OGDEN — The Cripple of Inishmaan, written by Martin McDonagh, is a play set in the 1930s about the excitement of a town when a movie crew visits to film on location a crippled orphan name Billy Claven, played by Callahan Crnich. This production at Weber State University, directed by Tracy Callahan, comes with a caution that it is a show that is suitable for ages 16 and above. There was some language and subject matter to be aware of, but it was a very good piece that opens up a lot of thought regarding the treatment of individuals who are different.
The strongest element of this production, by far, was the set design by Sam Transleau and co-designer Pedro Flores. Utilizing a turntable, Transleau and Flores designed three separate set pieces that depicted a storefront, home, and seabank on the small Irish island where the story is set. The intricate details of the set were impressive, as was the quick movement from one scene as the turntable rotated. The lighting design by Colby Avis added a great deal to the ambiance. Whether by using the dim lights of early evening at the seashore, or the artificial lights in a bedroom and in the store front, Avis managed to create a distinct feel for each moment.
Another strong element was the costume design by Toria Snow. The 1930s common folk living in Ireland could have been saddled with a boring look, but Snow was able to add elements such as tartan scarves and knitted jumpers that were authentic and aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, a group of three musicians (uncredited in the program) played preshow, intermission, and postshow Irish music with violin, an assortment of winds, guitar, and vocals that truly helped to set the tone of the play. The show itself has a humorous yet melancholy tone, and the music seemed to accurately capture both of those feelings.
As for the players, the Irish accents they utilized were perfect, which I appreciated because accents are often wanting in many local productions that require a dialect. As the first scene begins, the witty banter between sisters Kate (played by Hailey Weeks) and Eileen (played by Megan McClean) was highly entertaining and was a hint at the strong grasp of dialogue that the cast had. They had the perfect amount of timing and chemistry between them to begin the show off on a high note, which continued to rise as the town gossip, Johnnypateenmike (played by Christian Johnston), entered the scene. The three of them had many scenes together, and I enjoyed watching all of them on stage. Bartley (played by Jake Stubbs) and Helen (played by Morgan Hekking), also had good chemistry that made their relationship as brother and sister realistic. Hekking plays a person who has spent her years being a tough girl and trying hard not to be dominated, while Stubbs plays an easy-going young man who wants to do just about anything for a sweet treat.
As the main character, dubbed by everyone else as “Cripple Billy,” Crnich gives a very emotionally raw performance. My heart went out to him every time he expressed the desire to just be called “Billy.” Crnich gave a flawless performance and showed that Billy just had a desire to just be loved and accepted by others. As the story took turns and twists that I did not expect, I saw Crnich as a pillar of stability that brought me back around to what I saw as the center of the story: a person who is much more than the outward disability. One unexpected emotional change I experienced was from the exquisite performance of Cory Thompson as Babbybobby, a character that takes an unexpected turn.
My mind is still processing the plot and significance of this show. While it is certainly a dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan is also a tragic mirror for the human race, and how quickly people define others by a single trait. Those labels only seem to serve to minimize the complex needs and nature of human beings. I found Weber State University’s production to be a very thoughtful commentary on human nature, and felt that Callahan did an excellent job of conveying this message well.