Far away on the island of Inishmaan (which is an island off the coast of Ireland), lives ‘Cripple’ Billy Claven. He is the brunt of everyone’s jokes, but contrary to what everyone believes, the audience comes to see that there is far more to Cripple Billy than just an imperfect body.
UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts presented ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ on April 21, 22, 27 and 29 at Winifred Smith Hall.
‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ by Martin McDonagh and directed Keith Fowler is set in Inishmaan in 1934. The basic plot of the story is about director Robert Flaherty, who comes to the islands off the coast of Ireland to film his movie ‘Man of Aran,’ and Cripple Billy, who yearns to be in the film. While the audience is transported into the world of Cripple Billy, we come to learn everything about him, such as his desire to be loved by Helen McCormick and the darker thoughts that seem to plague him.
The audience also comes to know the different people in Cripple Billy’s life. For example, Eileen Osbourne, played by Karen Jean Olds and her sister Kate Osbourne, played by Andrea Caban, are the two women who raised Cripple Billy after his parents drowned themselves. Olds and Caban have wonderful chemistry together as they portray the cute but crazy Osbourne sisters.
Unfortunately, the Osbournes aren’t nearly as crazy as the other characters on Inishmaan. For example, Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal, played by Mark Bedard, is the crazy town gossip who will stop at nothing to find out everyone’s business. His persistence is also seen when he provides a steady supply of liquor to his mother, Mammy O’Dougal, played by Kaitlyn Robrock, hoping that she will drink herself to death one day.
Robrock is a true comic actor as she plays this crazy old lady; the audience couldn’t stop laughing in their seats.
Jennifer Evans also does a strangely good job at portraying Helen McCormick, Cripple Billy’s love interest. Helen is violent, rude and extremely cruel, especially to Cripple Billy and her brother Barley McCormick, played by Max Smythe. Evans is relentless at playing Helen, whom the audience just loves to hate.
The last character who causes Cripple Billy pain is Babbybobby Bennett, played by Jason Vande Brake, who is haunted by his wife’s death from tuberculosis. Babbybobby unleashes his inner character when he ends up beating Cripple Billy for tricking him into thinking that Cripple Billy was also dying from tuberculosis.
Just as Cripple Billy tricks people into thinking that he is going to die, McDonagh is constantly teasing the audience with Cripple Billy’s death. And in turn, McDonagh is constantly toying with the boundaries of comedy and tragedy. While you can’t stop laughing during this play, the jokes that provoke your laughter are dark and sordid. After thinking about the jokes, you realize it wasn’t funny at all, but rather mean.
In my long experience of going to UCI productions, I have never been quite satisfied with the actors’ foreign accents until I saw this play. Everyone had successfully achieved their Irish accents to the point that I started wondering if they were all from Ireland.
The stage design was as impressive as the actors. The set was simple with a large jagged rock and a small platform set which transformed itself into different locations, such as the Osbornes’ store and Mammy O’Dougal’s bedroom. Even though the set was simplistic, it certainly transported you into Cripple Billy’s world.
All in all, ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ was a delightfully funny play with a sad ending, where death got the last laugh.