Theatergoers familiar with Mr. McDonagh's work (which includes the Tony-nominated "Pillowman" and "Beauty Queen of Leenane") are by now used to the acts of torture, humiliation and interfamilial skull bashing that figure in his work. But with "Lieutenant," directed with a steady gaze and acute theatrical instinct by Wilson Milam, Mr. McDonagh raises the carnage factor to a level that rivals Quentin Tarantino's.
Unlike Mr. Tarantino, Mr. McDonagh isn't trying to elicit the poetry in surreally stylized violence or the aesthetic content in shades of red. There's nothing pretty about the gruesome mess in which these gun- and razor-toting characters, members of splintered splinter groups of the Irish Republican Army, find themselves. And they seem to regard as merely mundane the abominations they commit in the name of causes they can't always remember. But they might as well face it, they're addicted to blood. So, this play suggests with devilish obliqueness, are we.
Well there you have it. McDonagh writes stuff with torture and humiliation, but he doesn't do it in the service of something greater like that wimp Tarantino. He does it for the sheer fun because "we" are addicted to blood.
Damn I hate it when critics presume to speak for me.
But since critics long for manly men playwrights to rescue theatre from the dangers of kindliness, aestetics and other feminine foolishness it's only a matter of time before McDonagh gets a Tony or a Pulitzer.
The New Yorker, predictably has already written a Great Man of the Arts profile of McDonagh.