There's sibling rivalry in Death of a Salesman, sibling treachery in The Lion in Winter, and even one brother murdering another in The Civil War, but the two wretched protagonists of The Lonesome West make the rest look like Care Bears by comparison. Petty, pathetic Valene and the psychotic Coleman battle each other throughout the pitch dark comedy, despite the intervention of a well-meaning but hapless priest, and a pure-hearted but dirty-minded local girl.
That's the premise of Martin McDonagh's latest, The Lonesome West, the final new play of the Broadway season, opening April 27 after starting previews April 19 at the Lyceum Theater, recent home of Night Must Fall (which moved to the Helen Hayes April 20).
Broadway may be a relatively inhospitable place for American playwrights, but it's been big business for Brits this season. David Hare opened three shows (The Blue Room, Amy's View, Via Dolorosa), while commercial playwrights Pam Gems and Emlyn Williams are jockeying for audiences with the fringe up-n-comers Conor McPherson and Patrick Marber. But the most unprecedented success story has to be McDonagh, whose The Beauty Queen of Leenane ended its yearlong Broadway run just weeks ago.
Steven Levy and Randall L. Wreghitt are producing Lonesome West -- part of McDonagh's "Leenane" trilogy -- on Broadway. It's the second-to last show of the 1998-99 Broadway season (Ring Round The Moon arrives April 28.
Two of the prolific McDonagh's plays have thus far made the trip across the Atlantic: The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Cripple of Inishmaan. Leenane debuted at the Atlantic Theatre Company in early 1998 and quickly transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. Nominated for a best play Tony (Art won), the show did capture several acting Tonys and a win for Irish director Garry Hynes, who is also staging Lonesome West. She had already staged West in London back in 1997 with her Druid Theatre Company. That cast has made the Atlantic transfer intact: Dawn Bradfield, David Ganly, Brian F. O'Byrne (a Tony nominee for Leenane) and Maelíosa Stafford. Francis O'Connor, who designed the sets and costumes for Beauty Queen will do the same for Lonesome West. Tharon Musser is the lighting designer.
As for McDonagh's Inishmaan, that show opened with less success in spring 1998 at the Public Theatre. Like Leenane, Inishmaan has been making the regional theatre rounds.
Lonesome West is part of the playwright's "Leenane" trilogy, which also includes A Skull in Connemara. According to the Boneau/Bryan Brown press office, Lonesome West studies bickering brothers who spar over everything "from snack foods to hairstyles." Into this maelstrom step a tough but lovestruck teen and a lonely priest who tries to make peace.
For tickets ($20-$60) and information on The Lonesome West at the Lyceum Theatre call (212) 239- 6200. The Lyceum's previous tenant, Night Must Fall, reopens April 20 at the Helen Hayes Theatre.