“The Cripple of Inishmaan” — the mildest work from Martin McDonagh, dubbed the “potty-mouthed playwright” by The New York Times — will be performed by the Druid and Atlantic Theater Company at the Power Center, starting Thursday, March 10 at 8 p.m.
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Today and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
“He’s the kind of playwright you either like very much or are repelled by,” said Martin Walsh, the Head of the Drama Program and Adjunct Associate Professor of Theatre in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, who teaches a mini-course at the Residential College surveying the complete works of McDonagh, in conjunction with this University Musical Society production.
In the 1997 play “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” life on the sleepy Irish island of Inishmaan is interrupted by the filming of “Man of Aran,” a 1934 fictional documentary by Robert Flaherty about the largely fabricated primitive lives of the people on the Aran Islands. McDonagh’s play follows the plight of wheelchair-bound Billy as he wins a part in the film, travels to Hollywood and returns to his bleak homeland.
As in most of McDonagh’s plays, Galway Bay in Inishmaan serves as a backdrop of a deprived economic environment, characterized by intense boredom, Walsh said. However, the Aran islands are a touchstone for purity of Irish rural culture, as evidenced by the attention given to them by the directory Flaherty — which serves as a contrast to the trifling activities of the characters.
“This is the sweetest of all the McDonagh plays, but that isn’t to say it won’t be hard to take for some people,” said Walsh, who has been following the brash Irish playwright’s career. “For instance, everyone in the play calls the main character ‘Cripple Billy.’ “
In anticipation of the performance, UMS presented several events this week. On Sunday, UMS hosted a screening of “Man of Aran,” the documentary driving the plot development in the play, at 7 p.m. at Keene Theater in East Quad. On Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the same theater, UMS screened “In Bruges” and “Six Shooter,” two films written and directed by McDonagh. On Monday at 7 p.m., Walsh joined Druid and Atlantic Theater Company state manager Susan Lynch in a discussion of the production.
Walsh, who also teaches a survey course in Irish drama, said he has an ambivalent relationship with McDonagh’s oeuvre, though Walsh recognizes him as one of the major figures in past decade.
“I mostly like him, but I have had my moments of being repulsed,” Walsh said. “Sometimes I feel like he’s gone over the top, past the limit, but then I’m still laughing.”