By Garrett Wissel
Elm Staff Writer
If you entered the Gibson Center for the Arts recently, you may have mistook it for western Ireland. On March 1 to 3, the Washington College Department of Theatre and Dance staged a production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” Martin McDonagh’s famed comedy set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland in 1934. The play was staged in Tawes Theatre and directed by Professor Dale Daigle. It centers around the small community on the isle of Inishmaan, a community enamored with the news of a Hollywood film crew traveling to the neighboring isle of Inishmore to shoot “Man of Aran,” a film detailing the bleak life on the Irish Coast.
Although the events of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” are fictional, they’re based around the real life filming of “Man of Aran,” and McDonagh blends this historical context with hilariously sharp wit to great results.
According to the official website of WC Theatre and Dance, “the one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young Cripple Billy, if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life.”
Although a comedy, the play tackles serious issues such as prejudice against people with disabilities, suicide, alcoholism, sexual assault, and even the tuberculosis epidemic of the 20th Century. The comedic value is not sacrificed for the sake of these sensitive subjects.
One such character who embodies this political incorrectness is Johnny Pateen, played in this production by junior Colin Higgins.
As town gossip, it’s Pateen’s job to inform the village of any news he comes across, whether they want to hear it or not.
“Johnny is my favorite written character. He may act like a jerk and be annoying as hell but he truly cares and loves all the characters on Inishmaan,” Higgins said.
At the play’s onset Pateen is little more than a nuisance for the characters, but as the plot progresses it’s revealed how much he’s aided young Billy since his birth and the subsequent death of the boy’s parents.
“He truly expresses the rules of character development,” Higgins said. “It was difficult playing such an amazing character and I hope I was able to give him justice.”
The play was a joy to work on not only for the cast, but the production team as well. Junior Katie Peacock worked as lighting designer for the show and said her favorite part of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” was “the balance of humor and sadness…the play had moments of tragedy and comedy and having the opportunity to work on a show that could deliver both of those to an audience was amazing.”
With the show being a professor-directed production, rather than a student-directed senior capstone experience, the cast and crew were presented with certain unique challenges and opportunities.
“The bar was raised on what we needed to deliver for this show,” Peacock said. “Faculty productions usually have higher expectations for designers, actors, management, and everyone else involved.”
Higgins welcomed the challenges. “I got to work with a professional fight choreographer and he helped us go through the fight scenes and he truly made them shine. Using professional designers really helped open peoples eyes,” he said.
The next theater production this semester will be “Stop Kiss,” a senior directing thesis by Mark Christie on March 30 to 31.