Arts & Events

Druid at Zellerbach with "Cripple"

By Ken Bullock
Tuesday May 03, 2011 - 09:07:00 PM

Druid, the Irish theater company from Galway -- surely one of the finest English-language troupes anywhere -- open their production of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan Wednesday, May 4, at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC campus. McDonagh's now best-known here for Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, both produced by Berkeley Rep in recent years, and perhaps his Oscar-nominated film, In Bruges. Wilde Irish staged a spirited Cripple of Inishmaan a few years back at the City Club. 

Druid put on Playboy of the Western World and Shadow of the Glen from their cycle of J. M. Synge's plays at the Roda Theatre in 2008 and Enda Walsh's The Walworth Farce at Zellerbach Playhouse in 2009, both shows among the best theater onstage here in memory. Garry Hynes, co-founder of Druid, who directed the Synge plays, is also the director of The Cripple, was among the very first to stage McDonagh's plays, and worked closely with him on the Druid production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane (produced by the Rep in 1999), for which Hynes became the first woman to win a Tony Award for direction. 

The Cripple is set in the Aran Islands (where Synge realized his theater writing as well) in 1934, when news of an American film crew shooting a documentary--Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran (Flaherty famous for Nanook of the North)--turns the provincial island society upside-down. 

Druid's production of Synge's plays accented his uncompromising humor in a way few stagings do. McDonagh is known for his black humor ... On being asked by the Planet in 2008 about the humor of another play Hynes had directed, she replied "The humor in it is the humor of the human situation; you have to create the situation for the humor to make sense." (The preview with Hynes' remarks on Irish theater is in the issue of October 2, 2008.) 

Irish theater has been, since the Irish Renaissance of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, the English-language theater probably closest to European and other non-Anglo-Saxon theaters of the world, exerting an influence on folk, popular and civic theaters almost everywhere. Any visit by Druid would be an occasion; staging a show by McDonagh, a contemporary playwright who's already found an American audience, should be a real event--at prices cheaper than a trip to Dublin, London or the Continent ... even New York! 

May 4-14, 8 p. m. nightly (except Monday, May 9), with 2 p. m.matinees Saturdays and Sunday (the 8th), at Zellerbach Playhouse, near Bancroft Way and . Tickets: $68 (contact box office for discount/rush availability). 642-9988;