Cast, Script Shine In Dark Comedy PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 August 2016 15:29

When a bio of playwright Martin McDonough lists his influences as Quentin Tarantino, Samuel Beckett and David Mamet, you should have some idea of what you’re in for in the current South Bend Civic Theatre production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

Cripple of Inishmaan South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreAnd you don’t have to be Irish to laugh out loud at some of the dark humor with which the award-winning play is laced.

Director Jim Geisel has assembled some of the best from SBCT’s roster of veteran actors — David Chudzynski and his wife, Deborah Girasek-Chudzynski, Chelle Walters, Marybeth Saunders and Bill Svelmoe — as well as a few relative newcomers — David Weist, Jonathan Gigler, Conner Correira and Miranda Manier.

Together on Jacee Rohick’s easily-revolving set pieces, they tell the story of Cripple Billy Claven (Correira), an orphan who lives with his adoptive aunts Eileen Osborne (Girasek-Chudzinski) and her sister Kate (Walters) and suffers the constant casual slurs and taunts of his family, friends and neighbors.

Especially stinging (and frequently physical) are those from Helen McCormick (Manier), a tough-talking girl on whom Cripple Billy has a crush. Helen and her slow-witted brother Bartley (Gigler), whose primary interest is the candy sold in the Osborne sisters all-purpose store, seem to have no purpose but tormenting Cripple Billy and each other.

When Johnnypateenmike (Chudzinski), the self-proclaimed town crier, arrives with three pieces of news (which he shares for a food fee) the word is out that an American film company is headed for the island of Inishmore to make a movie and may use locals. Cripple Billy decides immediately to audition and gets a ride from Babbybobby (Weist), a widowed boatman.

Cripple of Inishmaan  Souith Bend (IN) Civic ThetreMeanwhile, Johnnypateenmike is at home with his bedridden mother Mammy (Saunders), age 90. She has been drinking herself to death for 65 years, much to the delight of her son, who keeps her supplied with Irish whiskey, in spite of the dire warnings from Dr. McSharry (Svelmoe),

After a few days, it becomes apparent that Cripple Billy is missing and the residents of Inishmaan are disturbed — or not. When he does return, reactions are mixed as are the long-buried details surrounding the death of his parents which, it seems, everyone is finally determined to share.

The cast, each with his/her own degree of Irish accent, does a remarkable job of creating characters that are, with a few exceptions, much more than caricatures.

Girasek-Chudzynski and Walters are totally believable as aging siblings, each aware of the others idiosyncrasies — Eileen hides candy, Kate talks to stones — but ready to defend each other and Cripple Billy.

Chudzynski is the big blowhard you can’t hate but can’t stand and, of course, have to laugh at. His defense of his right to announce any news first is hilarious and frightening and he strikes just the right bullying notes. Saunders is actually delightful as the senior citizen who lets nothing stand between her and a medicinal nip.

Cfripple of Inishmaan South Bend (IN) Civic TheatreSvelmoe’s doctor is the one voice of reason in a rising chorus of … well, not exactly insanity but more and more disfunctional. Weist is the man with the boat. Caught between a flood and a rip tide, he struggles to stay afloat.

As Cripple Billy’s peers, Gigler is an Irish marshmallow dough boy, too soft and spongy to make a difference, while Manier is an Irish crag, all offense and deliberately jagged edges and way too sharp to elicit any sympathy. A softening would have helped.

The action, as one might suppose, swirls around Cripple Billy. Correira does an admirable job of keeping his “cripple” always in tact, not an easy thing to maintain for two hours. His determination to get out of Inishmaan is understandable as, eventually, is the reverse. His character is sympathetic without being pitiable and, finally, almost heroic.

The characters interact as easily as the set slides into different locations and the accents are not an impediment. The sound, however, is a different story.

This production was scheduled for the Warner Theatre (aka the Black Box) a downstairs space in which many of SBCT’s very best productions have been presented.

The venue was changed to the cavernous Wilson Theatre in which, whenever an actor turns away from your direct line of hearing, the dialogue, no matter how well delivered, vanishes or becomes mumbles.

This is a problem which has plagued SBCT since the first play in the Wilson and which no one seems able to solve.

It is unfortunate that when solid productions like “The Cripple of Inishmaan” are in the lineup, everyone will have to sit in the center of the auditorium to be able to hear the whole show.

“THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN” plays Wednesday through Sunday in the Wilson Theatre, 215 W. Madison St. For show times and reservations, call 234-1112 between 3 and 6 p.m. weekdays or visit

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 17:05

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