McDonagh's splatter-comedy is certainly edgier and messier than any other Taper show I can recall in recent memory, though its uniformly dim-bulb characters and willingness to go for the most obvious and cheap, albeit inordinately grisly, jokes make this a decidedly empty...for lack of a better term, "Jacobean COMEDY." The cast is certainly committed and fearless and kudos to the crew who have to clean up after every performance. I suspect you've got a show here that will skew younger and be very popular with the hip horror-comedy crowd, of which I'm normally a proponent (nobody loves as good cat brains dribble more than me). I guess I just hoped there'd be a moment when McDonagh would opt for something just a little more resonant or provocative rather than just settling for a compendium of dumb -- often VERY dumb -- jokes that would be considered racist in their treatment of its characters who are, to a man and woman here, unrepentantly dim. And to what end? So they can serve as unwitting pawns in a theatrical exploration of the comic possibilities of torture, dismemberment, psycho-pathology and splatter-core.
If younger audiences are drawn by the specter of Chris Pine having a jolly good time chewing up the scenery, I suspect the amoral Tarantino crowd will have a field day with this show. But if one is tempted to think about what it all amounts to after the fact, one begins to suspect it's plenty of sound, blood, guts and fury signifying not much.
For all the rumination about how "important" and intellectually challenging the Taper's previous production, "Bengal Tiger" might or might not have been, this is the antithesis: bloody stupid fun that seems hell bent on proving the Irish underbelly is beyond both hope and redemption. Do I buy that? No more than I buy the moral vacuum at the heart of Tarantino's cinematic entertainments for hedonistic hipsters, which is what McDonagh seems intent to emulate. Afterwards, I couldn't help asking myself why the comic grotesqueries of Tracy Letts' equally violent "Bug" and "Killer Joe" seem so much more theatrically satisfying. The reason I came up with is that Letts (at least in those two early -- and vastly superior to his ponderous later -- plays) didn't just settle for cheap laughs, loud guns and buckets of blood. The behavior of his characters found resonances in our greater cultural dilemmas. By contrast, McDonagh seems content to wallow around in this odd blending of Neanderthal sentimentality and savagery that settles for one dumb (and only occasionally funny) joke after another.
Well-performed, stylishly produced theatrical junk food is still, when the stage blood has all been mopped up, nutritionally empty. So, in the end, for all its messy bravado, this is just another adamantly shallow "entertainment" that encourages little or no substantive food for thought...