Bleak life on Irish island has funny side
By Robert Delaney
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The bleak lives of the residents of an island off the western coast of Ireland in the 1930s prove to have their funny aspects in Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” the latest production at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre.
And there is even a flurry of excitement, maybe even hope, when it is learned a American movie crew has arrived in the Aran Islands to film a documentary, “The Man of Aran.”
Directed by Lavinia Hart, who has a great affinity for Irish plays, this 1996 play by McDonagh is given a very fine interpretation by the actors of WSU’s graduate repertory company. The cast worked with dialect coach Michael J. Barnes to get the particular speech of islands right.
Most excited of the islanders is Billy (David Sterritt), who has had to endure being commonly called “Crippled Billy.” The play is rich in characters, and Sterritt and his fellow actors do a great job of portraying them.
There’s the saucy redhead Helen (Megan Dobbertin), her dull-witted brother Bartley (Joshua Blake Rippy), the island’s chief gossip Johnnypateenmike (Brent Griffith), and his alcoholic aged mother Mammy (Danielle Cochrane).
The islanders also include the boatman Babbybobby (Christopher Ellis) who provides the islanders’ only means of escape, the Doctor (Alec Barbour) and Billy’s relatives Kate (Sara Hymes) and Eileen (Lorelei Sturm).
Anyone who has seen one of McDonagh’s other plays, such as the recent production of “A Behanding in Spokane” by the Breathe Art Theatre Company or the earlier Planet Ant production of “The Lonesome West,” will not need much persuasion to see this production.
For those who don’t know McDonagh’s work, he writes darkly funny plays that have proved popular with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Be forewarned, however, that there is plenty of profanity.
Scenic designer Curtis Green, lighting designer Jon Weaver, sound designer Meghan Lynch and costume designer Mary Leyendecker have all contributed mightily to creating the right era and atmosphere for this production.
“The Cripple of Inishmaan” continues in rotating repertory through Feb. 4 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus in Detroit’s Midtown area.
Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Dec. 8, 2011