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CurtainUp Prequel plus follow-up Review
The Cripple of Inishmaan

The Cripple of Inishmaan: The Review
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Daniel Radcliffe as Billy Claven (Photo: Johan Persson)
As this was my third visit to Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan, so this superb production by director Michael Grandage's company is Daniel Radcliffe's third outing on Broadway. While he is a superb Crippled Billy, what makes this production worth seeing, whether you've seen it before or not, is not just because it features a star because it does not play as a star vehicle. All nine actors, and that includes Radcliffe, portraying the impoverished, uneducated citizens of the nothing-ever-happens-here village of Inishmaan demonstrate the art of ensemble acting impressively and enjoyably.

While Radcliffe isn't even on stage during several scenes he more than deserves the star billing. I wouldn't have missed seeing his Billy, even though all the Irish village humor didn't have me laughing quite as hard this time around. What makes him so star-worthy is his willingness to challenge himself — first, as the troubled Alan Strong in the psychological thriller Equus, ( review) which included a nude scene. . . then dancing and singing up a storm in How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, (review ). . . now having to master the accent, physical disability and poignancy of the affection starved, painfully crippled village orphan. All of which he does admirably.

This is clearly a young man who's not content to rest on the laurels and earnings from his teen aged screen success, but an actor whose every appearance on stage anyone interested not just in celebrity cast shows but in good acting, will not want to miss. Whether his next trip to Broadway will be another revival (Shakespeare?) or a new play, I certainly plan to see it.

Now that I've seen Michael Grandage's production, it's easy to understand why Radcliffe, though the ticket-selling name, succeeds without upstaging an outstanding team effort. If there's a star among Billy's fellow villagers it's the Sarah Greene as the slippery-with-the-eggs and and quick on the "feckings" Helen on whom Billy has a hopeless crush. With her bright red braids, she literally lights up the dour shop of Billy's maiden aunties' less than well-stocked food store. (With Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna right on the mark as the funny aunties)

Some of the off-Broadway versions of the play suffered from rather creaky sets. Not so the grubby world that Christopher Oram has created with his scenery o and costumes. The rotating views of various scenes are spectacularly authentic, including one that finds Billy ill in a dollar a night American hotel room after being sent to Hollywood for a screen test to be part of a film about the Islands. Paule Constable's mood setting lighting and Alex Baranowski's incidental music further establish the authenticity of time and place.

That film (The actual documentary was named Man of Aran) was to be his escape from his dreary life. It is also the event that rocks the otherwise uneventful life of the town and imbues the play with a satirical view of the cliches about primitive Irish folks and their perceptions of Hollywood. The scene in which the villager watch the film is still the play's highlight.

Director Grandage shepherds the play with an unfailing balance between hope and despair, kindness and cruelty, over-the-top humor and deep sorrow. For details about Billy's dream turned nightmare journey that brings him back to Inishmaan, see Lizzie Loveridge's review when the play opened in London. Also check out the links to my reviews of the debut production at the Public Theater and Gerry Hynes' version at the Atlantic Theater in my Prequel comments below. The prequel also includes the production notes.

Prequel to Curtainup's Review of the Michael Grandage Production
Martin McDonagh virtually exploded on to the theatrical horizon. When The Beauty Queen of Leenane premiered at the Atlantic Theater. Eager ticket buyers were lined up down the block, and the play , eventually transferred to Broadway.

However, when The Cripple of Inishmaan crossed the pond from London to New York's Public Theater in 1998, it met with mixed critical review. I was in the minority with my enthusiasm for this daffy but delightful comedy with it's atmospheric aura and fascinating link to the documentary The Man of Aran filmed by Robert Flaherty in the 1930s — not to mention its being a play that's a gift to actors.

When another production of the play landed at McDonagh's first New York home, the Atlantic Theater, it met with a more positive response. I enjoyed seeing it again, with another ensemble of outstanding actors.

My enthusiasm notwithstanding, the play isn't exactly Shakespeare and something one feels the need to revisit it in less than ten years between viewings. Nevertheless another Cripple. . . has landed on our shares, this time at Broadway's Cort Theater. It does have that special something, however, an actor with an instantly recognizable name and genuine ticket selling magnetism.

The magnet this time is none other than Daniel (Harry Potter) Radcliffe. Mr. Radcliffe, now twenty-four, doesn't just bring a reputation as the hero of the adaptation of the beloved Potter books to the crippled Billy for whom McDonagh named his play. He made an auspicious New York stage debut in 2008 in the psychological thriller
Equus. Three years later he was back on Broadway, proving he could sing and dance as well as act s as the corporate ladder climber in How to Succeed In Business Without Even Trying.

While I never read the Harry Potter books, I found Radcliffe an actor of remarkable presence in these previous trips to Broadway and I wouldn't miss seeing this latest Cripple of Inishmaan even though I could do without again watching some of the overly folksy bits, like the object of Billy's affection, Helen display her slippery hand with the eggs she's supposed to deliver.

With all the show openings keeping New York critics dancing as fast as they can, I won't be seeing Radcliffe and company until later this week. Until I can post a detailed review of Michael Grandage's production, here are the current production notes and a link to our Lizzie Loveridge's review in London. Most of Radcliffe's support cast that she she saw has crossed the pond with the star: Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe in London

Links to Other Reviews of the play:> The Cripple of Inishmaan- Atlantic Theater. . . The Cripple of Inishmaan debut production- Public Theater

Broadway Production Notes
The Cripple of Inishmaan by Martin McDonagh
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe (Billy),Ingrid Craigie (Kate Osborne), Padraic Delaney (Babbybobby), Sarah Greene (Helen McCormick), Gillian Hanna (Eileen Osborne), Gary Lilburn (Doctor), Conor MacNeill (Bartley McCormick), Pat Shortt (Johnnypateenmike), June Watson (Mammy)
Designed by Christopher Oram
Lighting: Paule Constable
Composer and Sound Design: Alex Baranowski
Hair Designer:Campbell Young
Stage Manager: Peter Wolf
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes includes 1 intermission
The Cort Theatre 138 West 48th Street (212) 239-6200
It will run from 4/12/14; opening 4/20/14; closing 7/20/14
., will transfer to Broadway's Cort Theatre in April. Besides Radcliffe
Broadway production review by Elyse Sommer at April 24th press performance
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