Review "The Cripple of Inishmaan": Pure Craic!

Chicago Shakespeare Theater World’s Stage Series presents


Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company’s


At Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

Written by Martin McDonagh

Directed by Garry Hynes

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30

Saturdays at 8pm

Wednesday at 1pm

Saturdays, Sundays at 3pm

Thru March 27th

Buy Tickets

Running Time: Two hours and forty-five minutes with one intermission


Reviewed by Katy Walsh


Who would marry Crippled Billy?  He’s ugly and stares at cows!  Is this a slanderous statement from enemies?  Not at all! It’s the daily musings from Billy’s family and friends behind his back and in his face.  Chicago Shakespeare Theater World’s Stage Series presents Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company’s THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN.  It’s 1934.    Billy is disabled.  His parents drowned when he was young.  He has been raised by ‘his pretend aunts’ in a small Irish town.  From an early age, he was nicknamed Crippled Billy.  With this distinction comes a designation of debilitation.  It takes a village to raise… an expectation for a lame life.  Crippled Billy wants to disable the crutch and get his life unstuck.   On a neighboring island, an American film crew is shooting a documentary.  The movie gossip is a break from the familiar chatter about the village slut, drunk or cripple.  This is Billy’s chance to change his life sentence.  THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN is a brutally witty tale of one man’s limp escape from tedium.   



Playwright Martin McDonagh is an established Irish storyteller.  McDonagh’s style is to pen a dramatic story with shocking twists and plenty of humor.  THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN is McDonagh’s masterful dark comedy.  The seemingly organic dialogue is wickedly funny.  The flawed characters deliver vicious barbs without malice.  The matter-of-fact cruelty is even confirmed by the ‘I’ve heard worse’ recipient.  Without the politically-correct-filter, the everyday chat is outrageously hilarious.  Under the direction of Garry Hynes, the chit-chat is naturally authentic.  Even a dull phrase, like ‘No word,’ is repeated multiple times with a variety of inflections that heightens the laughter.  Hynes pulls a very tender and sad story through a village of buffoonery.  He utilizes a mega-talented cast to simultaneously tug at the heart strings and hit the funny bone.  The ‘characters’ are ALL truly characters with some villagers more memorable than the others.  


In the lead, Tadhg Murphy (Billy) hobbles with an awkward positioned foot and


wilted arm.  Murphy’s physical and emotional discomfort is subtly evidence in a shuffle or wistful look.  Murphy breaks your heart with his struggle.  I don’t care what his aunts say.  He does have a sweet face.  The aunts, Ingrid Craigie (Kate) and Dearbhla Molloy (Eileen) are a hilarious pair of miserable mundane.  Craigie and Molloy brilliantly deadpan identifying the shortcomings of ugly people.  Clare Dunne (Helen) is a vivacious, wise-cracking, bitch-next-door.  Dunne’s abrupt movement gives her an almost slapstick zing.  Her brother, Laurence Kinlan (Bartley) plays daft to mouth-popping perfection.  Nancy E. Carroll (Mammy) and Dermot Crowley (JohnnyPateenMike) are the despicably dysfunctional mom-son duo.  She’s a drunkard and he monitors her drinking… to ensure she stays fully-loaded.  It’s appalling to the extreme so it makes it that much more funny!

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN takes a look at small-town life through Irish eyes without the smiling.  These village inhabitants are more scowling through their blunt and insensitive interactions.  The dark farce is an outlet to laugh heartily at someone’s misfortune without offending.  ‘If you are going to talk about sheep deformities, hand me the bottle.’  It’s pure craic!         


Celebrating his third McDonagh show in the last six months, Rick describes the show with ‘funny but cruel.’  

Leave a comment