Directed by Kimberly Senior
At Redtwist Theatre, Chicago
Wicked humor and savage truths mark dark Irish comedy
The folks at Redtwist Theatre continue to mount fine shows featuring terrific sets (here by Jack Magaw), expert Irish brogues (dialect coaching by Eva Breneman) and tight staging by Kimberly Senior with an outstanding cast. We are taken back to one of the Aran Islands off the Irish coast at Inishmaan in 1934 as an American film crew shoots “Man of Aran” around Inishmaan. Kate (Jan Ellen Graves) and Eileen (Debra Rodkin) run a little store on the island. Johnnypateenmike (Brian Parry) is the village gossip who barters “news” for eggs. His daily visits relieve the boredom of rural Irish life.
When Johnnypateenmike tells about the arrival of the American movie makers, Helen (Baize Buzan) and her brother Bartley (Patrick C. Whalen) are determined to get Babbybobby (Chris Rickett) to row them ashore to Inishmaan so they can audition for the Yanks. Cripple Billy (Josh Salt) is also determined to leave the island and search for a new adventure as a possible film star. He congers up a plot to motivate Babbybobby to allow him aboard the boat to Inishmaan. Billy is tired of all the verbal abuse and ridicule from the villagers concerning his deformed hand and crippled leg.
This often darkly funny story is filled with vicious drama, extreme truths with doses of poignant humanity and violent reactions. We see the realistic side of the ignorant rural Irish. McDonagh’s plays are devoid of the idealistic rustic sentimentality often associated with Irish drama. The Cripple of Inishmaan contains several surprising turns among twists of fate. The work contains mythic Irish fatalism as it uses lyrical language to convey cruel yet heartwarming events. McDonagh blends humor with brutality to tell his honest slice-of-life Irish stories.
The characters here are colorful, eccentric and so Irish. From Mammy (Kathleen Ruhl) Johnnypateenmike’s 90 year old drunken mother – to Kate who talks to a stone -to cruel Helen who enjoys breaking eggs over her brother’s head -to Billy who has to endure the savage jokes and nasty name calling–all are struggling to escape the boredom of rural life. Josh Salt’s empathetic Cripple Billy and Brian Parry’s hilarious turn as the town gossip are the featured performances among the fine ensemble work contained here.
It is a pleasure to see a major work being so well staged and performed as The Cripple of Inishmaan is at Redtwist Theatre. They continue to mount outstanding works at their intimate Rogers Park theatre. No wonder that their last eight shows have been Jeff Recommended.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: May 13, 2012
For more info checkout The Cripple of Inishmaan page at theatreinchicago.com
At Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, call 773-728-7529, www.redtwist.org, tickets $25 – $27 -$30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through June 24, 2012