Skokie actors explore life on Irish islet
Brian Parry and Jan Graves in Redtwist Theatre's "The Cripple of Inishmaan."
‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’
Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago
7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through June 24
$25-$30, $5 off for seniors and students
(773) 728-7529 or visit www.redtwist.org
Updated: May 15, 2012 6:06PM
The residents of an isolated Irish island are hungry for news and actor Brian Parry, as Johnnypateenmike, is glad to provide it for a price in Redtwist Theatre’s production of “The Cripple of Inishmaan” by Martin McDonagh. The show runs through June 24 in Chicago.
“Johnny considers himself a journalist,” Skokie resident Parry said. “He’s one of a small community where everybody has to find their function in order to scrape out a way to survive on this little island. The only function he seems to have cultivated is the ability to go snooping out bits of information that he turns into news reports that he takes from locale to locale.”
One of his stops is the general store owned by two sisters, Kate and Eileen, who give him food or drink for his updates. Skokie resident Jan Graves, who is Redtwist’s managing director, plays Kate.
“She’s got a kind of love-hate relationship with everybody she knows,” Graves said of Kate. “There’s a tedium to life there which necessitates the characters finding ways to liven things up. That could be by complaining or magnifying the situation by using humor and throwing jabs at one another.”
In addition to being the proprietor of the local store, Kate is an adoptive aunt to Cripple Billy, an orphaned, physically challenged young man. “Cripple Billy is a burden on her but she loves him dearly,” Graves said.
Kate’s charge becomes swept up in the excitement when the townspeople learn that a Hollywood crew is in the area to film a movie.
Of course, everyone learns about the filming from Johnnypateenmike. “This is perhaps the biggest truly genuine piece of news he’s ever come across,” Parry said. “He’s definitely going to make it pay off by getting the news out to everybody and getting paid for sharing that information. He’s bringing a tremendous excitement and opportunity, he feels, to a group of people who don’t have much to be excited about.”
Parry understands their situation because, in preparation for the role, he visited one of the larger of the Aran Islands over the summer, which include the real Inishmaan. He described these islands as “big rocks sitting in the Atlantic off the coast of Galway. Inishmaan is about three miles across.”
Parry and his wife toured Inishmore, the island where the filming of “Man of Aran,” the event referred to in the play, actually took place.
“We rode around on
a bike and we experienced
the range of weather conditions that being stuck out there in the middle of the sea makes you prone to,” Parry said. The play is set in 1934, when conditions were particularly bad because there was no electricity or running water on the islands at that time.
As always, Redtwist has created a set that will immerse the audience in the world of the play. “The audience is on both sides within the stone cottage that most of the action takes place in,” Graves said. “So, they’re close to the actors. A boat actually comes into the setting. There’s a shop door with a bell on it that announces everyone’s arrival. They really will feel part of the stone and dirt environment that’s typical of the Island of Inishmaan.”
Parry has been in a number of productions at Redtwist including “Shining City,” for which he received a Jeff Award as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He said he particularly likes Redtwist’s play selection.
Graves said that the company chose “The Cripple of Inishmaan” because, “We wanted to do another edgy play,” particularly for director Kimberly Senior, who staged the company’s productions of “Bug” (Jeff recommended) and “The Pillowman” (Jeff Award).