By: David Sheward
Three is a lucky number for The Cripple of Inishmaan. Not only is this the third production of Martin McDonagh’s dark come
dy in New York (seen here in 1998 and 2008) and the first on Broadway, but it’s also Daniel Radcliffe’s third Main Stem appearance following Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Radcliffe has been impressively growing as an actor since his Harry Potter film days, and McDonagh’s farcical tragedy provides the perfect means for Radcliffe’s most intensely felt performance yet.
He plays Billy, the titular fellow, a deformed outcast stuck on a lonely Irish island whose only means of escaping the cruelty of his fellow citizens-oddballs themselves-is to get to a nearby isle where a Hollywood film crew is shooting a documentary (the plot is inspired by the real-life making of Man of Aran in 1934). As McDonagh slowly reveals, all the residents are a strange combination of vulgarity and kindness. Radcliffe gives Billy a detailed physical and psychological life by contorting his body to convey infirmities and subtly limning the lad’s hidden yearnings beneath a deceptively simple exterior. As it turns out, Billy is just as much a mixture of savagery and compassion as his tormentors are.
Even more impressive, Billy is not really the star of the play but just one member of McDonagh’s crazy Gaelic crew. The other residents of Inishmaan have equal time and prominence, and the cast, imported from Michael Grandage’s London production, paints in all their varying shades of grey. Sarah Greene is fiery and fierce as the egg-tossing Helen, the red-headed object of Billy’s desire; and Conor MacNeill gets maximum comic mileage out of Helen’s simplistic, telescope-obsessed brother. Pat Shortt hilariously embodies the town gossip. Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie are endearingly daffy as the aunts who care for Billy.
With the aid of his designers Christopher Oram (sets and costumes) and Paule Constable (lighting), Grandage creates a small, craggy, harsh, but wildly funny world for the Inishmaaners to inhabit.
April 20-July 20. Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48t St., NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time 2 hours and 20 minutes, including intermission. $27-142. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com
Photo: Johan Persson