As some of you might have noticed, I've recently lightened my theater-reviewing chores considerably. I guess every critic has a limit, and it would appear that 3,500 shows over the past 20 years is mine. To find out how real folk entertain themselves, I've been going to the movies instead. A lot of movies. Several a week, plus DVDs. You know what? Theater isn't the only hit-or-miss art form around.
I've discovered something else as well. A major difference between film and theater seems to be that the "hipper" a movie is, the fewer female characters it has. Maybe it's a quirk of this summer's cinema, but women have all but disappeared from the screen. It would be a chore to name 10 plays with all-male casts, but a breeze to list a mountain of all-guy pictures. (Surely at least one of Danny Ocean's 13 felons could have been female.) Of course, there is one instance when producers grudgingly shell out money to an actress -- a girl is usually the shortest way to say that all the boys in the film aren't gay.
So why Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore isn't a movie instead of a play is anybody's guess. Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre presents the local premiere of this gross-out comedy/drama, which opened last year in New York and closed rather quickly.
Seven men and one woman run though this romp about IRA members, malcontents and morons. Rival soldiers of Irish terrorist groups jump around stage for a couple of hours exacting revenge on each other and innocent bystanders.
But, really, McDonagh's play is about recreating a movie sensibility onstage ... specifically, a "guy" movie sensibility: Blood packs explode, body parts are chopped off, people get tortured in front of us and the only woman in the cast spends most of her time acting like a man, except when she's needed to romance the male lead. It's a Tarantino/Fincher/Rodriguez film, set on stage.
So it's odd to add that, all in all, Lieutenant's not a bad way to spend your evening. McDonagh (The Pillow Man, The Beauty Queen of Leenane) may not be the most insightful writer, and his ham-fisted plotting is straight out of a 19th-century melodrama. But he can be very, very funny and he creates some of the loopiest characters this side of a Beth Henley play.
The PICT production is certainly handsome enough, with a textured set by Gianni Downs, and director Stuart Carden and his high-powered cast do well by the work. I think I might have enjoyed sharper playing with a bit more menace, but Will Brill, Matt DeCaro, David Whalen, Jason McCune, Amy Ward, Philip Winters and Jarrod DiGiorgi are fairly gleeful splashing around in the tubs of blood McDonagh places on stage for them.
I do, however, feel bad for the people who have to clean it all up.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore continues through Aug. 4. Stephen Foster Memorial Theatre, Forbes Avenue at Bigelow Boulevard, Oakland. 412-394-3353