About the Playwright- Martin McDonagh

I suppose I walk that line between comedy and cruelty because I think one illuminates the other. We’re all cruel, aren’t we? We are all extreme in one way or another at times and that’s what drama, since the Greeks, has dealt with.
— Martin McDonagh
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Martin McDonagh is a British-Irish screenwriter, director, and one of the most acclaimed playwrights of our time whose body of work spans over two decades.  As a playwright he is celebrated for his absurdist black humor and incendiary spirit that challenges the modern theatre aesthetic. His sensational writing has won him numerous notable awards including three Laurence Olivier Awards, and one Drama Desk Award amongst several Tony nominations.  He has widely been described as the first dramatist since Shakespeare to have four works professionally produced on the London stage in a single season.

Bursting onto the theatre scene in the early 90s McDonagh, in a very short period of time, established himself as one of the most provocative playwrights of our time. In 1996, McDonagh won both the Evening Standard Theatre Award for most promising playwright for his first work ever produced The Beauty Queen of Leenane and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for most promising playwright. Separated into two trilogies, McDonagh's first six plays, all of which are fueled by their mockery of conventional depictions of Irish life, are located in and around County Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first, The Leenane Trilogy, is set in a small village on the west coast of Ireland, and consists of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, and The Lonesome West . His second The Aran Islands Trilogy is set off the coast of County Galway, and consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Banshees of Inisheer.  

McDonagh’s plays are traditional in structure yet distinctly modern in their darkly comedic style taking on an overtly ferocious tone.  He constructs worlds populated by misfits, with his main characters setting the mood and melody for each piece. Sculpted out of the distorted values shaped by their small-town existence these characters typically portray those on the fringes of society, most of them embracing absurdly violent natures or criminal tendencies.  These damaged beings create an amoral insubordinate environment, not the standard “slice of life” painted by many other writers, highlighting the mangled humor of loneliness and isolation.

 Rob August* as Mad Padraic in San Jose Stage Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s   The     Lieutenant     of Inishmore     *Actors Equity Association Member

Rob August* as Mad Padraic in San Jose Stage Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore

*Actors Equity Association Member

With plots centered around individuals driven by emotional turmoil his use of vernacular and dialogue with sharp witty humor, which epitomizes his specific brand of black comedy, aids in thrusting the action of his storylines forward. A master of tension, McDonagh weaves a volatile world for his characters by pitting the most vulnerable of familial relationships against one another through his special brand of idiom.  Written with biting tongues his characters spew insults, obscenities, and verbal assaults which provide his plays their distinct cadence and darkly comedic edge while simultaneously heightening their potential to erupt in violence.

His ability to seamlessly blend tragedy with comedy through meticulously-plotted scripts has propelled his career.  Building upon his successes from his Irish trilogies his first non-Irish play, The Pillowman, premiered on Broadway in 2005 earning multiple Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations.  A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play set in the United States, premiering on Broadway in March 2010. Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth. The Hangmen, his latest work, hit London’s West End to critical acclaim in 2015 and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. His next project will debut at the Bridge Theatre in London in October and has a title reminiscent of his entire lexicon: A Very Very Very Dark Matter.

With his Tarantino style of writing he has easily bridged the gap between Broadway and Hollywood.   Much like his plays McDonagh’s films center around these dangerously flawed characters that live on the extremes of emotions and society.  His film Seven Psychopaths gained him much critical and commercial acclaim and his 2005 live action short Six Shooter earned him his first Academy Award.  He has been nominated for three other Academy Awards including Best Screenplay for his films In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Film and Best Original Screenplay.

by Clinton Williams | Media & Communications Director -San Jose Stage

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Sept 26 - Oct 21