Irish brothers seeing red turn the comedy deliciously black
Never underestimate the power of tonal contrast. Much of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy “The Lonesome West” depicts the simmering hostility between two Irish brothers: Coleman and Valene Connor have long indulged in outrages that include threats, blackmail, violent brawling, streams of profanity and the malicious mistreatment of potato chips. It’s misbehavior rendered amusingly in the Keegan Theatre’s lively staging of the play, which features Bradley Foster Smith and a fine Matthew J. Keenan as, respectively, Valene and Coleman.
Still, “Lonesome West” ultimately draws its power from an ostensibly calmer central sequence, in which the feuding siblings do not appear. In this scene, conjured with commendable understatement in director Mark A. Rhea’s production, a discouraged and doubting Catholic priest named Father Welsh (Chris Stezin) confronts his own failure to encourage good behavior in Leenane, the provincial community where the Connors live. Stezin’s quiet, focused delivery of a pivotal monologue makes this scene, set on a lakefront, an eye-of-the-storm moment with a significant dramatic payoff.
The lakefront sequence serves as an effective foil to the tale’s more antic episodes, which benefit particularly from Keenan’s glowering charisma and deft comic timing. … The interaction between the two performers can be quite funny, including during the varied, expressive, deliberately goofball fight sequences, choreographed by Casey Kaleba.