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Cain and Abel 

It's only a matter of time before someone else in The Lonesome West dies

Wednesday, Jun 11 2003
Some sibling rivalry is normal, but the kind of animosity that exists between the brothers in Martin McDonagh's dark comedy The Lonesome West is extreme. Valene and Coleman are two middle-aged men who share their father's house after his death. The pair have been at each other's throats for years, and things have only gotten worse since Coleman shot Dad's head off. Needless to say, tensions are high: Bloody fistfights erupt at the slightest provocation -- over a bag of potato chips, for example -- and it's only a matter of time before somebody else is dead.

The driving force of the plot is whether the two will kill each other, and you couldn't blame them if they did. Valene has inherited the "estate" -- really a dilapidated cottage -- and he brands everything in sight with his initials, which only infuriates Coleman. The inept Father Welsh tries to talk sense into them, but he's got his own problems, namely alcohol and a teenage bootlegger hellbent on seducing him.

Set in Leenane, the same fictional village that provided the backdrop for earlier installments of McDonagh's trilogy (The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Skull of Connemara were the first two; The Lonesome West is the third), the play paints a dark portrait of the Irish psyche and of family relations in general. McDonagh casts rural Eire in a harsh, unforgiving light, which isn't surprising for a writer who claims Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino as artistic influences. He succeeds at his goal of debunking the myth of the Emerald Isle as merely the verdant, cheery home of mischievous leprechauns and the Blarney stone. Leenane is neither a nice place to visit nor a nice place to live, and the priest knows it, too: "God has no jurisdiction in this town," he says. "No jurisdiction at all."

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Lisa Hom


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