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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Theater

Spring production shines


Joshua Hyle Hoppe (left) was cast as Cripple Billy. Hoppe is also the artistic director of the Vagabond Theatre Project, an independent studen-run company. Christine Arnold (middle) plays Helen and Jason Ronje (right) performs as Bartley. | Courtesy of Michelle Robinson

I don’t know about most people, but I enjoy my plays to be less all-over-the-place and with better pacing. Fortunately, I also like my plays funny and well acted.

Over the past couple of days, UH’s School of Theatre and Dance has put on “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” a scattered-brained, 1930’s Irish play by playwright Martin McDonagh. Productions will continue this weekend.

I have some issues with the show, but luckily for the cast and crew, my criticism have nothing to do with their contribution to the performance.

The story begins in early 20th-century Ireland with characters Kate (Kayla Brown) and Eileen (Laurel Schroeder), the overbearing aunts of Cripple Billy (Joshua Kyle Hoppe) who is a persecuted young, Irish lad with a bum arm and leg.

As the story goes on, we find out about the tragedy surrounding Billy’s life and the cruelty dolled out to him by his neighbors.

A film crew comes to cast people away from not-such-a-bad-place Ireland and despite the doubt placed in him by these sneering busybodies, Billy hitches a ride with Babbybobby (Colin David) in his boat for a spot in this movie.

You will need to see the play to find out what happens next. Despite all its issues, it is definitely a show worth seeing.

For students, the acting was phenomenal.

Notables were actress Christine Arnold (Helen) playing the spicy, egg-obsessed girl with a horribly dirty mouth, while seasoned actor Philip Orazio (Johnypateenmike) delighted the audience with his rendition of a male yenta.

Hoppe performed the oppressed, young cripple and beautifully evoked feelings of extreme shock over his treatment.

The Irish accents each character put on were also good.

Director Steve Wallace did a fantastic job at making this a delightful and funny show.

The set design was beautiful, convincing and cozy.

The production staff was even so kind as to supply the audience with your-everyday-guide to Irish slang in addition to the beautiful before-show reception and Irish-folk fiddler.

However, the pacing in the second act was awkward and confusing. It was as if McDonagh decided to make faux-endings to mock stereotypical tragic or romantic endings. If you enjoy roller coasters with so many twists, this is the play for you.

After the second half of the performance, the stage went frequently to black. Then, the lights would come on again as if to say, “Just kidding! The show isn’t over yet.”

Overall, the execution was fantastic and it definitely lives up to the spectacular and high standard that I discovered in the theatre earlier this semester when I attended the showing of “The Crucible.”

But, frankly, I just didn’t “get” or enjoy what McDonagh was doing while crafting this dark, Irish comedy.

For more information on the play, visit www.uh.edu/class/theatre-and-dance/.

 

Editor’s note: An earlier edit of this article misconstrued the writer’s review of the play, which, overall, was favorable towards the work of the UH cast and crew. The author originally only took issue with the playwright’s work.

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