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.