Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rich humor highlights 'The Cripple of Inishmann'


ORLANDO — Wickedly funny Irish storytelling was presented with loveable charm for the Central Florida premiere of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” by Martin McDonagh presented by Valencia College Theater. This dark and delightful play, which is currently on Broadway and nominated for six Tony Awards, features the tale of a young lad trying to make his dreams come true despite having a life full of adversity. 

“It’s awful, and I say that with the best of intentions,” said John DiDonna, the play’s director and Valencia College theater department chair. “It’s meant to be awful, these people are every relative that we despise having at Thanksgiving dinner, but yet we love dearly.” 

This play takes place in 1934 on a small rural island off the west coast of Ireland, where everyone knows one another and equally share their uneventful lives. Most days go by with little action, until word gets around that filmmakers from Hollywood are coming to shoot a major motion picture on a neighboring island, which sparks the interest of some of the townsfolk including the play’s troubled protagonist. 

This young handicapped boy named Billy Claven is loveable and ambitious, though he has every reason to be bitter in life. He was born sick and seemingly abandoned by his parents as a baby, and has grown to become the island’s outcast because of his physical differences. Though he is loved by his adopted aunts whom he isn't related, he is also constantly belittled and dismissed by the other islanders who refer to him as “Cripple Billy.” 

“It’s really dark but that’s what makes it so awesome,” said Sam Corrie, who portrays Claven. “It’s a comedy, but there’s so many serious moments that you feel sorry for the characters.” Corrie does an excellent job playing this challenging and complex role that requires him to show Claven’s physical abnormalities in conjunction with his keen mind and warm heart. 

Another key role in this production is the town gossip named JohnnyPateenMike, who commands the stage with a driving comic force thanks to the passionate performance of Tommy Liles. “I try to just imagine a complete and total busybody who is more concerned about being able to gossip than anybodies feelings at all,” said Liles. JohnnyPateenMike becomes a central character due to his constant meddling and uproarious interactions with his “drunken mammy,” who is wonderfully played by Kathleen Lindsey-Moulds. 

Two of Claven’s closest friends on the island are bickering siblings that couldn't be more different. Helen McCormick is a beautiful young lady who is rude and crude, with a foul mouth that doesn't quit, and her brother Bartley is sweet, shy and willfully unashamed about sharing his passions in life with others.

 Valencia theater student Phillip Edwards, who plays Bartley, gives a phenomenal comic performance for this production. When asked about his motivation for this character Edwards said “I went and watched my younger brother and my younger sister, I kinda picked up a little from them, and I try to just incorporate it into the show.” His exchanges with Helen, including a wild scene involving a basket of eggs during the opening of the second act, became another grand addition to the brilliantly scripted comedy sprinkled throughout this play. 

Even during the saddest moments of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” the play doesn't lose its heart and connection to the characters thanks to the talented cast, and their enjoyable and endearing Irish brogue tone that enhances the comedy of every line preformed. Theatergoers that pay close attention will be treated to classic Irish storytelling, like the different versions of the sad story involving Billy's parents, until you reach the end and learn the final truth. 

Performances of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” are playing Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until June 15 in the Black Box Theater at Valencia’s East Campus located at 701 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, Orlando. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students, faculty, staff, alumni and senior citizens, and can be purchased by calling  407-582-2900 or visiting vendini.com


By James Tutten

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