Thursday, April 24, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe

An Irish Tale Full of Lore and Longing
By Lauren Yarger
A bucolic Irish landscape stretches across the stage at the Broadway premiere of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, but a swirl of clouds clue us in that not all on this coastal island is as peaceful as it seems.

"Harry Potter" film star Daniel Radcliffe (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Equus) returns to Broadway to play Billy, the cripple in the play's title, who dreams of a different life from the one he has know with two spinster "aunts" who took him in as an infant orphan despite deformities to an arm and leg.

Eileen and Kate Osbourne (Gillian Hanna and Ingrid Graigie, who are excellent) love Billy, but fret about everything as they tend to the their little grocery market where absolutely nothing happens. Oh, Helen McCormick (Sarah Greene) might stop by with some eggs, if she hasn't already thrown them at someone or crushed them over the head of her brother, Bartley (Conor MacNeill) before she gets there. Or local newsgatherer/gossip Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt) might stop by with the latest tidbits about someone's goose biting a cat or a sheep's being born without ears.

But nothing much ever happens, especially for Billy, who spends a lot of time watching cows -- and secretly loving Helen. The reality is, however, that she -- and any other woman in the village -- would only laugh at the thought of being with someone like him.

One day, Johnny has some very exciting new, however. An American film crew is nearby shooting and is looking for locals to star in a movie. It's a ticket out of Inishmaan to Hollywood! Helen is sure her looks will get her a part, so she bribes Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney) to use his rowboat to get her and her brother to the filming location. Billy convinces Babbybobby to take him along too.

The performances, as directed by Michael Grandage, are superb and the storytelling, played out against a tri-fold set that rotates (design by Christopher Oram, who also designs the 1934-era costumes) is absorbing. McDonagh's script contains a lot of humor (sometimes very dark, though Cripple is less outlandish than some of McDonagh's other works like A Behanding in Spokane, or The Lieutenant of Inishmore, for example. This is more like his Beauty Queen of Leenane.)

Some "outside of reality" moments can be confusing, as is some of the plot. We're never really sure why Billy loves Helen. She's cruel, not only to Billy, but to anyone who has the misfortune to cross her path. In some ways, she is as much of an emotional cripple (there's allusion to priests and others taking advantage) as he is physically, so perhaps he recognizes a soul mate in that?

The performances are excellent across the boards. June Watson is a hoot as Johnny's acerbic, alcoholic mother. (Gary Lilburn completes the cast as the village doctor).

Radcliffe is a hard worker and proves here that he's just not a big name being used to sell tickets (missing the night I attended were the teenage girls who appeared en mass for How to Succeed and Equus). He gives us a layered Billy with the focus on the character, not on the star.  He's funny, sad and evokes sympathy. Hanna and Craigie (who played this role a couple of years ago in New Haven) are sensational. Their droll back-and-forths are the perfection of comedic timing. Just a look speaks volumes.

The Cripple of Inishmaan runs through July 20 at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th St., NYC. http://www.crippleofinishmaan.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- This is not for young kids

Note: Ladies, the line for the restroom at intermission will be impossible. Plan accordingly.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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