A smart and sensitive young man strives for love and acceptance (as well as freedom) from his backwards and narrow-minded 1930s society in The Cripple of Inishmaan, a period play by Martin McDonagh.
From the press notes:
Inspired by the real-life filming of the documentary Man of Aran, Olivier Award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy is set on the small Aran Island community of Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) off the Western Coast of Ireland in 1934, where the inhabitants are excited to learn of a Hollywood film crew’s arrival in neighboring Inishmore (Inis Mór) to make a documentary about life on the islands.
“Cripple” Billy Claven, eager to escape the gossip, poverty and boredom of Inishmaan, vies for a part in the film, and to everyone’s surprise, the orphan and outcast gets his chance… or so some believe.
Martin McDonagh—British-born but of Irish descent—is a playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director renowned for the dark tone of his comedy/dramas that often employ the background setting of Ireland, where he spent most of his summer breaks. His movies, however, are not anchored by his Irish heritage, and therefore feel more expansive and global in their themes and concerns.
As always, Antaeus Theatre Company presents a fully partner-cast production, presenting two equally excellent but very different sets of actors at alternating performances.
The following is a review of The “Fripple Frapples” cast:
Anne Gee Byrd, JD Cullum, Seamus Dever, Julia Fletcher, Matthew Grondin, Joey Millin, Phil Proctor, Kitty Swink, and Abby Wilde.
McDonagh’s play is, for the most part, populated with clichéd, two-dimensional characters, but thanks to Steven Robman’s excellent direction, his superb cast do the best they can with this flawed but entertaining tragi-comedy. Matthew Grondin gives an endearing and sensitive performance as Billy, the eponymous central character which, unsurprisingly, is the most well-defined of them all. Orphaned and crippled since birth, his complicated backstory provides a through line for audiences to track, and one which ultimately offers a bittersweet payoff.
JD Cullum is excellent as the colorful local gossipmonger, Johnnypateenmike, who trades “three bits of news” to pay for his groceries. It’s a treat to see Cullum mine as much comedy from the role as possible, hilariously bouncing on stage at unexpected moments. His character (as well as his role in Billy’s backstory) is also more complex and substantial. (Shout out the the props department—Erin Walley—for making do with fake Serrano hams instead of legs of lamb!) Anne Gee Byrd is superb as Johnnypateenmike’s Mammy O’Dougal, Johnny’s alcoholic 90-year-old mother, an incorrigible tippler who is trying to drink herself dead. There a genuine delight in watching Byrd gleefully drop casual insults and sly digs relating to past history.
Then there are the two spinster shopkeepers who adopted Billy when he was young (for reasons that aren’t fully revealed until the end). Kitty Swink (as the odd, skinny one) and Julia Fletcher (as the plump one) give great performances as the pair of caricatures who each find a curious and amusing way to manage their fretting about Billy. Abby Wilde does a good job playing Helen, a role that is essentially one-note (abusive) and lacks any redeeming qualities.
The Irish accents unfortunately are all over the place, but each of the cast members seems to settle into a regional accent that works for them.
It’s noteworthy that not one character exhibits a single physical expression of affection towards another, yet there are several instances of abuse and cruelty. An accurate reflection of the brutality of life on a remote island, I suppose…
John Iacovelli has designed an authentic-looking and versatile set that brilliantly serves the interior and exterior scenes. Slides and projections provided by Kaitlyn Pierce and Jason H. Thompson are highly effective in setting and illustrating the play’s obscure location.
The Cripple of Inishmaan is only running for a couple more weeks (closes Monday, March 11) and is definitely worth seeing.
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Written by Martin McDonagh
Directed by Steven Robman
Starring: Rhonda Aldrich, John Allee, John Bobek, Anne Gee Byrd, Stephen Caffrey, JD Cullum, Seamus Dever, Sebastian Fernandez, Julia Fletcher, Emily Goss, Mary-Pat Green, Matthew Grondin, Ian Littleworth, Anne McNaughton, Joey Millin, Philip Proctor, Kitty Swink, Abby Wilde.
Presented by Antaeus Theatre Company.
Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205
(between N. Brand Blvd. and Artsakh Ave.)
Jan. 24 – March 11, 2019
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 1, 8, 15, 22; March 1, 8
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23; March 2, 9
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: Feb. 3, 10, 17, 24; March 3, 10
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25; March 4, 11
Running time: Approximately 2 hours & 15 minutes, with a 10-minute intermission.
(818) 506-1983 or www.Antaeus.org
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• Twitter: @AntaeusTheatre
• All performances (reserved seating): $35.00
First 90 minutes free, then $2 per hour in Glendale Marketplace garage located at 120 Artsakh Ave. (between Broadway and Harvard)