A Skull in Connemara

Few young playwrights receive as much attention as Martin McDonagh. Beginning with The Beauty Queen of Lenane in 1995, which won four Tonys, each of his new works has become a much anticipated event, with the rights highly sought after by national and regional theatre companies. Indeed, with the current production of A Skull in Connemara, the Denver Center Theatre company has produced three of McDonagh's plays in the last three years.

Photo of actors
It's easy to see why McDonagh's pieces draw so much attention—he has a gift for taking the lyricism of the Irish dialect, particularly the patois local to Connemara in County Galway, and turning it into a magical melody. On top of that, McDonagh knows how to tell a story and fill it with dramatic and cinematic scenes.

Mick Dowd is the local gravedigger, yet unlike so many others of his trade, the confined nature of the local parish cemetery is such that he must first dig up someone's remains before he can bury the newly deceased. Lawrence Hecht breathes life into this irreverent rough and ready, yet warmhearted laborer.

Kathy Brady, who has appeared in all three of the Center's McDonagh plays, is the local slow-witted gossip, Mary Rafferty. Brady's detailed portrait and impeccable timing, as always, steal the show. Finally, John Sloan and Stephen Paul Johnson as the brothers Mairtin and Tom Hanlon, an untested youth and a self-inflated constable, provide gritty supporting work.

Despite this strong, well-directed ensemble, the fine craft work, McDonagh's sweet language, graphic moments and surprising plot turns, A Skull in Connemara never rises above a finely tuned slice-of-life, and leaves us without catharsis, having had too much to drink and nowhere to go. If McDonagh is to fulfill his promise as an heir to Shaw, O'Casey and Synge he needs to worry less about cinematic appeal and concern himself more with transformation.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of A Skull in Connemara runs through November 17th. 303-893-4100.


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