Gravediggers play the Fort Lewis stage
4th Wall Student Productions presents darkly funny 'A Skull in Connemara'

Tammy, played by Tara Ivy Sheehan, consoles her brother Mairtin, played by Stephen Juhl, during a graveyard scene in Fourth Wall’s production of ‘A Skull in Connemara.’/Photo by Todd Newcomer.

With Halloween this weekend, it’s appropriate to perform a black comedy about murder, grave diggers and grave robbers. To this end, “A Skull in Connemara,” by Fort Lewis College’s Fourth Wall Student Productions, will show Oct. 30 and 31, and Nov. 1, 6-8 at the Fort Lewis College Gallery Theatre.

The story, set in a small Irish village, revolves around stoic grave digger Mick Dowd (Bernard Woisieffer) whose wife was killed in a car accident when he was “drink driving” seven years prior. Through his interaction with gossipy Maryjohnny Rafferty (Kelleen Aragon) and her grandchildren, assistant grave digger Mairtin (Stephen Juhl) and police detective Tammy (Tara Ivy Sheehan), the audience learns that much of the town suspects that Mick killed his wife before the car accident. When he and Mairtin are hired to exhume her body along with others to make room for fresh corpses, they discover that it is missing from its grave, and mayhem ensues.

Woisieffer, also a member of the Act Too Players, portrays an understated Mick, and he pulls off the Irish accent with aplomb. Juhl’s Mairtin is a fabulous foil for Mick as his young and energetic yet hopelessly dimwitted assistant. At one point in the graveyard scene, Mairtin observes a corpse and asks the more experienced Mick, “Where do their things go?” Mick convinces the gullible Mairtin that priests cut off dead people’s private parts and give them to children to feed to their dogs (and that the children eat them in times of famine). Mairtin goes running off to check with the priest as Mick doubles over with laughter.

The performance heats up when Mick and Mairtin, drunk on Irish moonshine, go Gallagher with sledgehammers on skulls of recently extracted corpses. “This is more fun than hamster cookin’!” Mairtin crows. And then, “Is skull crackin’ more fun than wife-into-wall drivin’, Mick?” Mick is upset by the dig, but forgives him “since yer drunk as Jesus.”

Mick Dowd, played by Bernard
Woisieffer, argues with Tara Ivy
Sheehan and Kelleen Aragon prior to
signing a murder confession./Photo by
Todd Newcomer.

Aragon’s performance adds to the play as she portrays the gossip Maryjohnny, an overweight granny who cheats at church bingo and then stops by Mick’s house for a drink and gossip each evening. Sheehan’s Tammy is appropriately suspicious and underhanded as an untalented detective obsessed with getting promoted.

In the scenes in Mick’s house, the characters are enhanced by “shadow” actors who pass between an open hole in the fabric backdrop, shedding light on the deeper emotions of the speakers. For example, if Maryjohnny begins to lecture Mick, her shadow wags a finger in Mick’s direction. But the shadows, which are not part of the original script, are sometimes distracting and aren’t used to confirm Mick’s guilt or innocence in the final moments of the play – a wasted opportunity.

However, there is plenty to enjoy in “A Skull in Connemara.” The script, by playwright Martin McDonagh, interlaces black humor with gothic thriller. Plus, it’s fun to hear Irish accents and colloquialisms, even the Yoda-like sentence structure (“Just conversing are we;” “A mighty fridge it was;” “Like ‘Hill Street Blues’ your job is”).

The play has an intimate feel, since it is performed in the small theater at FLC. As such, audience members might even get the chance to catch a skull fragment to take home as a souvenir of an unusual evening of drama.








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