Martin McDonagh’s ‘Inishmaan’ dark comedy hurts so good in Torrance

Sticks and stones can break our bones, but words hurt more, in Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”The sticks and stones are wielded by these all-too-human characters, but the more-damaging cruelty is in what they say to one another.And even when they try to be kind, the harm they may be doing might be worse than that caused by unsparing words.The time is decades ago, the place an island off the Irish coast, and the characters quirky, but the story feels strikingly immediate in the play’s production at Torrance Theatre Company.

They hire Babbybobby (Jonathan Fisher) to row them over.But Johnnypateenmike, who tends his 90-year-old Mammy (Christi Lynch) by pouring whiskey into her, might have gotten details of the film shoot and other bits of “news” he spreads rather wrong. Billy and Helen insist on heading to the filming location, certain stardom awaits them. But she is busy trading those kisses around town for products and services.The play’s plot is set in motion when news comes, via the town busybody Johnnypateenmike (John Ogden), that a film crew from Hollywood has landed on the neighboring island to make a movie. Billy longs for a kiss from the town’s prettiest girl, Helen (Alberie Rachele Hansen).
But his soul is even more damaged, as he has spent his life believing his parents didn’t want him because of his physical limitations.He lives with his Aunt Eileen (Shirley Hatton) and Aunt Kate (Virginia Brown), who run the local grocery. Eileen copes with life by sneakily stress-eating the store’s latest shipments of candy, and Kate calms herself through conversations with stones she lovingly cups in her hands. It centers on Cripple Billy (Kawika Aguilar), a good-hearted young man whose hand is paralyzed and who walks with a limp.

Sasha Stewart Miller directs, leaving no stone unturned. She brings out whatever truths to glean about each character, and her staging puts the action together like a jigsaw puzzle.That action leaps from store to moored rowboat to bedside, on scenic designer Mark Wood’s compact, sturdy, effective set, mistily lit by Katy Streeter of StreetLite LLC.McDonagh writes in levels of meaning and knotted plot twists. By the play’s end, the audience might be growing less certain about who has done what and why.

★★&#x2605&#x2605When: 8 p.m. on April 20; no performances Easter weekend, April 15-16).Where: Torrance Theatre, 1316 Cabrillo Ave., Torrance.Tickets: $30.Suitability: Audiences are cautioned about “adult language and content.”Length: 2 hours, 40 minutes, including intermission.Information: 424-243-6882, (Additional performance 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through April 23.