by Jan Davisson
Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production The Cripple of Inishmaan is Brilliant! From the beautifully written Tom Stoppard play, Arcadia, which ended at the end of April, to a comedy loaded with vivid characters, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Palm Beach Dramaworks continues to present outstanding productions. The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by J. Barry Lewis and written by Martin McDonagh, is a dark comedy, perfect for its Irish setting on one of the desolate islands of Aran off the coast of Galway, Ireland.
The play revolves around a handicapped young man who seeks to escape his life in the tiny town of Inishmaan. He decides to attempt to be included in a film being made by a Hollywood producer. This means a boat trip through the wild Atlantic Ocean to the mainland. The Aran Islands are located at the mouth of Galway Bay. Although the play is set in 1934, it is based on an actual docudrama produced by director Robert J. Flaherty released in 1931. The director actually spent two years of researching and filming on the three Aran Isles. His goal was not only to show the extreme difficulties of life on the islands but also capture the Irish tradition of storytelling. Playwright Martin McDonagh captures the magic of the dark Irish humor and provides the script with a host of eccentric characters.
PBD’s artistic director William Hayes and his production staff brought out their strongest character actors to make this a “laugh a minute” comedy. The show kicks off with Carbonell winner “aunties,” Elizabeth Dimon as Eileen Osbourne and her sister, Kate, portrayed by Laura Turnbull. The action centers around the tiny general store that they run with an abundance of quirky customers. The laughs begin when Colin McPhillamy as Johnny Pateen and Mike O’Dougal, the local taleteller of news and gossip, informs the sisters and their handicapped nephew, Billy Claven, that a fill-um company is looking for actors for a movie picture about the Aran Isles. Johnny Pateen is suspected of trying to kill his ninety-year-old alcoholic mother by continually giving her bottles of booze and “poit’in” (Irish moonshine).
The crusty old gal (Harriet Oser) is a scene stealer as she faces her old age in an alcoholic blur. McPhillamy is an over-the-top character and keeps the laughter coming throughout the entire production.
Handsome Dennis Creaghan portrays the frustrated doctor who tries to keep the unruly locals in line. His is the non-humorous role that adds credibility to the wacky story line. Brother and sister, Bartley (Wesley Slade) and Helen (Adelind Horan) McCormick, are young locals who continuously bully the crippled Billy Claven. This is part of the dark humor. You know you shouldn’t laugh, but the clever lines are delivered in such a lyrical manner, you just do.
Jim Ballard , another Carbonell Award winner, is a regular at both Palm Beach Dramaworks and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. He uses both his comedic acting ability along with his darker, dramatic side as Babbybobby Bennett. Last but definitely not least, is Adam Petherbridge portrayal of the cripple, Billy Claven. His braveness in shouldering the constant insults about his disability and his vulnerability to mean Helen, who he has a crush on, makes you love this handicapped character. When his story is finally revealed, you could hear the audience gasp.
There are so many twists and turns throughout the script that it could be a mystery. Director J. Barry Lewis creates characters that are believable even though they are caricatures of real life. As in all Palm Beach Dramaworks productions, it promises to be a new experience for theater audiences.
Congrats to William Hayes and Sue Ann Beryl for PBD’s two Carbonells Awards. In my review of The Night of the Iguana, I couldn’t write enough about the lighting design by Paul Black and sound by Matt Corey. Well, it appears I wasn’t the only one who appreciated it. I really thought that production would also be acknowledged as the best dramatic play.
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre doesn’t close for the summer months, instead, they put on a musical. Last year, it was a magnificent production of 1776. A wonderful way to learn history. This summer it’s Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a musical thriller.
The book by Hugh Wheeler and the music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Tickets are already on sale for the summer production, July 14-August 6. This ought to get one out of the “summer doldrums.”
If you’re going to see a Palm Beach Dramaworks production, make an evening of it. There are so many good restaurants around the Clematis Street theatre. It’s a great night out on the town!
The Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach at 201 Clematis Street. For ticket information, contact the box office at (561) 514-4042 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org. The Cripple of Inishmaan, now through June 4: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, July 14-August 6.
Maltz Jupiter Theatre Summer for Kids
Summer time is the perfect time to build a new generation’s audience to become obsessed with live theatre. It can start very young with a production of James and the Giant Peach, Jr. (The Jr notes that it’s a condensed version, so little kids don’t become too squirmy.) This production is being staged at the Maltz Jupiter Theater on July 28 and 29. For an audience of all ages, the Damon Runyon classic, Guys & Dolls is ready for June 23 and 24. This delightful production, with music by Frank Loesser, includes songs such as: “Bushel & a Peck,” “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” and “If I Were a Bell,” all songs showing the genius of Loesser’s ability to tell the story through the lyrics. The late genius has over 700 songs to his credit going back to World War II.
A flashback to the late sixties and early seventies is the musical Godspell. Set in a New York City park atmosphere with “hippie” type kids, it presents the gospel of St. Matthew in a unique manner with songs and actions. Again, great music, and fun costumes. One note, don’t suggest this for little children. It will run July 1 and 2. The best part of all these shows is the price. Tickets are $20 per student and $25 per adult and available at the box office. Music in an air conditioned theater with lots of fun sounds like good summer activities to me. All these shows are Conservatory Student Productions. The talented COPA (Conservatory of Performing Arts) students demonstrate what they’re doing throughout the summer. Note: These theatre camps are available to all.
Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Rd, Jupiter, Tickets: (561) 575-2223; www.jupitertheatre.org
FAU Festival Repertory 2017
Exciting things are happening in Boca Raton at the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters. The Festival Repertory 2017 is a summer series of musicals, drama and concerts being presented from June 12-July 30.
If you’re a fan of public broadcasting, you’ll love the kick-off…It’s Sense and Sensibility, based on the novel by Jane Austen and written by Kate Hamill. Performances on June 23, 24, 25 and again on July 7, 8, 15, 16, 21 and 22. The schedule includes matinee performances on June 23; July 8; July 16 and July 22.
In repertory style, the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods, winner of several Tony Awards. The unusual story follows a baker and his wife as they try to undo a witch’s curse that has left them childless. The script creates magic when it brings in childhood fairytales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella. Into the Woods runs the weekend of June 30 followed by shows on July 8, 9, 14, 15, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30. Both Sense and Sensibility and Into the Woods are performed in the Studio One Theatre at FAU campus.
The music calendar concerts are performed in the University Theatre starting with A Piano Gala Extravaganza on Monday, June 12 at 7 p.m. The sounds of Big Bands such as Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Benny Goodman will be presented by the FWS Jazz Orchestra, a professional ensemble-in-residence at FAU. The Big Band Hits from the Golden Age will feature an evening of hits from the thirties, forties and fifties.
Something for everyone in Boca this summer!
FAU Florida Atlantic University, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, 777 Glades Rd, Boca 33431. Tickets $25 or $12 for students; Special Festival Rep Packages are 2 shows: $40; 3 shows: $60; or 4 shows: $80 and are available at www.fauevents.com or by calling (800) 564-9539.