Review Roundup: THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The Michael Grandage Company production of The Cripple of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh, starring Daniel Radcliffe and the critically acclaimed West End cast, opens today at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street).
The production marks the Broadway premiere for Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh's heralded play, and the first Broadway transfer from Michael Grandage Company, a London based Production Company set up by director, Michael Grandage and producer, James Bierman (both formerly of the Donmar) to produce work across all media. The Cripple of Inishmaan comes to Broadway following its sold out run last summer at the West End's Noel Coward Theatre, where it was part of an award-winning season of five plays produced by Michael Grandage Company.
Set on the remote island of Inishmaan off the west coast of Ireland, word arrives that a Hollywood film is being made on the neighboring island of Inishmore. The one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young Cripple Billy (Daniel Radcliffe), if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life. Martin McDonagh's comic masterpiece examines an ordinary coming of age in extraordinary circumstances and confirms his position as one of the most original Irish voices to emerge in the second half of the twentieth century.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: "But the star in question, Daniel Radcliffe, isn't here just to flex his charisma for fans. In the title role of this glimmeringly dark comedy from 1996, Mr. Radcliffe - the boy wizard in the immensely successful Harry Potter movie franchise - is entirely convincing as the boy who is regarded as least likely to succeed at pretty much anything in his God-forsaken rural Irish town...Compared with most of Mr. McDonagh's work, Cripple has a fairly low violence quotient. It's more comfortably a comedy than, say, Beauty Queen. But as outrageously funny as it often is, the play aches with a subliminal sadness that stays with you. The fabrications and speculations that these characters spin, in the fine old tradition of wild Irish yarns, come from an awareness that life is short and dangerous and, perhaps worst of all, empty...This gorgeously realized production has the wisdom to let us laugh until it hurts."
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: "Of the three Radcliffe performances I've seen on Broadway (the others were in Equus and How to Succeed), this by far is the best. It really breathes as it hobbles along, and yet it's never showy nor overly optimistic. Radcliffe, who reveals chops here I've never seen on stage nor screen, is surrounded by superb character work throughout, including the killer likes of June Watson and Gary Lilburn."
Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press: "McDonagh ricochets between crass humor, careless cruelty and tender sorrow, all the while poking fun at Irish folklore, toying with stereotypes, and setting his characters up to have their dreams crushed. He suddenly reverses their backstories or presents unseen sides to their personalities that upend what the audience thinks it knows...While Billy's coming of age is tinged with melodrama by McDonagh's fervid plotting, he and his fellow Inishmaan residents remain memorable and richly drawn, providing an evening of boisterous theatricality that overlays buried empathy for our shared human frailties."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "Michael Grandage, the Tony-winning director of "Red," directs a lovely cast in the gleeful poetry of outcast inhumanity...The play is subtler than McDonagh's more melodramatic hit gore-fests, especially The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The worst these townfolk do -- except for the blunt insults -- is "peg" one another with stones and break raw eggs on unsuspecting heads. The work also has none of the political chill of his masterwork, The Pillowman. He seems here to be both satirizing and celebrating the cliches about primitive Ireland and primal Hollywood, sending up the cruelties and seductions of the parallel universes as mutually exploitable pleasures. How right to have a real movie star as its heart."
David Cote, TimeOut New York: "Of course, people aren't flocking to the Cort Theatre to see the play-they want to ogle Daniel Radcliffe. They've also probably never heard of The Playboy of the Western World, so all those bog-stupid villagers might seem novel and amusing. One old maid converses with stones; another gorges on her store's candy inventory; a town lass throws eggs at anyone she doesn't like; her idiot brother talks incessantly of telescopes. Then there's Billy (Radcliffe), whom everyone calls Cripple Billy on account of his twisted arm and rigid leg. McDonagh's heavy-handed irony is that kind, thoughtful Billy is the most recognizably human of these grotesques...In fact, six years ago, I actually liked the play. But supersizing it for Broadway (even with Christopher Oram's handsome sets and costumes), Grandage does the brittle comedy no favors. McDonagh just doesn't have much to say, only romantic conventions to cynically flip over."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "Maybe it takes a black Irish heart to fully appreciate McDonagh's savage humor. But from bizarre stage plays like The Lieutenant of Inishmore to a psychotic film like Seven Psychopaths, the scribe always tempers his killing wit with affection, and even sympathy for his victims. That's the way it works with The Cripple of Inishmaan...McDonagh's sly point here seems to be that Irish humor, so wickedly cutting and clever, doesn't always mean to inflict pain. There are times when the marvelous musical verbiage that rolls off the silver tongues of the Irish can serve as secretive, even protective camouflage for truths better not spoken."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "With typically spry wit and irreverent ethnographic insight,Martin McDonagh's grubby jewel of a play uses the shooting of Flaherty's seminal non-fiction film as the spark for a pitch-black comedy about Irishness. The triptych portrait of Daniel Radcliffe on the Playbill cover makes no mistake about the marquee draw, and the former Harry Potter star has never been better, more than measuring up in this flawless ensemble. But to quote Hamlet, 'the play's the thing' in Michael Grandage's cracking production, which makes an entertainingly boozy brew of humor both sweet and savage, melancholy sentimentality, lacerating sorrow and wicked cruelty."
