GENtrai honors Irish history in black comedy

Geneseo’s Irish-American Performance Ensemble—colloquially known as GENtrai—presented “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” from March 3–5. Directed by senior Dennis Caughlin, this is GENtrai’s first fully staged production.Martin McDonagh wrote the black comedy “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”—which received numerous awards—in 2001. The play is set in the popular tourist destination of Inishmore—the largest of the three Aran Islands in Galway Bay—and attracts its visitors primarily because the island successfully preserves Irish language and traditional culture and has avoided the encroachment of modernity. This play is historically-influenced; written as a protest through what McDonagh called a “pacifist rage” toward the senseless violence of the 30-year period called “The Troubles.” This period consisted of an ethno-nationalist conflict over territory in Northern Ireland in which two mutually exclusive visions of national identity and national belonging clashed. This period spanned from a civil rights protest in 1968 to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. By 1993, peace was being negotiated, but there were still republican paramilitary groups like the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Irish National Liberation Army which sought to liberate Northern Ireland from British occupation. Like its playwright, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” is very unique in that it carries its message of protest against this violence in a story revolving around a murdered cat named Wee Thomas. In this performance, senior Paige Gordon narrated this story. In the first scene, 17-year-old Davey—played by sophomore Noah Mazer—brings a dead black cat to his neighbor, Donny—played by senior Michael Vecchio—who was watching the cat for his son Padraic—played by senior Aidan Fullerton. Davey insists that he didn’t kill the cat, even as Donny accuses him of hitting Wee Thomas with his mother’s bike. Upon learning that the cat was Padraic’s, Davey pleads with Donny to keep him uninvolved because Padraic was known to have a wild temper; in the following scene, he’s depicted torturing a man for selling marijuana. Donny agrees not to tell Padraic about Davey’s involvement if Davey confesses to killing Wee Thomas, which he does—even though it wasn’t true. Knowing the affection that Padraic holds for Wee Thomas, Donny decides to tell his son in stages. First, he tells him that the cat was sick and that the cat had died, rather than admitting that the cat had been murdered. But even simply telling Padraic that the cat was sick causes him to rush home. Donny then sends Davey on the hunt for another black cat and as Davey is preparing his mother’s bike, his sister Mairead—played by senior Lea Pandoliano—accuses him of killing Wee Thomas, with Davey learning that this rumor has spread. When Padraic returns home and realizes that the cat Donny and Davey tried to pass as Wee Thomas is an impostor posing as his now dead cat, he kills the replacement and prepares to kill his father and Davey, but other characters step in and take Padraic away to kill him instead In the final scene, Wee Thomas is found alive and Donny and Davey marvel at how four men and two cats were dead for no real reason at all. The GENtraí Ensemble performed their parts marvelously and their hard work certainly paid off. Their execution of dialogue in Irish accents aided their accurate depiction of Irish humor and—more importantly—the tension that exists between the two sides of the conflict, which inspired McDonagh to write this play.