The list of required props for Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh’s black comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) indicates just what murderous mayhem awaits its audience: “Dead black cat; Dead ginger cat; 3 guns; Wooden cross; Dismembered corpses.”
By the end of Inishmore, both the stage and the actors are drenched in sanguinary slaughter. Yet the play is a comedy – absurd, hilarious, and aimed at stripping away the glory from Ireland’s senseless sectarian violence.
In a much-acclaimed recent production of Inishmore by Northern Virginia’s Signature Theatre, Matthew McGloin ’05, theatre, garnered critical raves for his performance as Davey – a hapless lad trapped in a bloodbath set off by the death of a revolutionary sociopath’s beloved cat. In the course of the play’s events, Davey is bullied, tied up, shot (twice) and shorn of his long red locks. (The latter event horrifies him most of all.)
“He’s such an innocent character,” says McGloin. “He’s the one who is really affected by the things that happen to him.”
Actors may be tempted to play Davey as a village idiot-in-training, but McGloin chose a different path – portraying a young man so sensitive and single-minded that he is perpetually startled by any occurrence, mundane or malevolent.
McGloin gives credit to his director, Jeremy Skidmore, for locating Davey in a fog of daft dizziness.
“It’s too easy,” he says. “It’s pandering to the seemingly obvious on the page. That he is stupid. I think he’s just very invested at one thing at one moment in time, so invested that he misses things that might be picked up by other people. But he also picks up things that other people don’t pick up on.”
Inishmore held other challenges for McGloin and the rest of the cast. The play stretches the boundaries of realistic stage violence to their furthest limits, including multiple gunshots, animals (live and dead), body parts, and buckets of blood.
“The whole gore aspect was difficult at first,” McGloin says. “It was even physically uncomfortable, and would take me out of the scene.”
The blood, he adds, was particularly difficult to navigate. “If it’s too thin, it doesn’t feel right,” McGloin says. “If it’s too thick, you feel covered in Jello.”
McGloin has won a number of professional roles since graduating summa cum laude in 2005, including appearances at the Kennedy Center, the Folger Theater, Synetic Theatre and the Virginia Shakespeare Festival.
“I loved the Theater Department,” McGloin says. “It was the first time I’d received formal training. It was a birth into the world of theater and finding out what it’s like….Theater socialization is its own weird thing, because you work and play with the same people. And then it ends. And you go off and do it again. But your work is your play.”
McGloin recalls that his first acting role at UMBC was in a March 2002 production of the Christopher Durang play, The Baby with the Bathwater. But he says that the range of productions in which he appeared as a student – including productions of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – provided a challenging range of genre for a young actor.
“Surrealism, realism, absurdism, puppetry and Shakespeare,” says McGloin. “That’s a pretty good gamut as far as I’m concerned.”
With Inishmore now a bloody memory, McGloin is now appearing at the Kennedy Center in a much cheerier production: Unleashed: The Secret Lives of White House Pets.
“I play a Chihuahua,” says McGloin with a grin.