Review by Tulis McCall
Cripple Billy (Daniel Radcliffe) is not the only unusual moniker in The Cripple of Inishmaan. There’s Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney) and Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt) – and those are only the ones we meet. Who knows who else is lying around or resting in the graveyard? But Cripple Billy is the one who would like to be called Billy. Nevermind the Cripple bit. That he is cripple is plain to see – a shriveled arm and a leg that will not cooperate. So we don’t need to talk about it thank you.
This is a transition that barely causes a ripple in Inishmaan, mostly because no one pays attention to it. Mostly people live their lives not paying attention to one another in a very detailed way. These are folks whose balance is off if someone else tips the cart in an unexpected way. If Helen McCormick (Sarah Greene) throws stones at someone or breaks eggs on the head of her brother Bartley (Conor MacNeil) – THAT is not tipping the cart. Tipping the cart might be, say, running off to another place in the hopes of being in a film and then never returning.
Aye that would be tipping the cart.
Cripple Billy has been living with Kate (Ingrid Craigie) and Eileen Osbourne ((Gillian Hanna) for as long as he can remember. Since the night his parents drowned and left him an orphan he has been in their care. The two love him with that Irish kind of love: they will support him and complain about him in the same sentence. This is not two-faced. It is economical.
When Billy concocts a lie in order to barter for a boat ride off the island with Babbybobby, the two women are desolate. Especially Kate who takes up talking to stones when she is worried. The rest of their immediate community takes Billy’s disappearance in stride. Life is tenuous and often boring. Billy’s disappearance is proof of the unsettling facts as well as fodder for gossip that often depends on something as simple as a dead cat or a missing delivery of eggs.
Like McDonagh’s other works, The Cripple of Inishmaan is the story of folks who live lives of quiet desperation. They live where they live because that is where they were born, and a person doesn’t leave the place they were born. If God wanted them to live somewhere else, they would have been born there. They depend on rumor and stories to fuel their journey. They find color in the grey days and great meaning in the shortest of conversations.
This production is wildly uneven. For one thing there are as many different accents as there are actors, which is odd for a community that is practically incestuous. As for the violence that is always tucked into the folds of a McDonagh tale, it wasn’t believable. Helen, the town bully, comes off as a perky lass who probably talks more than she actually hurts folks. Her tales of violence delivered lack the ring of truth. The sisters’ repetition takes awhile to get going. Babbybobby appeared preoccupied with something else his entire time onstage. Johnnypateenmike was the clearest and most consistent character and performance. You could practically smell his unwashed hair and clothing. His Mammy (June Watson) however, had only one speed and that was a gear grinding full throttle. As for Radcliffe, he holds his own quite nicely. But the uneven quality of the evening is off putting – even the shelves of the little store belonging to the Osbourne sisters were removed from reality one too many steps.
All the inconsistencies drove me to read the script that I found packed with a language that is pure music. This is not what I saw or heard – but then it only seats one in my head. This is not a production to avoid, but I wouldn’t beat a path to it either.
"This gorgeously realized production has the wisdom to let us laugh until it hurts."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"The former Harry Potter plays the title role in Martin McDonagh’s hilarious and haunting comedy — and casts a spell with humor, smarts and contagious compassion."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"As uneven as it is, the play’s quirkily enjoyable."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"What makes this production, directed by Michael Grandage, so terrifically entertaining is the splendid performance of the entire ensemble. ... audiences that come for Daniel Radcliffe will get to enjoy much, much more."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"A highly satisfying rendition of Martin McDonagh’s pleasurably unpleasant play."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
"An entertainingly boozy brew of humor both sweet and savage, melancholy sentimentality, lacerating sorrow and wicked cruelty.."
David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter
"Daniel Radcliffe ... turns in a warm, sympathetic performance as the sweet-tempered but broken-bodied “cripple”."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...