the squeamish nor PETA members, Martin McDonagh's rip-roaring black comedy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, being produced by The Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum, will likely delight everyone else with its delicious mixture of harsh belly laughs and cringe-worthy Grand Guignol effects.

The talented cast, led by film and stage star Chris Pine, succeeds in creating vile characters that are nevertheless fascinating. Director Wilson Milam masterfully stages the plot with a flow that presents chaos in an orderly fashion, without allowing the audience to see the seams, and Matthew W Mungle has created a proscenium of realistic gore.

Padraic (Pine), the title character, is a sociopath with a fixation on his dearest friend: his childhood cat, Wee Thomas. With a grisly taste for torture and delusions of grandeur, Padraic is almost a tragic hero, particularly in Pine's clever portrayal. He grins when someone describes his past exploits as if they were sporting achievements; and he collapses in a childhood tantrum when he hears his dear friend is ill after only moments before calmly slicing apart a hanging drug pusher.

He also practically rips apart his new girlfriend, Mairead (Zoe Perry), with his lips in mock passion. In some ways, Mairead is a genius compared to everyone else in her small Irish town, but she reacts rashly whenever things don't go her way. Perry also wisely plays Mairead as a rough and tumble tomboy full of burgeoning sexuality that she can't and refuses to control.

Padraic has left the cat in the care of his father Donny (Sean G Griffin), a callous drunk who turns bad situations into outright disasters, and best pal Davey, played by Coby Getzug as a hysterically blustering nitwit. In a high pitched panic, waving around his hippie ponytail, he's like a puppy dog trapped in an engulfing fire with no clue how to escape.

Andrew Connolly, Kevin Kearns, and Ian Alda are convincing as the dimwitted trio out to strip the lieutenant of his stripes, even if these stooges think they're Rhodes Scholars. As the drug dealer who pleads for his life, Brett Ryback -- suspended upside down -- manages to convey panic, desperate quick-thinking, and a faux respect for his torturer, all as blood rushes to his head.

The laughs are both fast and furious, but none of the jokes seem cheap. They're based purely on character or the author's piercing satire towards rebels who cloud altruism with cold-blooded murder.