Not-so Brotherly Love

Ad Hoc to present ‘The Lonesome West’ at TASI in December

Michael Saar, left, plays Valene and Michael Mason plays Coleman in Ad Hoc’s production of “The Lonesome West.” ISSUE photo by Olivia Malick

In small towns, rumors travel fast. Especially when those rumors involve murder. The volatile relationship between two brothers and a priest leads to dysfunction and never-ending arguments, and the outcome is not a happily-ever-after.

Ad Hoc Beaumont will present “The Lonesome West,” by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, set in the town of Leenane in western Ireland, in December. This dark comedy explores how two brothers cope with their anger and the death that surrounds them.

“This play focuses on character relationships,” Michael Saar, who plays one of the brothers, Valene, said. “Ad Hoc is drawn to dark humor. This play is funny, but there is an intensity to it.”

Saar said the play examines compassion in an environment where everyone is looking out for himself.

“It shows how people interact with religion and family,” he said. “We thought it would be interesting to explore that on stage.”

“The Lonesome West” was one of several plays Ad Hoc considered, but one specific event set the course for the show.

“We were originally going to do a big show with about 20 or so people,” Michael Mason, who plays other brother, Coleman, said. “We toyed with the idea because most of the shows we’ve done in the past have been smaller, character-driven shows. And then Hurricane Harvey hit.

“With us questioning the original idea and then having the hurricane, we decided to look for something else.”

Mason said he has wanted to do a McDonagh play with Ad Hoc for a while, and said that the show plays to the group’s strengths as performers.

“I’ve always liked McDonagh’s work, and I think other people enjoy it as well,” he said. “We like to explore dark humor where terrible things are funny, and it’s nice to perform a show that is a little closer to life than maybe a musical would be.”

Brothers Coleman and Valene are constantly arguing with each other and are jobless and lost in their own worlds. Saar said that while portraying someone quite different from himself is a challenge, there are plenty of context clues in the text to understand where Valene is coming from.

“I looked at what my character was trying to achieve,” he said. “This is the third play in the Connemara trilogy, so there’s a lot of information about who these characters are and how they are viewed by the rest of their community, which is definitely helpful when trying to develop a character.”

Mason said that the play should appeal to a younger audience and that the performance is unlike most shows one would see in Beaumont.

“McDonagh liked Quentin Tarantino movies and didn’t like the theater he saw, so he kind of created these dirty, dark plays that he would’ve like to go see — it’s like Tarantino-esque sort of theater,” he said. “I think people will have a good time. It’s a good date night, and I like to tell people that if they don’t like the show, I’ll give them their money back, which hasn’t happened yet.”

The show will take place in The Art Studio’s new addition.

“This is the inaugural event for this building,” Mason said. “We are grateful to work with the Art Studio. We are a small theater company, so we don’t have a big budget, but we’ve been able to build this set right inside this warehouse.

“We want people to walk through the front door and see this half-of-a-house and be transported to another place.”

Jody Reho, who plays the priest, Father Welsh, built a lot of the set himself with a few salvaged pieces from various areas.

“As actors, we like to save money wherever we can,” he said. “We didn’t want it to look like a set. We collaborated and decided what kind of aesthetic we wanted and developed our own shtick. We salvaged the floor from the Art Studio and a lot of the furniture comes from my house.”

Mason said that although preparing the show has been tough, he’s glad that it’s going to finally happen.

“We’re all a little stressed right now,” he said. “We are very excited, though — we’re thankful for the opportunity.”

The play will be shown at The Art Studio, Dec. 1-2, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 8-9, 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 15-16, 7:30 p.m. General admission is $15. For more information, visit Ad Hoc’s Facebook page.

Story by Olivia Malick, ISSUE contributor