OGDEN — If Irish black humor is your thing, there’s still time to catch a heaping helping of it this week at Weber State University.
WSU Theatre’s 2018-2019 Mainstage Season is currently underway with Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan.” The dark comedy runs through Saturday, Oct. 13, in the Browning Center’s Allred Theater on campus.
Set in the 1930s, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” tells the story of Billy, a young man who is indeed crippled but has dreams of escaping his small town on the remote Irish coast. When a film crew arrives looking for actors, Billy’s head is filled with visions of going to Hollywood to pursue the American Dream. Hilarity ensues as our young Billy travels to the New World and back, discovering along the way what it means to be a man ... and Irish.
Tracy Callahan, a professor of theater who oversees the acting and directing program at the university, directs the play.
“McDonagh writes about these people who never get off the island,” Callahan said. “It’s this interesting, zany group of people, and it’s all very dark humor. ... He kind of takes the piss out of these people living on this island, but he also shows they have these hearts of gold. They knock each other down, but they genuinely care about each other.”
The story also involves the mystery of how Billy, who is basically the town orphan, was saved when he was a baby after his parents drowned.
“It’s got T.B. and grannies and sharks and all, but that’s McDonagh’s humor,” Callahan said. “And it’s a real Irish style of humor. It’s a lot like (noted Irish playwright Sean) O’Casey, but on steroids.”
“The Cripple of Inishmaan is among the earliest works of McDonagh — one of the most prolific and “done” contemporary Irish playwrights. More recently, McDonagh wrote, produced and directed the critically acclaimed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Callahan says she spent some time going to school in Ireland and used to do a lot more Irish plays. But since coming to Ogden, she hasn’t had an opportunity to delve into these Irish stories — until now.
As much as these plays offered at Weber State are intended to entertain audiences, they have a more important purpose, according to Callahan.
“It’s for our students’ experience, and this play is a very different experience for them,” she said. “That’s what we’re looking for in the department, for our students to have theater experiences that will help them in the future.”
Getting students out of their comfort zones — challenging them with things like Irish accents and characters from vastly different backgrounds — can only help them after they graduate, according to Callahan.
But Callahan also believes that audiences need to be challenged occasionally.
“I feel like we get a little stuck in seeing the same plays, the same genres, because we think audiences want it,” she said. “But I think that underestimates our audiences here. So instead of ‘Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)’ for the 12th time, we’re doing something like ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ once.”
Two other plays will be offered during the WSU theater department’s 2018-2019 Mainstage Season, including “Ruthless: The Musical” on Nov. 9-17, and “Sunday in the Park With George” on April 11-13.
For tickets or more information on any of the plays this season, visit weberstatetickets.com or call 801-626-8500.