by Walter Bender

Mike Gearty and Allison Deratzian in a scene from Actors' NET of Bucks County's production of THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, running through May 15.

Actors’ NET of Bucks County opened its latest production, THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN by Martin McDonagh on April 29. The show takes place on the island of Inishmaan sometime in 1934, as the inhabitants of the island are abuzz with the news that an American film company is working in neighboring Inishmore, filming a documentary about life on the islands. Among those interested in seeing (and perhaps participating) in the filming is “Cripple” Billy, who overcomes the gossip and ridicule to get to Inishmore, and much to everyone’s surprise is offered the chance to be in the film. THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN is based in fact. In 1934 an American company filmed “Man of Aran”, a documentary about the Aran Islands. 

Director David Swartz has assembled a very skilled cast to do this difficult production. Michael Gearty is “Cripple” Billy Claven, and does a very fine job of maintaining the physical constraints of his character, his arm bent at a seemingly-uncomfortable angle and walking with a noticeable limp. He also does a very capable job of showing the character succumbing to other health issues as the show progresses. Theresa Forsyth Swartz and Giz Coughlin are the Osbourne sisters, Kate and Eileen, who cared for Billy upon the death of his parents. Ms. Swartz has an amusing character “flaw” which was handled beautifully, and Ms. Coughlin was the tough yet loving auntie. Joe Doyle as Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal was flawlessly annoying. Cheryl Doyle as his mother, Mammy O’Dougal, was a delight with her over-the-top tipsy character. Allison Deratzian was wonderfully confusing as the sweet/sinister/sexy Helen McCormack, who enjoyed the attention of the boys yet also loved to throw things at them. Rounding out the cast were Even O’Rourke (Bartley McCormack), John Helmke (Babbybobby Bennett) and Mickey Levitan (Doctor McSharry). The set, designed by Mr. Swartz, was functional, allowing for swift and interesting scene changes. The lighting and sound (Andrena Wishnie and Lizzie Newberry) enhanced the production.

The plays of Martin McDonagh are difficult to produce. Many fall into the category of “dark” comedies, with difficult situations being handled by offbeat or quirky characters. The director and cast did a fairly consistent job of bringing out the humor in the production, including some very funny physical scenes. (Special mention must be made of the scene between Helen and Bartley, where Helen displays her prowess with eggs, much to Bartley’s chagrin and the audience’s delight.)The accents of the actors in this production were excellent…in some cases TOO excellent, as it was difficult to make out what the actors were saying.

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN is one of the more difficult of McDonagh’s plays, and Actors’ NET does a fine job of bringing it to life. They bill the show as “An Outrageous, Un-Politically Correct Irish Comedy.” This is certainly the case. Those easily made uncomfortable at people ridiculing others or adult language (even dulled by the accents) should think twice about seeing this production. However, for all others, it is certainly worth the trip to see this production.

by Martin McDonagh
Directed by David Swartz
April 29 – May 15, 2011
Actors’ NET of Bucks County
635 N. Delmorr Ave
Morrisville, PA 19067

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