Caught this play at the Altantic with TCH last night, the same black box theater where I saw another Irish playwright's work, Conor McPherson's Port Authority. Same theater, same man (TCH I mean), but all's changed.
The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996), the first part of the Aran Islands trilogy, is darkly comical, with a vein of violence running through its body. A teenage cripple Billy schemes to get into a Hollywood movie called Man of Aran. The play is as much about the representations of art, as it is about home, dreams, and disability. A self-reflexive scene: Billy rehearses his film part alone in a tiny bedsit in America. I didn't understand all he said, but the impact was visceral; the monologue was grueling for the actor.
Aaron Monaghan played a somewhat sweet and innocent Billy. Dearbhla Molloy and Marie Mullen, as Billy's adoptive aunts Eileen and Kate, were spot-on tough, tender and funny. David Pearse played Johnny PateenMike, the town gossip who, as it turns out, possesses a heart of gold. Andrew O'Connell played BabbyBobby, the sad widower who, as it turns out, possesses a bloody stick. Laurence Kinlan was memorable and cute as Billy's friend Bartley. Kerry Condon was a convincing Helen, the tough lass Billy loves. Garry Hynes directed.
The play remains a comedy to the end: Billy returns to Inishmaan, and gets his date with Kerry. We hear how Johnny PattenMike saved baby Billy from his parents who wanted to drown the crippled child. But it's comedy streaked with sadness. Billy's lie that he has TB becomes reality. Life returns to the narrow unsatisfactory affair it was before Hollywood came calling. No one will escape from Inishmaan; no one else has the heart to try.