Daniel Radcliffe, star of the Harry Potter films, is starring in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Cort Theatre for a limited engagement through July 20. Cripple, which has been seen Off-Broadway in 1998 and 2008, is a dark comedy telling the story of Billy, a disabled young man (played by Radcliffe) on the Irish island of Inishmaan in the 1930s. The boy’s small community is turned upside down when a Hollywood film crew arrives on a nearby island to make a documentary. Determined to escape the narrow confines of his home, Billy tries for a part in the movie.
This production is a transfer of a London staging directed by Tony winner Michael Grandage (Red, Evita, Frost/Nixon) which played to critical acclaim in June 2013. Radcliffe and the British cast including Tony nominee Sarah Greene repeat their performances. Here are five reasons to sample the humor and drama of The Cripple of Inishmaan.
Daniel Radcliffe displays his dramatic skills
In his third Broadway role, following Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the former Harry Potter star shows he is now a formidable adult actor. He gives Billy a detailed physical and psychological life by contorting his body to convey the lad’s infirmities. He also subtly puts across the character’s hidden yearnings and devious manipulations beneath a deceptively simple exterior.
Martin McDonagh’s darkly funny script
The playwright is known for his gruesome comedy in plays like The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lonesome West and A Behanding in Spokane. He’s just as sharp-edged here with the residents of the island portrayed as eccentric and somewhat savage in their relations. A brother and sister constantly bicker, a son threatens to kill his bedridden mother with alcohol and everyone torments handicapped Billy. But there’s compassion and hidden tenderness as well as raucous humor.
A superb company
Though he is the biggest name, Radcliffe is a part of a sterling ensemble. The other residents of Inishmaan have equal time and prominence. Tony-nominee Sarah Greene is fiery and fierce as the egg-tossing Helen, the red-headed object of Billy’s desire. Conor MacNeill gets maximum comic mileage out of his 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.
A scenic visit to rural Ireland
Christopher Oram’s set design and Paule Constable’s lighting create a rustic, green landscape. It’s beautifully lush in sharp contrast to the bleak lives of the people who inhabit it.
Irish history delivered with laughs
The action in the play is based on a real incident. Filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty and his crew arrived on the Aran Islands to make a documentary, Man of Aran, in 1934. In one scene, the citizens of Inishmaan watch a clip from the actual film with comical commentary. McDonagh uses the filming to examine the residents’ attitudes about being Irish.