Theater Review - The Cripple of Inishmaan (NY)

Martin McDonagh’s comedy, “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” full of love and loneliness, is one of my favorite plays. Funny how a performance will stick in your mind.  The last wonderful production in NY was Off Broadway in 2009 and featured an actor named David Pearce, who won our Outer Critics Circle award for his intriguingly delicious portrayal of Johnnypateenmike. Yes, that is the full name of the character who is the persistent gossip of his little Irish town.

Unfortunately, the actor, Pat Shortt, who plays the part in this present Michael Grandage Company production is very hard to understand, and due to Michael Grandage’s direction, recites many of his important lines turned away from the audience. Irish plays are full of poetry. The words are so important that missing them is a crime.  According to the Playbill, he is a standup comic and knows you face the crowd when delivering punch lines. I am surprised at Grandage, who has a Tony award and many honors for directing. There are good moments during the show, but many where other actors are hard to hear clearly or not at all.  

The hoopla concerns 24 year old Daniel Radcliffe, who since Harry Potter days has been working hard to prove himself as an actor. Here, he turns in a very convincing job in a difficult role as Crippled Billy, who limps and twists his leg and crimps his arm every time he moves.  Billy was adopted when an infant by the two elderly Osbourne sisters after his parents drowned: Eileen Osbourne is Gillian Hanna and Kate, who talks to stones when upset, is Ingrid Craigie.  The two long-suffering sisters, who open the show in their general store, are constantly worried about Billy for he has been ill, seems unhappy and keeps staring at cows.  

Billy, a voracious reader, tries to ignore the insults heaped upon him by townspeople. When he hears that there is a film being made on a neighboring island, he decides he must go to audition. So Babybobby will take him in his boat, he submits a letter from his doctor saying that he only has a short time to live.  He is gone for several months so that his aunts and friends think he is dead.  His return is met with joy and shock, particularly when it is found that the letter about his health was forged.

As brother and sister, Bartley and Helen McCormick are very entertaining.  While Denzel Washington is eating raw eggs in “A Raisin in the Sun,” as Bartley, Conor MacNeil is breaking them on his head! Helen is a terrorizing young woman, played with riveting charm by redhead Sarah Greene. Gary Gilburn gives a lucid reading as the Doctor, and June Watson is strong as Mammy, Johnnypateenmike’s drunken mother.

The Set and Costumes by Christopher Oram and Paul Constable’s lighting are effective.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” at the Cort Theatre on Broadway.

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