Such Charming Brutality

Joe Adler murders kittens and makes you like it

The fun and affection with which all of this is written and performed means GableStage's Lieutenant is, above all else, a love letter to Ireland. Still, the fact that everyone in the play is either a bully or a sheep is an indictment. No matter how much he loves his parents' country, McDonagh's got his gripes, and he knows how to voice them.

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Written by Martin McDonagh. Directed by Joseph Adler. With Stephen G. Anthony, Ken Clement, Todd Allen Durkin. Through September 9 at the GableStage at the Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-445-1119, or visit www.gablestage.com.

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There is a moment near the end of the play when two survivors of the last act's gratuitous slaughter, surrounded by dismembered corpses and reduced to taking orders from a gun-toting 16-year-old girl, see a healthy cat wander into the room. The two begin talking quietly about all the trouble felines have caused them of late and quickly decide that this cat deserves to die. When the men declare their intention to kill it, it is very nearly the point of the whole show; a dumb and brutal reaction against powerlessness — precisely like all the other explosions of dumb brutality that have splattered the stage over the previous two hours. It is a clear distillation of the mindset McDonagh must have seen at the heart of much of Ireland's grief over the years — and everybody else's too.

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