In a happy coincidence for fans of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, two of his plays open this weekend in the Twin Cities. Gremlin Theatre tackles McDonagh's recent American-set A Behanding in Spokane, while Nimbus looks to an earlier work, The Cripple of Inishmaan.
For Cripple director Kari Hammer that's a happy coincidence, though it does mean she may not be able to take in a local production of one of her favorite playwrights.
Hammer looked at a number of McDonagh's plays. Cripple of Inishmaan features a larger, well-balanced cast. "His Aran Island plays are the most fascinating to me. I was there a couple of years ago, and it was incredible how different it felt. When I was taking the ferry, there was a sense of danger of crossing over there, being on the sea. The islands themselves are just tiny. The 'large' island is only 12 miles from end to end."
The play takes place in 1934, when a film crew arrives on a neighboring island to make a documentary. Billy Claven, the cripple of the title, works to break out of his life by finding a part in the film.
The island itself is a major player in the play. "One of the biggest things we thought about as a production team is how do we bring it alive in a small space?" Hammer says.
Also vital to the play is the heavy dialect used by the characters. "It transports us to a place that is not ours," Hammer says. "There is a lot of complexity around it. Not only do the actors have to be comfortable with it, they all have to consistent and at the same place in the level of dialect. You can't divorce it from the script. [The dialect] says a lot about the place."
The language is one of McDonagh's strengths as a playwright, but the playwright also has his finger on the pulse of humanity, even if it often tracks to the darker side of our nature.
"I am continually surprised by this script. I've seen it and have been working on it for a month and a half, and everyday there will be word or a nuance that I didn't notice before. That's how dense McDonagh's language is. It still catches me off guard once in a while," Hammer says.
IF YOU GO
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Saturday through December 16
1517 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
For information, call 612.548.1380 or visit online