’Cripple of Inishmaan’ brings dark Irish humor to Port Townsend

’Cripple of Inishmaan’ brings dark Irish humor to Port Townsend

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

For Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — These townspeople —newsman Johnnypateenmike, sisters Kate and Eileen, their nephew Billy — do not tiptoe around one another.

“They say all of the socially unacceptable things people would like to say,” noted Jennifer Nielsen, who portrays Auntie Eileen in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” opening tonight for a three-weekend run.

The One-Time Players of Port Townsend are presenting the Martin McDonagh drama, turning the Port Townsend High School auditorium, 1500 Van Ness, into the island of Inishmaan off Ireland’s west coast.

It’s 1934. A documentary filmmaker is about to arrive on the remote piece of ground, and the residents of Inishmaan are beside themselves, wanting a piece of the action.

Billy, the title character, is an outcast. He sees the impending movie as his chance to shine. “Cripple Billy” is smarter than the neighbors think he is; this film could be his ticket to a better life, away from Inishmaan’s boredom and gossip.

Billy, his adoptive aunties and the rest take the stage at 7 p.m. each Friday and Saturday through Feb. 16, plus a 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday, Feb. 10. Tickets are $10 at the door, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

The proceeds from “Inishmaan” will help fund a Port Townsend High School student trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this June with Nielsen, the school’s longtime drama and English teacher, leading the way.

She’ll take the teenagers to see six plays, some Shakespeare, some contemporary, and tour the festival’s backstage. The whole thing will cost around $10,000 including lodging, meals and transportation to Ashland, Ore.

Those who’d like to contribute without attending “Inishmaan” may contact the high school office at 360-379-4520. For more about the production, phone 360-385-6207 and see onetimeplayers.org/.

“If you like dark comedy, you like drama, you like Ireland and you don’t mind the word ‘feck,’ then come and see the play,” said Tristan Riley, who portrays Billy.

While Riley is brand-new on the Port Townsend theater scene, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” features an ensemble cast of well-known local performers.

Nielsen plays Eileen alongside Michelle Hensel as Kate, Billy’s other auntie. David Wayne Johnson is Johnnypateenmike, the islander who earns his living by procuring news items, “be hook or be crook,” and delivering them for a price; Sally Talbert is Mammy O’Dougal, his 90-year-old mother; Jim Guthrie plays Dr. McSharry; Bodie LaBrie is Babbybobby Bennett, a boatman; Rose Burt and Rowan Powell are Billy’s friends Helen and Bartley McCormick.

Playwright McDonagh also penned “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the acclaimed 2017 movie starring Frances McDormand. “Inishmaan” is “a great representation of the humor and style he used in that film,” said Nielsen.

This play, she added, is funny and sad, with an important message — carried by people whose words will surprise, even shock, the audience.

Riley, for his part, finds in Billy a struggle for “something all of us crave, which is to be accepted and loved for who we really are.

“With Billy, because of his disability and how those around him see him for it, his struggle is magnified and made plain.”

For Johnson, whose Johnnypateenmike is a mix of rough, arrogant and kind-hearted, “Inishmaan” is about how people need one another to make it through this life.

“The message to me is clearly that we are all crippled in some way,” he said. “Some of us are crippled on the outside; most of us are crippled on the inside.”

Lest they suspect the story too heavy, “I tell people they have to see this play because it’s so freakin’ funny. When I first read it, I fell in love. But I have always been in love with the Irish.”

McDonagh’s fable brings us into a not-so-distant time and place, added director David Hillman. After the One-Time Players’ productions of Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County” in 2013 and Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” in 2016, Hillman was attracted to “Inishmaan’s” well-salted language, humor and view of life.

“Here, love and prejudice exist side by side. They are in the air the islanders breathe,” he said.

“And here too we see our tendency to hope, to try.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

Tristan Riley is Billy, the title character, while Rose Burt plays friend Helen McCormick in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” embarking tonight on a three-weekend run in Port Townsend. (Eligius Wolodkewitsch)

Tristan Riley is Billy, the title character, while Rose Burt plays friend Helen McCormick in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” embarking tonight on a three-weekend run in Port Townsend. (Eligius Wolodkewitsch)

Auntie Eileen (Jennifer Nielsen) has raised her orphan nephew Billy in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” opening tonight in Port Townsend. (Eligius Wolodkewitsch)

Auntie Eileen (Jennifer Nielsen) has raised her orphan nephew Billy in “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” opening tonight in Port Townsend. (Eligius Wolodkewitsch)

More in Entertainment

Free Audubon lecture on Zoom tonight

Wildlife science professor to speak

Elin Kelsey, author of "Hope Matters," will discuss her science-based approach to hope amid the environmental crisis during an online program Thursday. Peninsula College will present Kelsey free of charge. (Photo courtesy of Agathe Bernard)
Environmental scientist to speak at students’ request

Online class to feature idea of hope

Richard and Mildred Loving, seen here with their children Peggy, Donald and Sidney, are the subjects of "The Loving Story," the documentary streaming free on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday. photo by Grey Villet



THE LOVING STORY
Photo credit: Grey Villet
The Loving family
‘The Loving Story’ streaming free Monday

Movie available all day on Martin Luther King Day

Peninsula College Dream Week honors King Jr

Peninsula College and the Port Angeles Racial Justice Collective… Continue reading

A construction crew works on the glass face of the new Field Arts & Events Hall on Thursday near the Port Angeles waterfront. The hall is expected to be put on hold when the exterior is complete pending additional fundraising to finish the approximately $50 million project, which will include a 1,000-square-foot art gallery, 500-seat performance hall, 300-seat conference area and a coffee shop. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Glass installed on events hall in Port Angeles

Glass installed on events hall in Port Angeles A construction crew works… Continue reading

Vivian Elvis Hansen, marketing representative for the Peninsula Daily News, center, accepts a check for the Peninsula Home Fund from Jim’s Pharmacy chief financial officer Anna Shields, left, and Jim’s owner, Joe Cammick, on Tuesday in Port Angeles. The Home Fund received $885.65 as the pharmacy’s charity of the month. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Jim’s Pharmacy donates to Home Fund

Jim’s Pharmacy donates to Home Fund Vivian Elvis Hansen, marketing representative for… Continue reading

Peninsula College instructor to offer free improv workshop

A weekly improvisational theater workshop is set to begin tonight, free and… Continue reading

Clallam County public libraries have expanded curbside service hours.
North Olympic Library System to expand curbside service hours

Public libraries in Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks and Clallam… Continue reading

Photos of the first 16 weeks of pandemic lockdown in Port Angeles  will be the topic of a lecture by photographer Amy McIntyre, executive director of the North Olympic History Center. (Amy McIntyre/ North Olympic History Center)
North Olympic History Center to present free lecture series

The North Olympic History Center, formerly the Clallam County… Continue reading

Twenty-two portraits of dogs are part of a display for the Read to Rover program. (Kim Pratt)
Portraits of dogs in Chimacum reading program on display

Artist learned to paint for the project

Haida-Tlingit artist Robert Davidson is the subject of "Haida Modern," the first selection in the year-round PTFF Pics series. Photo by Tina Schliessler
New series to feature film, interviews with directors

New series begins with ‘Haida Modern’

ronald thom
Future of oceans topic of lecture

Ronald Thom will present “What Eelgrass and Other Marine… Continue reading