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Radcliffe is appealing in a role that must be extraordinarily uncomfortable to play. He's constantly wheezing, and one damaged leg remains stuck out, straight as a board. For any movement around the stage, which includes climbing over walls in Christopher Oram's evocative turntable set, he must oblige that impediment...McDonough is responsible for some of the darker material to appear on the Rialto in recent years ('The Pillowman' et al), and 'Inishmaan' is considered a piece that shows he has 'a sentimental side.' The play ends on a note that will make you question whether that's true-we are reminded of life's fragility going out, as we were going in. It's not a play that will appeal to everyone, but you couldn't ask for a more first-rate group of actors to join you for a couple of hours in a village full of eccentrics."
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Ace storyteller McDonagh ("The Pillowman," "The Lieutenant of Inishmore") makes these folksy characters' behavior and conversations churn with wicked laughter and wise insights. Like most fables, things darken as truths and lessons emerge - like the one about how people who love and help us also hurt us. Better yet, there's the one about how a journey to a far-away place leaves you flat and a kiss from a local girl gives you a reason for living. Now if only fate would cooperate. Through it all Radcliffe tightly hugs the curves of the spirited Billy's journey. He vividly captures the melancholy, determination and, all too fleetingly, his joy.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Daniel Radcliffe is doing his darndest to put Harry Potter way, way behind him. On Broadway alone, he's played a mentally disturbed young man who strips naked and blinds horses ("Equus") and an ambitious schemer singing and dancing his way to the top of the corporate ladder ("How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"). Now the star is contorting himself into a pretzel in "The Cripple of Inishmaan," a role he tops off with a thick Irish brogue.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: In Inishmaan, first produced in London nearly 18 years ago, we meet people for whom telling stories is an especially essential function, given the predictability and drudgery of their lives in the titular small town off the coast of Ireland. When an American film crew arrives on the neighboring island ofInishmore, planning to document the locals, a few find fresh inspiration - among them "Cripple Billy" Claven, an orphaned teenager sheltered by two spinsters, who alternately coddle and belittle him, and shunned or ridiculed by pretty much everyone else.
Matt Windman, amNY: Radcliffe sensitively captures Billy's fragility and gutsiness all the while conveying his physical deformities, limping around with a bent arm and stiff leg, and signs of serious illness. While Michael Grandage's revival doesn't quite equal the Druid Theatre Company's pitch-perfect production, which briefly played Off-Broadway in 2008, it is a strong-acted, atmospheric staging that more than does justice to McDonagh's bitter tale.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: Playwright McDonagh is known for his black humor, in such works as "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" and "The Lieutenant of Inishmore." And there are certainly lots of dark jokes in "Cripple." But McDonagh blends them with an unusual sympathy, a compassion that's rare in his plays. It's his most broadly appealing work, and audiences that come for Daniel Radcliffe will get to enjoy much, much more.
Thom Greier, Entertainment Weekly: Thanks to McDonagh's clever writing and the sharply drawn performances by Radcliffe & Co., these seeming stereotypes keep upending our expectations - and their own - as they spin their yarns and shade some closely held truths. This is one of McDonagh's lighter works, without his usual burst of Tarantino-esque violence, but there's enough edginess to pull the story back from the cliff's edge of sentimentality. A-
Jesse Green, Vulture: McDonagh - and Michael Grandage, who directs this near-perfect revival of the 1996 play, starring Daniel Radcliffe as Billy - pull out every stage-Irish trope for mockery: the flute music, the dour demeanors, the drink, the damp stone huts, the foul language, the overcolorful names. (Another character is Babbybobby Bennett, sometimes also known as Bobbybabbybobby.) It's hilarious - unless, I suppose, you're drunk, damp, deformed, demented, Irish, or human.
Robert Hofler, The Wrap: As endearing as Radcliffe makes Billy, McDonagh's play really belongs to the women who co-star as his "pretend" aunties, and Craigie and Hanna hang on to their adopted nephew like two determined barnacles. Under Grandage's direction, these two actresses take McDonagh's penchant for rustic cuteness - people who talk to stones, gossip about the cows - and make it sing with genuine humor. Less credible is the play's two big revelations, about the cause of Billy's physical impairment, which feel stuck onto the ending. And it wouldn't be a McDonagh play without some hilarious and/or ghastly episode of physical destruction. Here, the egg-smashing scene between Helen and her brother (Conor MacNeill) emerges as an unfunny overreach that, while lacking any blood, is a Grand Guignol display signifying not much of anything and, no doubt, a big mess to clean up after the curtain drops.
David Finkle, Huffington Post: Daniel Radcliffe is out to prove something, and he's doing a bang-up job of it. Set for life as the #1 Harry Potter alumnus, he could undoubtedly make a career of movie romcoms. He absolutely refuses, and now after giving his all--and showing it, too--inEquus and singing and dancing on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he's taken on the physically punishing eponymous role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh's hilarious, heart-shattering 1997 dramedy.