Review: The Lonesome West (AstonRep Theatre)

| November 2, 2018

Dylan Todd and Robert Tobin star in The Lonsome West, AstonRep Theatre    



The Lonesome West

Written by Martin McDonagh
at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark (map)
thru Nov 18  |  tix: $15-$25  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Well-acted, but mean-spirited


Dylan Todd, Phoebe Moore and Robert Tobin star in Lonesome West, AstonRep Theatre

AstonRep Theatre Company presents
The Lonesome West

Review by Lauren Emily Whalen

The Lonesome West is an earlier work from playwright Martin McDonagh, who’s since made a name for himself in both theater and film, penning last year’s Oscar winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDonagh’s bailiwick is finding humor in the darkest of situations: in the case of The Lonesome West, two perpetually feuding Irish brothers with a tendency toward brutal violence. Perhaps the play has aged poorly since its 1997 premiere, or McDonagh has refined his style since. Either way, AstonRep’s production of The Lonesome West is well-acted but too nasty and mean-spirited to have much of an Mark Tacderas and Phoebe Moore star in The Lonesome West, AstonRep Theatreeffect. The darkest corners of humanity are definitely worth exploring, but when every scene ends in either a physical altercation or yet another upsetting revelation, it’s difficult for the audience to hang on.

Set designer Jeremiah Barr does a literal bang-up job of recreating the home of two volatile orphaned Irish brothers, complete with a prominent crucifix over the fireplace, multiple religious icons and several holes in the walls, likely put there by fists. Half of the furniture, framed pictures and knickknacks – including the bright orange stove sitting in the middle of the fireplace, bear a giant V. Brother Valene (Dylan Todd) obsessively guards and catalogs his possessions, including his beloved collection of figurines, much to the chagrin of his sibling Coleman (Robert Tobin). Despite their father’s recent death and the pleas of troubled parish priest Father Welsh (Mark Tacderas) and comely neighbor Girleen (Phoebe Moore), Valene and Coleman fight over the smallest topics – and as they reveal their deepest secrets one drunken night, their sibling rivalry may never be resolved.

While McDonagh’s premise is solid – because who doesn’t love watching a squabbling, dysfunctional family? – both Valene and Coleman are so thoroughly oafish it’s hard to find any note of humanity whatsoever. Forget likable, these two aren’t even interesting. They play pranks on one another that are both childish and incredibly hurtful. Neither is particularly smart or articulate – even Valene’s manipulative nature is rather dull. McDonagh and director Dana Anderson also don’t seem to comprehend the nature of escalation, as the brothers come to blows with almost no provocation. Sure, hair-trigger tempers exist, but most of the time it takes more than two words to set off even the most violent individual.

Robert Tobin and Dylan Todd star in Lonesome West, AstonRep TheatreMark Tacderas and Dylan Todd star in The Loneseome West, AstonRep Theatre

The Lonesome West also lacks much of an arc: McDonagh’s script is just fight after fight after fight. After a while, it’s like the playwright completely gives up on plot and the audience just waits for one brother to kill the other. The play’s climax is both upsetting and disturbing, but the resolution (what there is of one) is almost nil. What’s more, Anderson’s direction and the production as a whole feel more like an excuse for two men to perform cool stage combat while speaking in Irish brogues.

It’s possible McDonagh was still learning to write plays in 1997 – and which characters to prominently feature. Indeed, a scene between Girleen and Father Welsh is both human and heartbreaking, the best part of the play by far and beautifully acted by both Moore and Tacderas. It’s too bad The Lonesome West didn’t focus on these two, and put its feuding brothers as background buffoons, exactly where they belong.

Rating: ★★½

The Lonesome West continues through November 18th at Raven Theatre West Stage, 6157 N. Clark (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3:30pm.  Tickets are $25 (students & seniors: $15), and are available online through (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 100 minutes without intermission)

Robert Tobin, Phoebe Moore and Mark Tacderas star in The Lonesome West, AstonRep Theatre

Photos by Emily Schwartz 




Phoebe Moore (Girleen), Mark Tacderas (Father Welsh), Robert Tobin (Coleman), Dylan Todd (Valene), Timothy Sullivan (u/s Coleman)

behind the scenes

Dana Anderson (director), Jeremiah Barr (scenic and props design, technical director), Cody Von Ruden (costume design), Samantha Barr (lighting design, production manager), Melanie Thompson (sound design), Claire Yearman (fight choreographer), Carrie Hardin (dialect coach), Lara Caprini (stage manager), Emily Schwartz (photos)

Robert Tobin and Dylan Todd star in The Lonesome West, AstonRep TheatreRobert Tobin, Dylan Todd and Mark Tacderas star in The Lonesome West, AstonRep Theatre


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2018 Reviews, AstonRep Theatre, Lauren Emily Whalen, Martin McDonagh, Raven Theatre West Stage

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.