Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Cripple of Inishmaan

photo: Keith Pattison

With only half a month left in the year I thought it was safe last week to finalize a list of the best shows I saw in 2008. Then came this superbly realized, thrillingly acted Druid Theatre production of one of Martin McDonagh's earlier plays and said list is obsolete. To those who saw this play a decade ago at the Public, with a mostly American cast misdirected by Jerry Zaks: expect a revelation. Here, as helmed by Gary Hynes, McDonagh's ironic, often bitter comedy plays out with an ensemble whose flawless performances succeed at credibly depicting a community. It's 1934, on the Irish isle of Inishmaan where Billy, a young adult cripple, yearns to escape to the neighboring isle where a Hollywood film is being shot and locals are being cast as extras. The narrative is solid but it's less important than what McDonagh uses it for - the play is a dark comedy about Irish values that finds perverse humor in the everyday cruelties of its characters. The play's funniest line may be one delivered by the town gossip, who lives with his mother and makes no secret of his plan to get her to drink herself to death: "We Irish are the friendliest people in the world".

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