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Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” Is a Delightful Dark Comedy Set in the Aran Islands

Deep Dish's cast for "The Cripple of Inishmaan" includes (from left) Eric Swenson as Babbybobby, Samantha Rahn as Helen, and Ishai Buchbinder as Billy (photo by Jonathan Young)

Deep Dish’s cast for “The Cripple of Inishmaan” includes (from left) Eric Swenson as Babbybobby, Samantha Rahn as Helen, and Ishai Buchbinder as Billy (photo by Jonathan Young)

London-born Irish dramatist Martin McDonagh’s delightful dark comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996) is set in 1934 in the remote seaside community of Inishmaan, in the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland. The title character “Crippled” Billy Claven (played with pluck by Ishai Buchbinder in the current Deep Dish Theater Company production) is a orphaned teenage boy, taken in by a spunky pair of spinster sisters — portrayed with gusto by Triangle theater veterans Marcia Edmundson and Julie Oliver as Eileen and Kate Osbourne. Oddball Kate — who sometimes talks to stones — and feisty Eileen fight a losing battle to protect Billy from the cruel remarks made about him by thoughtless customers of their store and their fellow citizens of Inishmaan.

When the play opens, Billy’s infirmities are no longer Topic A, because famed documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty and a Hollywood film crew are lensing Man of Aran on a neighboring island. To everyone’s surprise, the resclusive Billy is eager to join the Inishmaan throng journeying to Inishmore and he — like they — hopes to get a job as an extra in the movie.

Ishai Buchbinder, Marcia Edmundson, and Julie Oliver give Billy and his doting aunties plenty of personality; and the bashful boy’s halting courtship of the eggman’s headstrong young assistant Helen McCormick (the wonderfully peppery Samantha Rahn) provokes much mirth. Also tickling the funnybones of Deep Dish patrons are Kevin Silva as preening and insufferably vain town gossip Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal; Andrew Crabtree as Helen’s whiny, sweets-obsessed brother Bartley McCormick; and Eric Swenson as taciturn boatman Babbybobby Bennett.

John Honeycutt adds a nice cameo as Billy’s physician, Doctor McSharry; and Adair Wiess completes the cast as Johnnypateenmike’s dipsomanical 90-year-old mother Mammy O’Dougal.

Deep Dish guest director Tom Marriott and his crackerjack cast have made The Cripple of Inishmaan into a real knee-slapper, while not neglecting the painful undertones of sadness and loneliness that permeate Martin McDonagh’s warm and winning domestic dramedy. Don’t miss it.

SECOND OPINION: May 4th Raleigh, NC Five Points Star review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; May 2nd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; May 1st Durham, NC Indy Week review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars):; and April 29th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks:

Deep Dish Theater Company presents THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN at 7:30 p.m. May 8 and 9, 8 p.m. May 10 and 11, 2 p.m. May 12, 7:30 p.m. May 16, and 8 p.m. May 17 and 18 in Deep Dish’s performance space between The Print Shop and the Public Library at the Dillard’s end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Dr. and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514.

TICKETS: $21 ($19 seniors), with a $2 discount on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $14 for students for all shows.

BOX OFFICE: 919-968-1515,, or






NOTE 1: There will be post-performance discussions on Sunday, May 5th, with the cast and Karen O’Brien, professor of Irish drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and on Thursday, May 9th, with the show’s designers).

NOTE 2: The Deep Dish Book Selection, The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell, will be discussed at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 13th, at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. OTHER LINKS:

The Cripple of Inishmaan (play): (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (Denver Center Theater Company).

Martin McDonagh (playwright): (fan site) and (Wikipedia).

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.

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