Theater debut comes with disclaimer

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The revival of community theater in Beaufort County is starting with a bang — actually, more than a few of them.

“The Lieutenant of Inishmore” opens tonight at Arts of the Pamlico’s Turnage Theatre. It’s a comedy, but it’s a dark comedy filled with gunfire, bloodshed and strong language, and is intended for mature audiences only — a fact of which AOP Executive Director Joey Toler wants theatergoers to be aware.

“First of all, heed the disclaimers. There are literally gallons of blood used for each performance. This show is not for the squeamish,” Toler said.

The play is set in 1993 Ireland during the first days of the Northern Ireland peace process. It centers on revenge — that of Irish National Liberation Army man Mad Padraic against the culprits who murdered his pet cat, Wee Thomas.

Part of that revenge involves “lots of blood-soaked carnage that some might find disturbing, but it’s all in good fun,” the disclaimer reads.

The show is not just about blood and guts, however. When “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” premiered in 2006, it won several significant awards: the Alfréd Radok Award for Best Play and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, and playwright Martin McDonaugh won the Obie Award for Playwriting,

Toler said when “The Lieutenant of Inishmore’s” director, also AOP’s technical director, Stuart Lannon, approached him about doing the play as a first foray into a community theater revival, he sat down and read the script. Lannon, who has a theater degree from East Carolina University, had been advocating for a run of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” since he was first hired as the Turnage tech.

“While it gave me a little bit of pause, I knew it was something that Stuart was passionate about, so we pulled the trigger — no pun intended,” Toler said. “I know we could have done a show more mainstream like an ‘Our Town’ or a Neil Simon romp, but it makes such a difference when the director has an affinity for the project. And besides, theatre should be challenging and riveting, and this show certainly is that. Plus, I don’t underestimate the audience to be entertained by something different.”

By way of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” and other plays, Toler said AOP is creating space for community theater company, one that will operate as an arts organization with its own leadership and mission independent of, but supported by, AOP.

“Of course AOP would offer guidance and administrative support, but quality leadership is always the key. It takes more than a group of people who want to ‘put on a show,’ and I think we have that in our community,” Toler said. “Also, we are always looking for more community-driven programming, and community theater fills that role.”

“The Lieutenant of Inishmore” opens Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Turnage Theatre, with 8 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are $20 general admission, $10 for students with ID, and are available in advance by phone, 252-946-2504, or at the door, which opens at 6:30 p.m. each night. The Turnage Theatre is located at 150 W. Main St., Washington.