Guild Hall of East Hampton presents The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by Stephen Hamilton, through June 9. A charming, witty, but heartrending comedy by iconic Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, Cripple tells the story of a small community in the Aran Islands and how the arrival of a Hollywood film crew sparks new hope and dreams in its residents. The people of Inishmaan vie for a part in the film, and are stunned when Billy Claven, a crippled orphan, lands a part. McDonagh used The Man of Aran, a real-life documentary, as a catalyst for the fictional tale.
The production stars a cast of talented professional actors from New York and the East End. Christopher Imbrosciano plays the key role of Billy Claven, with Kristen Lowman and Broadway vet Janet Sarno as his older sisters and caretakers. Guild Hall favorite Georgia Warner (2010’s Equus) plays Billy’s crush, Helen, and her dim-witted brother Bartley is played by Broadway’s Evan Daves. Rounding out the ensemble: East End favorite Joe Pallister as BabbyBobby and Tom Gustin as Doc McSharry.
Hamilton, who co-founded the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, staged the show while trying to solve a common theatrical challenge. “When two people on stage engage in an intimate scene about the most private issue, and for the sake of the audience in the last row of the mezzanine, they face front and yell what should be the most private of exchanges in order to be heard, that’s a difficult and often destructive stretch of faith for audience and actor alike,” he explains. To give audiences the most authentic experience possible, Hamilton staged the play with the audience sitting on stage.
This unique staging device frees the actors, as well. “Our only requirement as artists is to explore these extraordinary characters with as much emotional honesty as we can and not be obsessed with ‘selling’ them beyond the proscenium arch.” Guild Hall last utilized this “theater within a theater” configuration in last season’s Uncle Vanya, to great acclaim from critics and audiences alike.
McDonagh received four Tony Nominations for his work. In addition to his stage plays, McDonagh is also a lauded screenwriter, receiving Academy Award nominations for his work on the short film Six Shooter and the 2008 thriller In Bruges. The Cripple of Inishmaan is part of McDonagh’s “Aran Islands Trilogy,” a collection of plays loosely tied together by their location.
“The Cripple of Inishmaan” runs Wednesday–Sunday through June 9 at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Go to GuildHall.org for tickets; membership and student discounts available.