This weekend at Russell Hall, comedy manifests itself in politically incorrect and somewhat offensive humor. Liberal college students are welcomed to this button-pushing production.
“The show is unkindness wrapped in comedy,” said sophomore theatre major Zac Stearn, who plays the protagonist Billy Claven, referred to as “Crippled Billy,” in the USM Theatre Department’s production of The Cripple of Inishmaan.
The Cripple of Inishmaan is a two act show set on the island of Inishmaan, one of three islands off the coast of Ireland, in the mid 1930s. Billy’s condition leaves him with withered arm and a leg that is permanently rigid. This inhibits his ability to walk and brings great attention to him, causing everybody from his dear aunts, the dimwitted locals and even his peers to stop, stare and mock.
The cast describes the nature of the script as something the audience will find themselves thinking, “I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but I am!”
This style of humor is known as dark comedy, a genre characterized by disturbing elements and pure satire. Professor of Theatre and Director Thomas Power compares the experience of the show to the laughter you are overwhelmed by after witnessing a stranger trip and fall into a puddle. You just can’t help but chuckle, he said.
“I love dark comedy and I’m Irish!” said Power, and the rest of his cast agreed that The Cripple of Inishmaan is an “in your face” kind of show.
The stage presentation is faculty-designed and is made to illustrate the Irish goods store that Billy’s two aunts own and operate. The sound design and props management, on the other hand, are student-organized. Sophomore theater major Callie Cox is charged with prop management, while senior theatre major Tom Campbell, who also plays Doctor McSharry, deals with sound design. Sophomore sociology major Kelsey Lemieux serves as stage manager for this production.
Just a forewarning to audience, don’t be taken too far off guard when sassy, spirited Helen McCormick, played by junior theatre major Sarah Kennedy, struts onto the stage in ‘30s Irish trends exclaiming how absolutely ‘fecked’ Billy is with his ‘silly crutch’ and physical deformity.
Kennedy and the rest of the cast layer on a thick Irish accent, inviting the audience to experience authentic Irishmen. Power said that he’s been working with the cast in mastering the accent, slowly bringing the dial down enough to create a balance between representing the cultural dialect while also making the script comprehensible to the mostly American, English-speaking audience.
Throughout the show, the different quirks of each character’s personality emphasize the normalcy of Billy. Despite his condition, Billy is the most normal person in the show, said Kennedy.
“Find something real, make it real. Don’t make it a silly comedy; make it a real situation that other people call funny,” Power said to his cast before they went on stage during rehearsal.
The Cripple of Inishmaan opens this Friday and will be showing for two weekends. For more information on show times and ticket pricing, visit the USM Theatre Department website.