Friday August 18th 2017

“The Cripple of Inishmaan”

Highly Recommended***** Storefront theaters of Chicago are amazing! In these little “black box” theaters, Chicago audiences get to witness some of the best productions that one can see. What is also amazing is that some of the productions that they transfer from large ,big budget venues, are more realistic in the intimate setting of the “black box”. Such is the latest production of redtwist theatre, that cozy little theater located on Bryn Mawr that pledges to do “white hot drama, in a tiny black box, with a little red twist” and their sterling production of Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan”. This production, directed by Kimberly Senior ( to perfection, I might add) tells the story of a small town and “cripple Billy” ( a powerful performance by  newcomer,Josh Salt- redtwist keeps finding solid talent!), a physically challenged young man, who is the target of the town’s jokes. He has been raised by his “aunts”Kate ( the always reliable Jan Ellen Graves) and Eileen ( deftly handled by Debra Rodkin) who are not really blood relatives.

As McDonagh weaves his dramatic tale about this young man and his circumstances, we learn a great deal about his deceased parents, who , as the story goes, drowned on a boat as they fled for America without him. There is some mystery to the actual events of this event that come out slowly, but make sense when we are made aware of the actual fatal day. When it is part of the local news ( a job that is handled by johnnypateenmike ( Brian Parry continues to amaze me with his ability to play almost any type of character) that an American film company is going to be in the twon of Inishmaan in search of talent for a movie they are about to shoot, the locals decide to see if they can get in the film. Billy convinces the local boat owner ,Babbybobby( a strong performance by Chris Rickett) to take him with. He earns the right to go to America, as they feel  a cripple in the role will be something different. This rise to fame make sthe townspeople show him some new respect.

He is gone for some time and becomes very ill while in America, the locals have no idea if he is alive or dead as there has been no contact. When he does come back, without having taken the role, it matters not to him as he now feels differently about himself and in fact, respects himself for the first time in his life. But we, the audience ,now learn some truths about the events of the past  and some of the townspeople as we watch the changed Billy emerge. I do not want to give away the ending of this heartwarming story, but we see the others in the town for who they really are and the love and the caring of the “aunts” that have raised Billy to adulthood. The other characters in this strong production are Mammy ( the hysterical Kathleen Ruhl- great comic timing) as Johnnypateenmike’s mother, Chuck Spencer as Doctor McSharry, Patrick C. Whalen as Bartley and Baize Buzan ( an incredible performance) as his sister Helen, the town bully.

This is a two plus hours of intimate storytelling, and Senior captures every word of McDonagh’s script with her strong cast. The set by Jack Magaw ( who also did the lighting) is incredible when you think of the size of the theater.He has even brought a boat on stage!.Christopher Kriz handles the sound and original music which is both hauntingly beautiful and very Irish.This is the second time I have seen this play, the first being at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier, which was a large scale, big budget production, a little over a year ago. This one, in this little “black box” topped that one and should be on your “to see “list.

“Inishmaan” will continue through June 24th ( unless they extend) with performances as follows:

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Tickets range from $25-$30 ( a bargain for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 773-728-7529 or online at

Again, this is a small theater ( I think less than 50 seats) so do not put this one off. The theater is located at 1044 West Bryn Mawr and while there is some street parking ( metered til 9 on Bryn Mawr), the RedLine is just  a block away. If you are looking for places to dine, there are a few good restaurants right on Bryn Mawr:

Francesca’s, Little India, That Little Mexican Restaurant and Zanzabar

to see more about this production, visit  “The cripple of Inishmaan”


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