Review: The Lonesome West (Toronto Irish Players)

Funny Lonesome West plays at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto

Just after they bowed, the crowd applauding Gregory Cruikshank, Katherine O’Brien – and whistling at – Stephen Farrell and Ronan P. Bryne, Mr. Bryne indulged us in a running gag; kicking a stove on stage.

That poor stove …

It takes a lot of abuse in The Lonesome West, which runs until March 10th at the Alumnae Theatre. Foremost perhaps: a garish coat of paint – neon orange – and, an obnoxiously large V on one side, marking the appliance as property of Valene, Mr. Bryne’s brother in the play.

The humour was a big relief for me.

Before the show began, all I kept thinking was: Am I going to “get” this?

This is, quite thoroughly, an Irish production of an Irish play, set in a particularly remote bit of Ireland.

Plus – well, to me at least – it seems that the Irish have a gift for wallowing in sadness and self-pity.

Going to The Lonesome West, I was prepared for something for people intimately acquainted with Ireland, either by birth, blood or marriage.

So, I had some trepidation. But, boy, oh boy, was my anxiety misplaced.

Here I was thinking, intimidated really, that the Toronto Irish Players might have chosen something protective of the emerald isle’s touchstones, to the point of utter seriousness. When, in fact, the opposite is true.

The Lonesome West is snortingly funny. Most impressively funny because its playwright, Martin McDonagh, nimbly mocks what are in my mind, some very stereotypical Irish things: the influence – or, is it that burden? – of the Catholic church and the one-up-manship of pain and suffering that’ll be familiar to virtually anyone who’s been to an Irish pub.

And it does so with a plot of the utmost simplicity that concerns two brothers – Valene and Coleman Connor, played by Mr. Farrell, and Mr. Byrne, respectively – a young woman, named Girleen played by Ms. O’Brien, and a priest played by Mr. Cruikshank.

The set by Rodel Manoy had me up stage-side at intermission to take a closer look. Mr. Manoy’s interpretation of the first floor of a West Ireland home, untouched by the Celtic Tiger, has the uncanny appearance of real neglect and decay.

Perhaps not expecting such a physically violent work, Jim Ivers direction had the couple behind me talking in excited tones after the performance. I felt like turning around, just to agree with them.

Overall, a magnificent production well worth attending.


The Lonesome West is playing at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street) until March 10th 2012.
– Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM, and Sunday at 2:00 PM
– Tickets are $20.00, and $18.00 for students and seniors
– Tickets are available at the box office, or by phone – 416 364 4170
– For more information, please go to

3 thoughts on “Review: The Lonesome West (Toronto Irish Players)”

  1. Tayto (not “ta-toes”) is a brand name for potato chips for Godsake. Not reference to the potato. Did you not notice the bag of potato chips throw on the table every time they talked about Tayto’s??
    Do your homework.

    1. Frances,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’ve pulled the reference to “ta-toes”, thank you for pointing out the error.

      I do just want to respond quickly to the homework part of your comment. While I appreciate it can be frustrating when things are misinterpreted, our writers are tasked with providing an experiential description of what they saw, as though they were an average person going to a show. For the most part, when someone is heading out for an evening of theatre, or a movie for that matter, they are unlikely to do a lot of research ahead of time.

      So, while the way it ended up showing itself in the review isn’t necessarily clear cut, I think that perhaps the key message here is just that, for this particular person attending the show (and, I’d wager that means at least a couple others during the run) the reference to a specific brand of crisps not common in Canada was missed, despite the visual cue of a bag of potato chips being thrown on the table every time it was mentioned.

  2. I attended on Sat. 3 March, and the play was hilarious. As far as Tayto/tatoes, although the crisps feature fairly prominently, I could not pick up the brand name whether on the table or floor. By colouration, they looked like small bags of Doritos. So I’d be among the “couple of others”. Cheers!

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