Clarion University’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts presented “The Lonesome West” from Wednesday, Feb. 24-Sunday, Feb. 28 in the Marwick-Boyd Little Theatre.
Playwright Martin McDonagh set his work in 1995 in the Irish town Leenane. The story is told through four actors and largely takes place in one setting. Through dialogue and stage combat, McDonagh weaves a story that addresses dark themes, while also keeping the audience laughing.
This was the university’s second produced installment of around-the-world themed theater. The series began with “Miles Gloriosus” last September, but was postponed with the cancellation of “Jesus in India” in November.
“The Lonesome West” required its actors to adopt heavy Irish accents for an accurate portrayal of the characters. Gabrielle Kashner, who played Girleen Kelleher, said the dialect was her favorite part about performing in the show.
“It was fun to see how everyone gets more accustomed to dialect,” said Kashner, who has performed in numerous university plays.
One change of scenery occurred when the lights on the house darkened and a bench was placed down stage. This was the only time action occurred somewhere other than the main room. The props used in “The Lonesome West” were few, but all purposeful. Each prop, such as figurines of Catholic saints, magazines and potato chips, were integral in the development of the plot.
The protagonists of the play are brothers Coleman and Valene Connor. In the beginning, they are visited by the town priest Father Welsh, who joins Coleman in drinking from a bottle of Valene’s whiskey. This scene sets a precedent for the rest of the show as Valene relentlessly prohibits the use of anything he owns by Coleman. However, Coleman does not pay attention to his brother’s rules.
The two men continually provoke one another to anger and often pull knives and shot guns with fraternal death-threats. This play develops themes of morality, mortality and spirituality with mentions of suicides and debates of salvation. “The Lonesome West” was advertised as being for mature audiences, due to these concepts and frequent profanity.
McDonagh’s use of sexual humor, exaggerated conflicts over figurines and potato chips and the actors’ intonation during dialogue lightened an otherwise dark, heavy play. In the program of the show, director Rob Bullington asks, “Why did we choose to bring you this particular play…? Simple: It’s really really really really really funny.”
Through March 24, the Department of Visual and Performing Arts is hosting the work of Benedict Oddi in the University Art Gallery in Carlson Library. The Marwick-Boyd Little Theatre will hold its next performance, “Amor Fati,” on April 15-17.