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Irish voices make their IC debut

BY CARLY HURWITZ | OCTOBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The set of the Riverside Theatre feels distant from Iowa City this weekend.

The Irish accents emanating from the stage give an impression of being transported around the world to the Aran Island called Inishmaan.

In order to accurately represent the Irish characters in The Cripple of Inishmaan naturally, the actors in the play must achieve near perfect accents.

"It is a very challenging play because it demands an Irish dialect," said Ron Clark, Riverside Theatre's resident artist, production manager, and director of the play. "It has a different cadence to it and wouldn't work without it."

Inishmaan will open at 7:30 p.m. today at Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St. The performances will continue through Nov. 13, with 7:30 p.m. shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is $15 for youth and $25 to $28 for the general public. An under 30 discount price of $26 is also offered

Marketing director Sarah Burnett said Riverside Theatre and Cornell College will collaborate for the ninth time since 1996 on the show. Other collaborative productions include The Diary of Anne Frank, The Long Christmas Ride Home, and the world première of Prosperity, by Keith Huff.

Clark said theater magic occurs when young artists and acclaimed professionals work together. He believes the theater serves as a local presence focused on creating new theater opportunities in Iowa City.

"It benefits our students because they get to work side-by-side with professionals and the professionals get to see the energy and talent they bring," he said.

Set on Inishmaan in 1934, the Irish comedy has dark humor. Clark said that during this period, Ireland was not a cheerful place because of economic depression. Audience members will find that the play's characters create innovative ways to make a living.

One such comedic and innovative character is Johnny Pateen-Mike. He is a local news gatherer and teller who roams around delivering news. He will take any form of payment from half a dozen eggs to a can of peas to a lamb shank.

All the while, Johnnypateenmike lives with his 90-year-old mother, Mammy, played by Corinne Johnson, who is unsuccessful at drinking herself to death.

The story line might be grim, but those involved in production ensure that playwright, Martin McDonagh, has created another masterpiece with The Cripple of Inishmaan. He is considered one of the foremost voices of the Irish theater by fellow professionals.

Clark said that like Shakespeare, McDonagh had four productions running simultaneously on stage by the age of 41. He said he creates iconic characters that naturally draw in audiences.

"I love his dark sense of comedy, vicious comedy," Johnson said. "He is an outsider who is giving a view of the Irish condition."

The intimate cast will not disappoint audiences in their representation of a critically acclaimed playwright's work, promising a show that will entertain.

"It is such a witty portrayal of the human condition. You will laugh, cry, and learn about the humanity that is inherent in all of us, " Johnson said.


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