Boise Contemporary Theater Has a Live One With A Skull in Connemara 

  • Boise Contemporary Theater

In Martin McDonagh's A Skull in Connemara, Boise Contemporary Theater has found a wicked comedy sure to delight audiences.

Mick Dowd, played to grubby perfection by Arthur Glen Hughes, exhumes bodies from the cemetery in Connemara, Ireland, in order to make room for fresh corpses each fall. When exhumation season begins early and Dowd is assigned to dig up the section of the cemetery interring his wife, rumors swirl afresh over the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.

Connemara, like much of McDonagh's work, is pretty grim, but as with his notable films and plays like In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and The Pillow Man, it shines with morally ambiguous wise men, village idiots and ambitious fools.

Dowd begins the play as a wizened, gruff geezer, but he's unpredictable, seething with inner torment. His companions include MaryJohnny Rafferty (Peggy Cosgrave), a nosey hypocrite with a taste for liquor; the troublemaking twit Mairtin Hanlon (Cameron Needham); and his brother, the oblivious police officer Thomas Hanlon (Nicholas Paul Garcia).

Cosgrave plays Rafferty like a wart, letting her companions resign themselves to her rather than asserting herself as a likable or active character. Rafferty's passive ugliness is matched by her nephews, the Hanlons. Mairtin seeks out trouble and revels in his own idiocy. Needham plays him with pitch-perfect youthful indiscretion and the best Russian accent in a play set in Ireland. Audiences will find Garcia's Thomas Hanlon officious, reedy and sleazy right from the get-go.

The action switches between Dowd's home and the graveyard, both of which have been ingeniously brought to life by BCT Scenic Designer Michael Baltzell and artist Angi Grow. Dowd's home has an easy simplicity that allows intrigue to hide in plain sight, but in the graveyard, with its multiple levels, grave pits and fences, just plain hides intrigue.

The real Connemara is famous for its verde antique marble and megalithic tombs. The region's long history of resource (and people) exploitation bleeds into the play's creepy feel. Director Matthew Cameron Clark leaned into that gothic vibe, but he scored big by letting his characters cast longer, deeper shadows than the world in which they're set.
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