Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The Cripple of InishmaanAntaeus Theatre Company
Also see Bill's review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
In 1934 Ireland, on the Aran Island of Inishmaan, the filming of a documentary on a neighboring island is the biggest thing that's happened in years. Local gossip "newsman" Johnnypateenmike (Stephen Caffrey)used to delivering lesser fare, such as a report of a goose biting a cat's tailis happily informing storekeeper sisters Kate (Rhonda Aldrich) and Eileen (Julia Fletcher) when their foster son Billy (Ian Littleworth) shows up and hears the news. Taunted his whole life for being a "cripple," Billy desperately wants to go to the filming and maybe change his life. When he finds that the young woman he has a hopeless crush on, Helen (Emily Goss), and her brother Bartley (Sebastian Fernandez) are being rowed to the other island by Babbybobby (John Bobek), he determines that he must go as well.
Caffrey is marvelous in a detailed and energetic comedic performance as Johnnypateenmike, perhaps the best thing I've seen him do in a couple of decades of great acting. Aldrich and Fletcher do terrific, funny work as Kate and Eileen, so comfortable in their rapport that the idea of them as sisters works wonderfully well. Bobek is strong as the softhearted but violent Babbybobby, and Fernandez is deftly amusing as the "sweetie"-obsessed Bartley. Littleworth is fine as Billy, but his performance doesn't quite convey the history of Billy's suffering and seems more polite than desperate. Goss, so impressive in last year's Forever Bound, is clearly a very talented actress, but she doesn't seem to completely connect with the gleefully bullying Helen, although this may change as the run continues.
Director Steven Robman gets some inspired performances from his cast, but the pacing lags a bit at times and the Irish accents are somewhat variable. McDonagh's characterizations are still sharp, however, and the brilliant viciousness of the dialogue still shines, as in a moment when one of the "aunts" is trying to say something nice: "Billy has a sweet face, if you ignore the rest of him."
The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark little gem of a play, and if this production isn't perfect, it's still a nasty, mean-spirited delight.
The Cripple of Inishmaan, through March 11, 2019, at Antaeus Theatre Company, Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Broadway, Glendale CA. Tickets and info are available at www.Antaeus.org.
Playwright: Martin McDonagh