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Rage a way of life for two brothers in 'West'


Published:   |   Updated: July 16, 2013 at 07:09 AM

Imagine shaking a can of Coke until it fizzes up and spews over. That's one way to view the explosions fueled by warring brothers in "The Lonesome West," Jobsite Theater's excellent offering now at the Straz's Shimberg Playhouse.

Set in an isolated village, Leenane, on Ireland's northern coast, this Cain-and-Abel duo have nothing to do but stew over the hurts of their childhood. They are as cruel and cunning as uncivilized 4-year-olds, but they have the strength of grown men.

A tight-fisted neat freak, Valene (Matt Lunsford), compulsively collects religious figurines while his slovenly sibling Coleman (David M. Jenkins) antagonizes him with his demands and his mess.

For them, rage is a daily way of life. "I do like a good fight," says Coleman. "It shows you care."

All this is kindergarten of the most dangerous order since the men, who live together in a cottage inherited from their murdered father, have deadly weapons.

Enter Father Welsh (Brian Shea) who tries without success to bring sanity and faith to his murderous and suicidal parish. "It seems as if God has no jurisdiction in this town," he bemoans.

Only Father Welsh and a young woman nicknamed Girleen (a luminous Caitlin McDonald Eason) have the ability to imagine possibilities beyond the depressed atmosphere of Leenane.

Seen in a preview performance Thursday, this well-knit production, under the direction of Paul Potenza, contains full-bodied performances from the entire cast.

Although Shea's prayerful, powerful soliloquy deserves special mention, it's fun to see Lunsford and Jenkins wring black comedy out of their lethal horseplay.

As Jobsite celebrates its 10th anniversary as theater-in-residence at the Straz Center, this ambitious and serious Tampa company has grown in range and in skill. "The Lonesome West" is not an easy play to mount or to see. (The Irish accents are particularly daunting for actors and audience.)

Award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh is known for his acclaimed "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," "The Pillowman" and "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" (all previously mounted by Jobsite) as well as his films ("In Bruges" and "Seven Psychopaths").

New York Times critic Manohla Dargis once called one McDonagh's work "a comedy of cruelty." It can also be described as dark comedy of deep anger. "

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