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Review Roundup: ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’

The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin MacDonagh’s 1996 comedy-drama, opened April 20 at the Cort Theatre. Daniel Radcliffe (How to Succeed…, Equus, Harry Potter films) stars as Billy, a handicapped young man seeking to escape his desolate Irish island home by auditioning for a Hollywood film company. Michael Grandage (Red) directs this production with a mostly Irish cast. He also directed the show in London. The play has been presented twice before in New York Off-Broadway, at the Public Theater in 1998 and at the Atlantic Theatre Company in a production from the Druid Theatre Company in 2008.

Almost all the New York critics greeted the production with cheers, with many praising Radcliffe for bravely taking on the physically demanding role of Billy. Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post and Matt Windman of AM New York compared this production unfavorably to the 2008 version, but both still found much to praise here. Only David Cote of Time Out New York was mostly negative, finding the play shallow and full of Irish stereotypes. Here are excerpts from the major reviewers.

Sarah Greene, Daniel Radcliffe and Pat Shortt during the Broadway opening night of 'The Cripple Of Inishmaan' (Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

Sarah Greene, Daniel Radcliffe and Pat Shortt take a bow opening night of ‘The Cripple Of Inishmaan’ (Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

Ben Brantley, New York Times
“Mr. Radcliffe’s Billy embodies the essence of this beautifully ambivalent play without dominating it, which would throw the production off balance. Despite Billy’s gnarled form, which makes even walking an agonizing process, he often registers as just one of many vivid portraits in a gallery of oddballs.”

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
“Radcliffe’s impressive work here is matched by his fellow actors, the direction and design of this show from Londonmarking the 1996 play’s debut on Broadway. It’s been seen downtown in 1998 and 2008. One quibble with Michael Grandage’s very fine staging is that a vague final moment blunts the impact of the funny-sad tale a wee bit.”

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
“But Michael Grandage’s production, imported from London, can be a little one-note—it pales in comparison to Garry Hynes’ earlier off-Broadway take.”

Jennifer Farrar, Associated Press
“Two of the most wonderfully wrought characters are Billy’s comical yet brooding aunts who have raised him. Their repetitious, chorus-like banter is given delightful nuance by Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Craigie. Christopher Oram’s rustic, slightly decaying, stone-laden set and simple, drab costumes add to the downtrodden atmosphere.”

Linda Winer, Newsday
“Michael Grandage, the Tony-winning director of Red, directs a lovely cast in the gleeful poetry of outcast inhumanity. Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna are blissfully dim as Billy’s loving maiden aunties.”

Elysa Gardner, USA Today
“Guided by Grandage with great faith, feeling and wit, Radcliffe and his superb co-stars also fully serve the trenchant comedy in Inishmaan. Whether observing as Sarah Greene’s profanity-spewing Helen tortures Billy or watching Pat Shortt’s delightfully ludicrous Johnnypateenmike have at his geriatric, booze-swilling Mammy (a sublime June Watson), you’ll laugh in spite of yourself, and them.”

David Cote, Time Out New York
“Radcliffe gives a passionate and scrupulous performance in a role that’s an emotional and ergonomic challenge. But besides the opportunity for physical prowess, Billy is not that interesting a part.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety
“Having earned his legit chops (in Equus and How to Succeed ….), the grown-up teen idol turns in a warm, sympathetic performance as the sweet-tempered but broken-bodied “cripple” who has long resigned himself to the gleeful cruelty of his cloddish neighbors.  The production also gives Gotham its first look at the work of the extraordinary new company formed by Michael Grandage, the estimable one-time artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“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.”

David Finkle, Huffington Post
“Michael Grandage, who has yet to direct a less-than-superb mounting, keeps all his players at the top of their form, but it’s Radcliffe, the instant movie superstar, who commands the stage as a lost boy who only wishes he could become a faraway Hollywood somebody. Perhaps Radcliffe’s most commendable facet is that he eagerly embraces his status as an ensemble performer.”

Matt Windman, AM New York
“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.”


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