Theater & Performing Arts

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

When: Tuesdays, 8 p.m., Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 2 p.m. and Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 17 2009

It was probably just a happy coincidence that Berkeley Rep scheduled its run of Martin McDonagh's grisly comedy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, around the same time that Obama declassified the Bush administration's torture memos. At any rate, it made this decade-old play -- which centers on an Irish republican splinter group that mostly operated in the 1970s and 1980s -- seem not only timely, but urgent. The Lieutenant of Inishmoreis a perversely funny, high-velocity bloodbath with a trenchant political subtext. The paramilitary bloc in question -- inspired by the real Irish National Liberation Army -- comprises several earnest revolutionaries who can't quite get their act together. Rather, they can't move forward with plans to free Ireland until they dispose of their lieutenant, a handsome but unclever sadist with a soft spot for cats. It's an unusual premise that McDonagh takes to insane lengths, requiring a little suspension of disbelief but leading up to a massive payoff. Berkeley Rep artistic director Les Waters puts his own spin on the play, adding little details (i.e., a pink bicycle with streamers, said to be the cause of a kitty hit-and-run) to amplify McDonagh's humor. His version is well-acted, brilliant, and brutal. Through May 17 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St.).

Rachel Swan

Price: $18.50-$57

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