Well I know I’m a wee bit behind, but Week 11 (Nov 10 – 16) of the Fall/Winter Amarillo Arts Season began with a Skull in Connemara staged at ALT’s Adventure Space. This one-act play of dramatic darkness by Martin McDonagh has the not exclusively Irish moral of “Don’t be a’diggin up the past.
A former felon, exhonerated for murdering his wife, is now on contract with the parrish priest to exhume long-interred bodies to make room for new arrivals. Thus he connects with the remains of his late wife. Still stung by lingering suspicion, the whole play pivots on whether he’ll man up to smash her skull, whose pulverizing is standard protocol to free up new ground.
To “help” him are three friends, whose Blarneyfied rationale is poteen-fueled. In fact, poteen, the potent brew distilled from potatoes, plays such a prominent role that it should be mentioned in the program as a character.
Nothing interloculatory is ever straight forward in Ireland. The most simple statement elicits cosmological commentary. The real gift of the play for the audience is the gab. The actors appropriated the lilt of the Irish brogue, including the undulating rhythm, and made it real. Such a way that these folk in the Panhandle can carry on; just like they’re right out of County Cork.
Naturally the play is also a study in character. Shannon Mashburn plays a sort of maternal parasite who at base is just in need of companionship and free hooch. Patrick Burns is Mark Dowd, whose internal demons are in plain view and Jeff Jarnagin plays the frustrated constable whose ambitions rise above his disinterest in disinterment.
Kayden Burns plays Mairtin Hanlon who intially reveals himself as shiftless and self-indulgent, but morphs into the character conscience of the play. All so very Irish.
Hammers and shovels are unlikely props, but this play called for grave digging and skull-smashing. Thus a film of dust coated the audience, a number of whom had to dodge flying cranial bits. Well, it did add a touch of the real, it did!
The obvious theme was textured, layered and nuanced. McDonagh’s dark work was about the outside and inside: the darkness in the world and in the soul, a concepts near and dear to the hearts of the Irish.
In this most -unlike-the-Emerald-Isle place, Irish pathos was celebrated by talented thespians directed astutely by Alan Shankles whose end product was worthy of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
So fill up m’glass with poteen and Slainte to all!
But remember: Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!