The Cripple of Inishmaan

Phoenix Theatre Indianapolis to March 1

By: - Feb 10, 2015

When I first saw the Phoenix Theatre’s production of "The Lieutenant of Inishmore" in 2008 I loved the unique feel of the Irish black comedy. The theatre’s current show “The Cripple of Inishmaan” is by the same playwright, Martin McDonagh, and has a similar tone. Set on the Aran Islands in 1934, we see the chaos caused when a Hollywood director visits to make a film.

There’s a cruelty in small towns. Everyone knows everyone else’s business. They’ve all grown up together, so there’s a comfort level that tends to ignore privacy. No one flinches in calling someone a degrading nickname or referring to an embarrassing moment in their past, because it’s all common knowledge. It’s that very familiarity that can be so claustrophobic to residents. Nathan Robbins is our title character, Cripple Billy, and he feels more suffocated than anyone.

Each member of the excellent cast adds their own eccentric layer to the rich fabric of the community. Ryan O’Shea is the brash Helen with no filter and a penchant for smashing eggs. Deb Sargent (Kate) and Gayle Steigerwald (Eileen) are Billy’s caring but stifling aunts. Johnnypateenmike, played by Rob Johansen, is the ultimate nosy neighbor who trades town gossip for a bit of food or drink. Paul Collier Hansen, Gigi Jennewein, Michael Hosp, and Tyler Ostrander round out the cast with their distinct characters. They all have the best of intentions, but are often oblivious to the impact they have on those around them. 

The dialogue is beautifully written. Each joke is cyclical, coming up again and again throughout the course of the play. You quickly recognize the patterns that these people have lived for their whole lives. The second half loses its momentum a bit, but it’s still entertaining. It manages to capture both the humor and heartbreak that bleed into everyday life on the rocky island. 

To echo the thoughts of the people of Inishmaan, Ireland mustn’t be such a bad place if we all want to see a play set there.

The theater is located at 749 N. Park Ave., Indianapolis, just off Massachusetts Ave.

Performances: The show runs on the Livia and Steve Russell Stage until March 1st and offers four performances a week. Thursdays begin at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturdays begin at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets: To purchase tickets, call (317) 635-7529 or visit Prices range from $20 to $33. The play has one intermission.

Photos courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre.

Reposted courtesy of Melissa Hall and Stage Write.