LIVE THEATRE REVIEW — The Cripple of Inishmaan

Written by Martin McDonagh and directed by Mitchell Cushman, Studio Theatre’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is intricate and ambitious in both its design and dialogue. A looming backdrop of rocky cliffs is beset by the sea, confining the main action of the play to a compact set in center stage. Scene transitions are made with live fiddle and the Bodhran drum, giving the feeling of being transported to Ireland.

The play centers on Billy, a crippled young man who was orphaned as a child and taken in by his two aunties. Natascha Girgis and Betty Moulton are a seamless duo of love, humour, and near-telepathic dialogue that joins them in a rhythmic back and forth as they incessantly worry out loud. Girgis provides some of the most adept turns of delivery and is convincing as the tough-love aunt of Billy.

The comedic aspects of McDonagh’s writing rely on the near-campy repetition of certain refrains performed by different characters in varying situations. The troubled national confidence of the characters provides inadvertently self-effacing humour that appears when trying too hard to be proud. These lighter moments pepper through a group of characters that range from cruel to loony. Sarah Sharkey is delightful as the vicious Helen because she gives tremendous vehemence to each wayward “feck” that comes out of her mouth.

The mature actors carry the production with their believable accents and commitment to the script. There are moments when the staging confuses the audience, as this production of the tragicomedy chooses to focus heavily on its comedic dialogue rather than Billy’s inner turmoil and the plight of Ireland. This light-hearted approach diminishes some of the play’s resonance, as the violence and tragedy feels abruptly cut off, leaving one wondering about Billy’s motivations, suffering, and rash decisions.

Four out of Five Stars

The Cripple of Inishmaan runs at the Timms’ theatre until May 28th.


more in Theatre Review     |     posted May 24th, 2011 at 3:45pm     

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