Audiences leaving the Unicorn Theatre’s premiere production of Martin McDonagh’s brutal farce The Lieutenant of Inishmore will likely be talking about the mangled cats, the exploding blood squibs and the rapid-fire feck yous. But it’s McDonagh’s deep gift for arresting, surprising storytelling that has made him the theater’s great, wicked hope. The playwright loves to shock, as anyone knows who winced along with earlier area productions, including The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leenane, both at the Unicorn, and The Cripple of Inishman at the Kansas City Actors Theatre. The splatter-paint and senseless beatdowns manage, in his best work, to be simultaneously frightening, hysterical and revelatory. In a world as cruel as ours, isn’t it some kind of miracle that more of us aren’t scalding our mothers with boiling oil? Lieutenant, which opens tonight at the Unicorn (3828 Main, 816-531-7529), is perhaps his bloodiest show. Many critics also contend that it’s his funniest. Like McDonagh’s other works, Lieutenant finds the world’s wars going domestic, this time quite literally, when the guts of Wee Thomas, a kitten beloved by a lunkheaded thug too crazy for the IRA, are discovered heaped on a table. Trouble ensues in what might be a parody of revenge stories or of revenge itself — if it’s a parody at all. Maybe kitties mean more than anything else. Director Joseph Price has helmed two other McDonagh productions in recent years, bringing to both a bruising grace. Price has assembled a strong cast — with local favorites David Graham Jones, Patrick DuLaney and Bruce Roach and Kansas City newcomer Darren Kennedy — to run through the wringer.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 17. Continues through Nov. 11, 2007