1111 SW Broadway
Through Nov 26
The poster for Portland Center Stage's latest production features a leering man--a Marty Feldman look-alike with fake glasses. This is the first clue that you aren't going to see something tame. But just in case you don't realize you are sliding into strangeness, there's the life-size plastic cow staring at you from the stage as you enter. Those don't even prepare you for the profane and hilariously offensive black comedy that is The Cripple Of Inishmaan.
Auntie Kate and Auntie Eileen run a store on the Irish island of Aran and take care of the adopted cripple, Billy, who was given to them after the apparent suicide of his parents years ago. Visitors to their store include candy-loving dimwit Bartley, and his gutter-mouthed Amazonian sister, Helen, as well as the town's gossip, the drunken Johnnypateenmike.
Other cast members include a kindly doctor, Johnnypateen's 90-something drunken mother (who he's trying to kill), and Babbybobby, a violent sort whose wife died of tuberculosis. When news comes that Hollywood is filming a movie nearby (1934's film The Man of Aran, faking documentary six decades before either This is Spinal Tap or The Blair Witch Project) Cripple Billy takes drastic measures to ensure he's taken with Helen and Bartley to the set. His escape from the small Irish island community sets up a series of revelations of the secrets which everyone is hiding.
It takes concentration to make it through some of the thick Irish accents, but the crackling dialogue will both horrify and amuse you at the same time. No character is spared venomous dialogue that wouldn't be out of place on a special Dynasty cross-over with South Park. Some onstage violence, including egg-smashing and cripple-beating, is funny and shocking, but it is the casual verbal brutality which the characters lob toward each other (hiding, of course, some real affections) that will have audience members watching slack-jawed.
Siobhàn Mahoney is a standout as the fecking saucy-tongued egg girl Helen, while Brian Thompson's gossiping Johnnypateenmike ("Johnnypateen tells if a horse farts") is an astonishing whirlwind given the verbal diarrhea he has to spew. Young Josh Harto hits all the right notes as Cripple Billy, but he's ably supported by a strong cast.
Direction by newcomer Neel Keller is strong, as are the barren sets and costumes. It is the script by Irishman Martin McDonagh though which holds the entire profane production together. When you go, you know you will see something this "fecking nastily funny," but be sure to save some applause for the cow at the curtain calls. . . if your hands aren't too sore from clapping for the actors.