The loneliness alluded to in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy The Lonesome West is something better experienced than explained. With perhaps a nod to John Millington Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World, the play begins with two quarrelsome brothers, Coleman and Valene, returning from their father’s funeral. This funeral is the direct result of Coleman shooting his father at point blank range. Later we learn this is but just one of a series of troubling homicides and suicides afflicting this sleepy western hamlet. But the immediate consequence of Coleman’s rage is that he agrees to give up his inheritance in return for Valene telling the authorities it was just a terrible accident. Valene then goes about tormenting his brother by marking every purchase he makes with an over sized V. This gross immaturity elicits the worst from both brothers and they spend a great deal of the play trading insults and physical blows. Attempting to stop this mayhem are a young priest and a tough as nails school girl who delivers Irish moonshine door to door.
Credit Director Dana Anderson with delivering a smart crisp production that feels half as long as it’s one hundred minute running time. Stand out performances include Mark Tacderas as the brooding priest and Phoebe Moore (the young Girleen). Dylan Todd (Valene) and Robert Tobin (Coleman) are also convincing as two brothers whose love for one another is most often expressed via loathing. And while some of the sequences do at times feel repetitive, Claire Yearman’s gritty fight choreography manages to smooth over any of the rough spots.
Much of the humor inherent to Lonesome West comes from its characters non-redemptive nature. Coleman and Valene are truly horrible people which makes it all the more tragic watching a young priest staking everything on them being able to find absolution. This play might not make you feel great about the human condition, but it will probably make you feel better about your own family relations.
Bottom Line: The Lonesome West is recommended and is currently playing at The Raven Theatre (6157 North Clark) now until November 18th. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at astonrep.com or by calling (773) 828-9129.