I was warned on the TBPAC webpage. I was warned on the Jobsite webpage. I was warned by the house manager and two ushers. In case I hadn't been paying attention, I was warned in the program AND on the insert. For good measure I was warned by a fellow audience member: violence, gunshots, blood, gore, loud music, cat murder(s). Needless to say my expectations were high.
Part satire, part farce, part murder mystery, Jobsite delivered on the promise. Yet heed the warning: "This play is not for the easily offended." I am not. From the gasps around me, I guess some audience members didn't get the message and just happen to be easily offended when, say, cat brains are poured onto a table. From the cat's bashed skull. In the first five minutes. Let's just say Jobsite shouldn't hit up PETA for group sales.
The story revolves around "Mad" Padraic (Matt Lunsford), Irish revolutionary and cat lover. Padraic is a member of the IRA splinter group Irish National Liberation Army, or INLA. The IRA is unfortunately "too moderate" for our hero. We learn that his beloved black kitty, Wee Thomas, has met an untimely death under mysterious circumstances. Padraic's father (Ned Averill-Snell) and likely suspect Davey (Dominic Russo) attempt to cover up the crime, which only causes Padraic to leave his latest torture victim (heroically played by Chris Holcom), less two toenails and almost a nipple, and attend to his "poorly" cat. Along the way he is detained by the flirtations of young terrorist wanna-be, the ballsy Mairead (Kari Goetz), fellow cat-lover, would-be freedom fighter and Davey's sister. Padraic is not wooed by the "boy with lipstick" even if she can blind a cow with a pellet gun at 60 yards. We also learn who killed Thomas, and that cat-killing is somewhat of an Irish terrorist tradition. Apparently, Oliver Cromwell killed lots of cats. A face-off between Padraic and his former comrades brings him and Mairead together and gets the blood splatters a-poppin'. It's funny, it's sexy, it's a bloodbath — it's like a Tarantino movie, but not as pretty. Blood isn't just spattered here and there — it's smeared and splashed on walls, windows, floors and bodies, alive and dead, human and feline.
Martin McDonagh's script (his works include the Tony-nominated Pillowman and Beauty Queen of Leenane) is not about the nature of terrorism. He offers no insight into the mind of a terrorist and hardly any comment on the IRA or the political situation in Ireland. The characters serve as tools to illustrate a cycle of violence, brutality and carnage.
The design team deftly underscores the assertive action. Brain Smallheer's simple rustic shack in cheerful warm tones supplies a nice canvas for the butchery that takes place, and his lighting is simple as well, although appropriately evocative during Pindaric's first torture scene. Katrina Stevenson's costumes are well-suited to the characters and surely fit to stand up to the beating and multiple washings that will take place during this production. Chris Holcom's special effects have near-perfect timing with fantastic visual results. Director David Jenkins moves the entire production at a razor clip, even powering the scene changes along with driving Irish music. When the curtain (yes, Shimberg vets, there is a curtain) is pulled back to reveal Act II, the audience buzzes with whispers (even though we were warned not to in the curtain speech) in reaction to the scene that is revealed.
Cast members should be commended for mastering the Irish brogue. While some words were lost here and there, the cadence of the language rarely faltered. Matt Lunsford gives a strong performance as Padraic. He's a psychopath and a murderer, but with a tender heart and a noble cause. He looks massive onstage, especially next to the petite Kari Goetz, who is delightfully in touch with her inner crazy. The two actors have found real chemistry between these characters and it is easy to be swept up in the extremes of their passion. The entire cast embraced this absurd world and makes the most of their moments, from Dominic Russo's Davey unashamedly wheeling his mother's pink bicycle to Steve Garland's two-faced Christy.
Let it be known that I am a dog person. I don't trust cats. If I want to be around aloof creatures that think they are better than me, I'll go to dinner at my in-laws. However, after feeling the real anguish of the characters upon losing such a dear pet, I am heartened by Jobiste's assurance that no real cats were harmed. In fact they claim that they like kitties; I won't hold it against them.