‘Inishmaan’ transports audience to another time, place

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By Sara Miller

One of the best things about the theater is being transported to another place and time. The magic of the stage is you can be entertained and spend two hours on a journey — experiencing people and lives that you may otherwise know nothing about. Such is the case with the Evergreen Players’ upcoming production of “Cripple of Inishmaan.”

The “Cripple of Inishmaan” tells the story of the people who lived on the island of Inishmaan, part of a small cluster of three islands off the western coast of Ireland, in 1934. The citizens are overtaken by Hollywood fever when a documentary crew arrives on the nearby island of Inishmore to film “Man of Aran,” a critically acclaimed film that was actually made in the early 1930s.

The interest of Cripple Billy (played by Cody Robinson), a teenager who has spent much of his young life staring at cows, is sparked, and he sets his mind on auditioning for the film.

“The crux of the story is about Billy’s need for change,” says David Blumenstock, the show’s director. “He wants to get off the island and prove himself. He believes that, due to his ailment, everyone thinks he is useless. When, in fact, his Aunties and the rest of the islanders care deeply for him. Billy needs to prove to himself that he is more than what he thinks his family and friends think he is.”
What ensues is a slice-of-life peek at this tiny microcosm of Ireland’s past. We meet Billy’s protective guardians (played by Kathleen Davis and Linda Suttle); the object of Billy’s unrequited affection, Helen (played by Rebecca Donnella) and her brother, Bartley (played by Gregg Dudding); the town crier, a gossipmonger named JohnnyPateenMike (played by Art Goodman) and his alcoholic mother (played by Chip Winn Wells); Babbybobby (played by Brian Sides), the kindly man who transports Billy to the neighboring island; and the island doctor (played by Eric Ross).

“The characters are wonderful in this script. The brilliance of the playwright is that he’s juxtaposing these fictional characters against the iconographic figures in this real-life documentary,” say Blumenstock.

Given the real-life nature of much of the play, Blumenstock wanted to keep the show as authentic as possible. He recruited a dialect coach, Rita Broderick, to work with the actors in capturing the correct accent.

“In Ireland, there are a thousand different accents scattered throughout the country. We’re dealing with the Connacht dialect, which is closely related to Gaelic. Rita worked with the cast to make things as authentic as possible while still being comprehensible to the untrained ear,” say Blumenstock.

Blumenstock also wanted to incorporate music to give the show the proper period feel. He contacted an ethnomusicologist at Evergreen College in Washington state, Shawn Williams. Williams was familiar with the time period and the dialect, and helped Blumenstock select transition music as well as two vocal pieces performed by Suttle and Sides.

In the end, it’s not the correct lilt of the accents or the strains of Irish fiddle that make the play authentic. The “Cripple of Inishmaan” is a carefully crafted examination of humankind with all of its beauty and blemishes.

“Inishmaan is such a tiny island, and these people have known each other forever,” says Blumenstock. “They love each other in the way that only a family could — in a somewhat dysfunctional way.” And we, as audience members, are given the chance to laugh and cry and live right along with them for a night.

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan”

Presented by the Evergreen Players

Oct. 22 through Nov. 14, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.

Center/Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive

Tickets: adult, $18; senior (60-plus), $14; student, $14; youth (12 and under). $8

This show is rated PG-13

To order tickets, call 303-674-4934 or visit www.evergreenplayers.org.