By Peter Hendra, Kingston Whig-Standard
KINGSTON - I can’t say what it is, exactly, about an Irish accent that makes cuss words that much funnier, but they are, and I know I’m not alone.
Take the audience at the opening performance of King’s Town Players’ production of Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, which opened the troupe’s new season Wednesday evening. Every time someone cussed with conviction, at least a few hearty chuckles followed.
The title alone suggests it might not be the most politically correct production, and what ensued certainly proved that.
The “cripple” in this case is Billy Claven (Christian Milanovic), who lives on the island of Inishmaan with his two adopted aunts — the stone-conversing Kate and candy-sneaking Eileen Osbourne (Anya Kelly and Amie Bello), who run a country shop — while spending his days staring at cows and dreaming of escape.
“Cripple Billy,” as he is known, sees his chance when the local gossip/news man Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal (Gord Love) informs them that a “yank” named Robert Flaherty was filming a documentary titled Man of Aran on the neighbouring island of Inishmore. Billy schemes to get on the boat of Babbybobby Bennett (Vincenzo Stabile), who has agreed to row the foul-mouthed Helen and her dimwitted brother Bartley McCormick (Sue Del-Mei, Dylan Chenier) to the film location.
Really, though, this play is about the details, the subtleties of the quirky residents of Inishmaan, and their depressing, sometimes humorous, lives. Nothing is taboo here, though, as arses, priests, and drinking regularly pop up in conversation, but not necessarily in that order. And Billy’s deformity doesn’t protect him from endless insults. To wit:
Kate: A shame, too, because Billy does have a sweet face if you ignore the rest of him.
Eileen: Well, he doesn’t really.
Kate: He has a bit of a sweet face.
Eileen: Well, he doesn’t really, Kate.
Kate: Or his eyes, I’m saying. They’re nice enough.
Eileen: Not being cruel to Billy but you’d see nicer eyes on a goat. If he had a nice personality you’d say all well and good, but all Billy has is he goes around staring at cows.
If “Cripple Billy” is talked about like that by his own guardians, you can understand why the soulful Cripple Billy is anxious to leave.
The cast here — rounded out by Neil McCarney as Dr. McSharry and Dympna McConnell (to whose mother, who died unexpectedly last week, the play is dedicated) as the over-imbibing Mammy O’Dougal — feasts on the material here.
While I’m not always a fan of using accents, the use of them in this instance is essential, and provides many of the chuckles, particularly when spat out in anger.
The characters that particularly caught my eye were Love (who would handily win a Gordon Pinsent lookalike contest if there was one) as the town gossip, and, while his accent wasn’t as pronounced as others, Milanovic did a nice job of portraying the physically hampered Billy.
The intimate set inside the Baby Grand made it feel as though you were just sitting on the other side of the sisters’ country shop.
An observation oft-repeated throughout the play is that “Ireland mustn’t be such a bad place if [such and such a group] want to come to Ireland.” Well, if you like your humour on the gallows side, then Inishmaan isn’t such a bad place to go.
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN
A dark comedy by Martin McDonagh.
Directed by Sean Roberts.
A King’s Town Players production running Wednesday to Saturday until Oct. 22 at the Baby Grand, 218 Princess St., with the show starting at 7:30 p.m.
Billy Claven: Christian Milanovic
Johnnypateenmike O’Dougal: Gord Love
Eileen Osbourne: Amie Bello
Kate Osbourne: Anya Kelly
Helen McCormick: Sue Del-Mei