April 13-15 & 20-11, 2006
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by David Fox
Weber Theatre, Watson Fine Arts
Setting: The Island of Inishmaan off the West Coast of Ireland, 1934
|Mario Cesar Suarez
|Fiddle & Composer/Arranger
|Bodhran & Wooden Flute
|Dialect/Vocal/Movement & Stage Combat Coach
|Jane Alois Stein
|Assistant Scene Designer/Scenic Artist
|Erin Meghan Donnelly ’07
|Ari Chiesa ’06
|Assistant Lighting Designers
|Technical Director/Sound Designer
|Sarah Joy ’08
|Assistant Stage Manager/Properties Manager
|Sarah Baline ’08
|Light Board Operator
|Amy Hopkinson ’09
|Sound Board Operator
|Nicole Beal ’08
|Caroline Rousseau ’06
|Nina Libert ’10
|Costume Shop Manager
|Jessica Ping De Paiva
|Carpenters/Scene Shop Hands
T. J. Sponzo
About twenty years ago, on a gray and chilly summer morning, my wife and I stepped off a small motorboat onto an isle called Inishmaan. The trip over from Ireland’s west coast had been uncomfortably choppy, and the scene that greeted us was even more unsettling: stone walls, stone piles, stone-strewn fields, stone cliffs, stone houses and a whine of a wind that cut to the marrow. My wife, her eyes filling with tears at the startling starkness of the plae, would later refer to the setting as “the loneliest place on the face of the Earth.”
The wind remained a constant companion all through that day and into the misty night, when we sat in the pub on the fringes of a less-than-welcoming circle of locals who played traditional Irish music. The Wind would awake us the next morning and be our escort as we embarked again on turbulent seas for the more inviting landscapes of Clare and Kerry.
Just as we were about to board our boat, a females peddler and several children, all carrying homemade knitted goods, abruptly jumped into out path and implored us to view their wares. The purchase of a sweater elicited squeals of glee from the youngsters and subdued but heartfelt thanks from the older woman.
Hard, cold, barren, and impoverished: these were my first and only impressions of Inishmaan. No doubt there are more appealing days on this small island, and for all I know, conditions may have changes significantly in the two decades since my visit, but when I first read the Martin McDonagh play you will experience this evening, my mind raced back to those brief hours in the Arans, and the world and people the writer has created struck a chord of truth.
Set in 1934, The Cripple of Inishmaan depicts the kind of solitude and isolation that can indeed disturb the psyche and drive individuals to peculiar extremes. The characters in McDonagh’s play sound and behave as if they have been literally lifted and sculpted from the rocky outcropping that is their home. They flaunt their jagged edges with defiance and indulge in an often rude and rough-hewn honesty. We are at once shocked and entertained by their flagrant incorrectness, by their emotional openness and direct expression. For me, they represent a new and important voice, a new Ireland: less lyrical, far less warm and fuzzy, a refreshing departure from the quaint leprechaun-ish stereotypes cultivated by Hollywood and others. They are still a part of the proud Irish storytelling tradition, and humor is still a saving grace, but it is mixed with a distinctly modern cynicism. Not everything on the Emerald Isle is green and golden.
The great comic performer Lily Tomlin once observed that “in private, we’re all misfits.” In Inishmaan, McDonagh has furnished us with a group of extraordinary “misfits”—or “cripples” if you prefer—each of them coping with their disabilities—physical of otherwise—as best they can. Poor and marginalized in every sense of the word, they shuffle onward and speak, I think, to the “misfit” that resides in all of us. And on a grander scale, against the backdrop of sea and sky, activity on this speck of stony ground in the Atlantic becomes a metaphor for the time in which we live, a microcosm which displays all of our cruelty and violence, our capacity for a flicker of compassion, all of life’s ironic twists and turns, and our never-ending need to belong to something beyond ourselves.
March 17, 2006
- Theatre & Dance