"You shouldn't laugh at other people's misfortunes," Billy admonishes. But you'd have to be a stone not to laugh at these goings-on, which find humor in the most mundane facets of daily life. McDonagh has assembled a colorful array of quirky characters, beginning with Billy's two adopted aunts (Corinne Germain, Abby E. Haug), whose love for their ward does not preclude recognizing his shortcomings. ("Billy does have a sweet face if you ignore the rest of him," one sister suggests. "Well he doesn't really," the other admits.) Then there is Johnnypateenmike (Brian White), the daft human newspaper, and Babbybobby (Cesar Garcia), whose boat could transport Billy over to Inishmore, where the movie's being made. But how to get around the fact that everybody knows a crippled fellow in a boat is bad luck? Nor let us forget the sensuous, foul-mouthed Helen (Ashley Price), a seventeen-year-old terror, especially when she tries to give a history lesson about England's domination over Ireland and fresh eggs are at hand. These loopy characters beguile us in a tale that seems fresh and original — but which in fact is not all laughs, for there are mysteries to unearth and sadness looms always just over the horizon.

Webster Conservatory students Ashley Price, Nathan Lee Burkhart (rear) and Murphy Martin in The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Karen Burch
Webster Conservatory students Ashley Price, Nathan Lee Burkhart (rear) and Murphy Martin in The Cripple of Inishmaan.


The Good Thief
Wednesdays and Thursdays through April 10 at Dressel's Pub, 419 North Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-487-5305 or visit www.midnightcompany.com.

The Cripple of Inishmaan
Through April 6 at Stage III (in Webster Hall), 470 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students and seniors). Call 314-968-7128 or visit www.webster.edu.

In addition to the charming cast that has been directed by Doug Finlayson to deliver just the right blend of oddball and pathos, the design elements are something wonderful: weather-beaten costumes by Heather Bohrer that seem to have been dipped in the Meramec River; a sound design by Zena Rae Yeatman that evokes the incessant surf of the sea without distracting from the action; lighting by Lauren Wright that warns us when the action is beginning to darken even though the dialogue remains sprightly. Best of all is the scenic design by Tia Dennis, a stunning unit set that evokes all the extremes that are Ireland, from its breathtaking beauty to its sere barrenness. And there in the background, rather like the mainland's famed Cliffs of Mohr, are bluffs whose promontories gaze west like a finger extended from a fist, forever pointing to the distant glamour and disillusionment that are America.

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