Sierra Stages presents a dark comedy from Ireland starting March 3 at Nevada Theatre | TheUnion.com

Sierra Stages presents a dark comedy from Ireland starting March 3 at Nevada Theatre

Tom Durkin | Special to Prospector

Life on the Irish Aran Islands is hard and so are the people.

Compliments are often disguised as insults, and insults often lead to violence — and broken eggs.

In a play with more plot twists than a tangled fishing net, playwright Martin McDonagh captures the hardscrabble life and times of 1934 Ireland in "The Cripple of Inishmaan."

Presented by the nonprofit Sierra Stages Community Theater, the play opens tonight and runs for three weekends at the historic Nevada Theatre in Nevada City.

"It's kind of a quirky tale," said Producer Peter Mason, who is also a member of the board of directors for Sierra Stages.

"The minute you think you know what's happening, the story flips you," agreed Director Sharon Winegar.

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Although the play revolves around the travails of Cripple Billy, the play is really an ensemble piece where all nine actors play critical roles, and everybody has a story, Mason and Winegar emphasized.

The boy who stared at cows

Cripple Billy (Chase Coney) is a teenage loner who has a reputation for staring at cows for no apparent reason.

Billy lives in a shop with two "aunties" (Kimberly Ewing as Kate and Lois Ewing as Eileen — the Ewings are cousins-in-law in real life).

The slightly daft and constantly bickering shopkeepers have raised him since he was orphaned.

Brother and sister Bartley (Ben Hedenland) and Helen (Ari Rampy) are frequent customers.

Bartley is a dolt with a sweet tooth and a burning desire for a telescope.

Helen, meanwhile, is a brash, flirtatious colleen with a wicked tongue for teasing Billy, a quick hand for hitting her brother and a penchant for smashing eggs.

Bob Rossman plays Johnnypateenmike, the busybody town gossip/"newsman" who is trying to kill his Mammy (Alice Beloved) with drink.

Quite an obnoxious fellow, he invades everybody's privacy while carefully guarding a secret of his own.

Hollywood changes everything

When the villagers learn that a Hollywood film crew has come to the neighboring island of Inishmore, Helen and Bartley are star struck.

They hire Babbybobby (Damiian Mario Lang) to ferry them to the nearby island.

Desperately hoping he can "escape" to America, Cripple Billy asks to go along, but Babbybobby won't take him, because cripples are bad luck at sea.

Cripple Billy then resorts to trickery to try to convince Babbybobby to take him, but it's Johnnypateenmike's unwanted intrusion that seals the deal.

After beating up Johnnypateemike for being too nosy, Babbybobby agrees to bring Billy along with Helen and Bartley to Inishmore.

After a while, Bartley and Helen come back. Billy doesn't.

The villagers are distraught, not knowing if Billy's dead or gone to America or what.

In the course of their distress and bitter infighting, a number of skeletons come dancing out of long-locked closets.

Dr. McSharry (John Gardiner) and Mammy reveal truths and expose lies. Helen smashes eggs. Kate talks to her stone.

Of course, it doesn't end there. It ends every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night (and two Sundays) at the Nevada Theatre for the next three weeks.

Cruel comedy

Often what the actors say and do out of anger and spite is quite funny, Winegar said.

She compared "The Cripple of Inishmaan" to a Coen brothers movie like "Fargo," where the cruelty is ironically funny.

Even after rehearsing five nights a week since Jan. 7, Winegar still laughed out loud at certain lines during a full run-through rehearsal last week.

Both Chase Coney (Cripple Billy) and Ari Lampy (Helen) had high praise for Winegar.

"She's great," said Lampy, a former acting student of Winegar's. "She's so academic and professional. She takes a play on like it's her child."

Coney agreed, "I'm loving it."

"It's a very efficient play," Mason said of the two-act, two-hour play. "It goes very quickly."

At first, the Irish accents might be hard to understand, Winegar admitted.

But it's idiomatic of the dialect for people to repeat a variation of what was just said, "so you get two chances" to hear a line, she said.

"People will pick it up pretty quickly," promised Winegar, who is also the dialog coach.

"The Cripple of Inishmaan" is the first production of Sierra Stages' eighth season, Mason said.

Also planned for this year are "The Last 5 Years," "Little Shop of Horrors" and "Dead Man's Cell Phone."

Contact Nevada City freelance writer Tom Durkin at tdurkin@vfr.net or http://www.tomdurkin-writer.net.

Know & Go

Who: Sierra Stages presents

What: “The Cripple of Inishmaan” by Michael McDonagh

Where: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

When: March 3 – March 19; Thursdays 7 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m.

Admission: $15 (preview only, March 3 & 4); $25 general admission; $35 reserved seating (all performances); student standby $15

Tickets: at the door, 530-0346-3210 or http://www.sierrastages.org/tickets.html

More information: 530-0346-3210 or http://www.sierrastages.org

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