This Sunday night I went to the Power Center (my favorite campus venue) to see the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company production of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan. It was crazy funny! We laughed so hard at the dry Irish humor. The actors were so talented. No matter how much we laughed or what crazy things they did on stage, not a one of them ever broke character. And they did some pretty ridiculous things, including breaking eggs on heads, being incredibly boring to the point of laughter, and beating on each other.
The play is set on the small island of Inishmaan in 1934. There is nothing of interest happening on the island, so the people are forced to consider things such as sheep being born without ears to be interesting. Also in this category of things that should be reported; Cripple Billy is staring at cows again, a goose bit a cat, the egg man’s eggs didn’t lay today, and, what’s this? A team of Hollywood moviemakers are on the next island filming a movie? This really is big news! In fact, it’s the biggest news that the town gossip/self-proclaimed news carrier John Patine Mike has ever had. So big that a group of townspeople are sailing over to the island to see the filming and hopefully get a chance at acting in it. Billy Claven, called Cripple Billy by most on account of his severe deformities, is one interested in going. After winning the heart of the boatman with a doctor’s note reporting his eminent death, he sails with the group. Fortune smiles on him and Billy go’s to America for the chance of starring in a film about a cripple in Ireland. What a chance!
Throughout the production, constant jokes, insults, and egg throwing keeps the audience laughing and saying “I can’t believe they just said that!” Constantly people praise their homeland with the phrase “Ireland must not be such a bad place if dentists/Frenchmen/colored fellas/earless sheep/Americans want to come here.” The younger brother of the love interest, Helen McCormick, constantly talks of sweeties from America and his obsession with telescopes. Helen chucks eggs, swears like a sailor, and is the village slut that no one knows about (in order to maintain the name of the actual one and to avoid competition). The aunts that adopted Billy both have their quirks. One eats the sweets of their shop when stressed, the other talks to rocks when she’s worried. John Patine Mike has tried and failed to kill his mother for 65 years by giving her constant alcohol. There is so much comedy and brilliant writing in this production that it’s hard not to laugh, even when the setting makes the word “Cripple” a joke. You sort of feel guilty laughing when the characters, even his loving aunts, make fun of Billy’s disabilities. But then you remember the setting and realize it is realistic; what would have actually happened, and it’s okay to laugh.
The play was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I would thoroughly enjoy it if the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company returned to the Power Center in the future. It takes an open mind and a taste for dry humor to understand the comedy of this play. It also takes a sensitive character to understand the sadness, emotion, and tragic life that Cripple Billy leads. I would strongly advise going to plays like this. Everyone can learn and laugh a little from such a production and I am very happy to have attended.
This is Danny Fob: Artist and Art Reviewer