Laughing and crying are likely at performances of the Fort Hays State University production of The Cripple of Inishmaan.
"This play is much darker and coarser than the other plays presented this year," said Director Michael Hogwood, instructor of communications.
The play opens at 8 pm. Thursday, April 24, in Felten-Start Theatre in Malloy Hall on the FHSU campus. The production will continue to run through Sunday, April 27.
Hogwood described the play as "different."
"People coming to watch the play can expect something different from anything else they've seen this year," he said.
The playwright, Martin McDonagh, is the author of various other plays, three of which have been produced on Broadway. He claims David Mamet and Harold Pinter as two of his earliest influences in theatre. The Cripple of Inishmaan was first written by McDonagh when he was hired as a resident playwright for The Royal National Theatre in London. It was then successful in New York, where it opened in the Public Theatre in 1998.
The darkness of the production is brought alive by Pete Hardy, Overland Park junior, who plays Cripple Billy. As a young, crippled boy who is constantly being picked on by everyone, Billy ends up making the decision to escape from his problems and attempt a career in the American movie industry. His dark, sad character is portrayed by Hardy in a way that Hogwood described as natural.
"He's got that kind of natural sadness in the way he talks and carries himself," Hogwood said. "That's not saying he's sad all the time, but he has the sadness that this character needs."
Other characters in the play include Johnnypateenmike, Johnny for short, played by Scott Rader, Hays sophomore. Johnny is the town gossip. Always putting his nose in everyone else's business, he becomes somewhat of an annoyance to the people around him. However, Rader said, he thinks his character's nosy ways are just a front.
"I think he cares about people a lot more than he lets on," he said. "He tries to act tough and like a know-it-all, but in the end, it is all just an act because he is insecure."
Rader relates to his character, though, making him more sympathetic to his ways.
"There is a lot of me in the character," he said. "I just see an exaggerated, older version of me in Johnnypateenmike."
Helen, played by Rachel Hogwood, Hays, is a pretty young town girl. Cripple Billy has a crush on her. However, her mean-spirited nature will cause the audience to cringe in disbelief. For Rachel Hogwood, playing the role has been interesting.
"Finding Helen's likeable qualities has been tough, but I like to be challenged," she said. Nevertheless, she believes that her character means well deep down.
"Helen is one of the few characters who chooses to include Billy in her world," she said. "She has strong defenses, but as the play unfolds you find that there are things that touch her and places she becomes vulnerable."
Billy's parents died when he was young, so he was raised by two crazy aunts, Eileen, played by Katie Affentranger, Hays junior, and Kate, played by Sarah Rogers, Augusta graduate student. The two aunts keep busy worrying about Billy and are especially distraught when he leaves the island. They pick up nutty habits, like talking to rocks, as a way to deal with his absence.
Although humor is scattered generously throughout the production, strangeness and heartache manage to find their way into the plot as well.
Other characters include Bobby, a friend of Billy's who aids in his escape to the movie business, played by Ivan Albers, Grinnell freshman; Bartley, another friend of Billy's who frequents the store owned by Kate and Eileen, played by Cody Hughes, Leoti junior; Mammy, Johnny's dying, alcoholic mother, played by Sue Firestone, retired FHSU Modern Languages Department chair; and the doctor, who is on call to take care of the townspeople, played by Robert Firestone, Hays.
Tickets for the play are $7 for students and $8 for non-students and are available at the box office by calling (785) 628-4225.