The Cripple of Inishmaan
I've been a Martin McDonagh (A Behanding in Spokane, In Bruges) fan for a while, and had the pleasure of seeing The Cripple of Inishmaan several years ago at the Atlantic Theatre. I found that production to be rife with McDonagh's trademark dark humor, and placed in the small theatre at the Atlantic, the play felt intimate and urgent.
This production, direct from the Michael Grandage Company production in London, marks the first time The Cripple of Inishmaan has been on Broadway, and I'm pleased to report that it's a good production of a good play. There's nothing revelatory about this production (although I did like Christopher Oram's scrim depicting the isle) or the performances, but that's OK. Instead of glossy pop jukebox musicals and trite retellings of the same stories, this season Broadway audiences get to experience McDonagh, and that's a good thing.
Directed by Grandage (former artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse) and starring Daniel Radcliffe (How to Succeed...), this iteration brings to audiences an alternately funny and bleak play that boasts sharp writing and a strong sense of communal identity. While this version isn't as intimate as the Atlantic version I saw, it remains true to McDonagh's sensibility.
Grandage is able to find big laughs, with particular thanks to the supporting players (especially old broads Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie), but takes care to ensure the darker, more dramatic moments are experienced as such. Radcliffe does a fine job as Billy, the cripple whose coming of age story this is. (It's worth noting that Radcliffe seems much more at ease than he did when we saw all his effort on display during How to Succeed.)
I think the advertising strategy, which is to play this up as a riotous comedy, could leave audience members blindsided when some of the darker elements come into play, but perhaps that's a good thing, too. McDonagh doesn't write easy plays because life isn't easy. It's full of complicated emotions and situations, and we each have to learn how to get by.
(My favorite part of this production, however, is that Grandage is brining his company's mission to Broadway. As he states in his Director's Note in the Playbill, his company is "dedicated to bringing quality theatre to all audiences," and as such is offering "10,000 tickets at $27" each for this play's limited run at the Cort Theatre. Great plays at great prices. You can't beat that. To learn more and to purchase tickets, visit crippleofinishmaan.com.)