Novel Approach

The ending of The Lonesome West is as predictable as everything else about this non-event, essentially a 10-minute Laurel and Hardy routine repeated ad infinitum till it can pass for a full evening. For relief from the spats of the two tiresome Irish brothers who carry out this recycled squabble, a teenage girl tries to seduce a priest, who wisely prefers suicide. Those who saw the same author's Beauty Queen of Leenane may expect one of the brothers to be dead by the end, but in Martin McDonagh's Ireland, murder, like sex, is strictly a female activity; men just sit around and insult each other while getting drunk. His picture of the Irish is the stock one the London stage exploited for the 200 years before the Abbey Theatre was founded: an inferior race, shiftless, unprincipled, undependable, always fuddled by alcohol, and always ready to share someone else's meal or mix in someone else's quarrel. That Irish actors are willing to perform his work, compared to which Little Black Sambo is a model of unstereotyped dignity, must be one of the great mysteries of our time.

Colm Meaney, top, and Josh Hamilton in The Cider House Rules: a Homer with epic traumas
Joan Marcus
Colm Meaney, top, and Josh Hamilton in The Cider House Rules: a Homer with epic traumas

Details

The Cider House Rules, Part One: Here in St. Cloud's
By Peter Parnell, based on the novel by John Irving
Atlantic Theatre
336 West 20th Street
239-6200

The Lonesome West
By Martin McDonagh
Lyceum Theatre
45th Street and Broadway
239-6200

That Park Avenue, a 1946 Broadway musical by George S. Kaufman and Nunnally Johnson, with a score by Ira Gershwin and Arthur Schwartz, should have flopped unceremoniously with such glittering names behind it, was also once a mystery. Its revival by Theater Ten Ten, in a church hall at 1010 Park Avenue, clears up the case. The script is witty but monolithic in its single- minded preoccupation with the rich and their divorces; the score, despite Ira's Gilbertian lyrics, offers blatant interruptions rather than texture. And the cold-hearted Kaufmanian atmosphere doesn't draw much tunefulness from Schwartz, whose melodic gift was for romance. The curio was worth hearing, though the revival's amateurish; Judith Jarosz played the much-remarried heroine with cheerful aplomb.

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