Friday has arrived, and though I’m elsewhere, Our Girl has kindly consented to post this week’s Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. It’s a double-barreled hallelujah for two new Off Broadway plays, John Patrick Shanley’s Defiance and Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore:
I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but John Patrick Shanley has followed up “Doubt,” the best play of the 2004-05 season, with a new play of identical quality, performed to perfection by an equally fine cast.
“Defiance” is going to make a star out of Stephen Lang, whom I last saw in “Beyond Glory,” his riveting one-man show about eight winners of the Medal of Honor. Alas, “Beyond Glory” hasn’t played New York yet (I saw it in Chicago last fall). It belongs here, though, and I have no doubt that some smart producer will bring it to Broadway after seeing Mr. Lang burn up the stage in “Defiance.” Here he plays Lt. Col. Morgan Littlefield, a hard-headed yet unexpectedly idealistic Marine who’s keeping a secret that’s about to blow up in his face, and who can’t see why one not-so-little mistake (don’t ask–it’s better if you go in not knowing) should turn his otherwise blameless career into a handful of ashes….
One terrific follow-up deserves another: Martin McDonagh, who made the same kind of splash with “The Pillowman” that Mr. Shanley did with “Doubt,” is back again with a show that’s fully as impressive. “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” now playing Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater, is a tar-black comedy based on a daring and ingenious conceit: It portrays a cell of murderous Irish terrorists as a gaggle of drunken halfwits who love their pets more than their fellow men. Padraic (David Wilmot), the title character, is a psychopath whose only friend, a black cat named Wee Thomas, has been bludgeoned to death by persons unknown, thus inspiring his irate owner to start killing everyone in sight (“I’m just in the middle of shooting me dad,” he cheerfully remarks at one point)….
No link, so do your duty and shell out a buck for a copy of the Friday Journal. Better yet, go here to subscribe to the Online Journal, which will provide you with instant access to the full text of my review, plus plenty more art-related coverage where that came from.