Reviewed by Ralph Hall
How would a person born with no soul behave? Would no fear-of-God affect his behavior? Would he be pure evil? Are these the questions Martin McDonough poses in his third play of his Connemara trilogy, The Lonesome West?
KNOW Theatre’s production of The Lonesome West is a very, very dark comedy and a tragedy more tragic than any Greek or Shakespearean play. The cleverly written humorous lines will make you laugh while you sit in awkward amazement at the behavior of two brothers and a priest. KNOW seeks to produce works by the most talented playwrights –plays that push the walls of what we believe, that make us think about things we do not want to consider — while entertaining us with the unpredictable actions of our fellow humans. In this endeavor, the director, cast and crew have succeeded.
If you were only to see and hear the priest’s monologue in the second act, you would have gotten more than your money’s worth. Anthony Corvino, who has previously appeared at Binghamton University but not at other local venues, is a young outstanding performer who brings strength, believability and religious insight to this already powerfully written monologue. He is an actor to watch as his predictable career grows. The monologue produces only one possible action for the priest as he too ask the questions of “why?” and “what is possible?” Where lies the source of the evil parish he inherited with numerous suicides (unforgiveable sins leading to hell) and murders (sins that can be forgiven).
Sean Walsh, who plays one of the two fighting brothers, says it has been 20 years since he performed. That is far too long! This actor uses every muscle and organ (especially eyes) and the intellect of his being to portray a greedy, possessive, blackmailing brother who is surprisingly the moralistic better of the two. His character is one minute to be hated, the next to be protected, but never really liked. Walsh is that very rare actor whom you can never take your eyes off of during a performance.
Tim Gleason appears often on local stages, and each portrayal is carefully designed to fit the play. He so disappears into a role that you believe you have never seen him perform before. The Lonesome West is no exception. He becomes and remains the evil brother constantly making the audience ask “Why?”How can an individual who says he is a Christian, a follower of the Catholic faith, commit the acts this man commits? Gleason makes the character believable while one wants to reject all as impossible.
Caitlin McNichol gives her insight into the residents of the village while demonstrating the characters’ own relationship to morality. She delivers her role very well.
Director Jim Gormley paces the play to bring surprises at times when you believe you have seen all that is possible. Covina’s monologue surpasses any I have ever seen, and much of the credit must be shared, I believe, with the director. The staging of the consistent tension between the brothers also is, in part, due to Gormley’s guidance. The set, costumes and lighting also were all just what the play required.
The Lonesome West is a must for anyone who wants to be intellectually challenged by a great playwright. This is not a play for which you may merely sit back and listen; it is a play that will make you laugh and ask “Could such an evil place exist?” McDonough shared in a biographical note that he had once visited such a place in Ireland. We do not know specifically where or many more details, but the play (if based on this place) tells the story of a village where god-fearing Catholics led by a failing priest defied their own moralities with no or little fear of the consequences of these failures. Is it possible? You decide!
The Lonesome West opened last Friday (April 13) at Binghamton City Stage, 74 Carroll St., Binghamton. The play continues for two more weekends (April 20-22 and April 27-29) with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. This Thursday (April 19) is KNOW’s Pay What You Can Performance. For tickets, call 607-724-4344 or visit BrownPaperTickets.com.