The Cripple of Inishmaan Is Straight-Up Funny

What do you think would be funny about a cripple orphan, a remote town in Ireland and a Hollywood documentary?  If you’re thinking how I was thinking, then you’re answer is probably not very much.  But like me you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that my first thought was totally off the mark.   Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a total laugh riot.

top-7-largeMcDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark, delightful comedy, think of Peyton Place with razor blade roads.  This play is as twisted as Forrest Gump’s back before the braces.  Set in the small community of Inis Meáin off the western coast of Ireland circa 1934, McDonagh uses the real life filming of the documentary Man of Aran as the foundation of the play.   A Hollywood film crew arrives in the neighboring town of Inis Mór to make a film about life on the islands.   The news, carried by town gossip Johnnypateenmike, sets the town ablaze and gives Billy Claven or “Cripple Billy” as he is called by the townsfolk, the idea to finally escape the place that treats him like a poor orphaned outcast.  Billy finds out that local bully Helen McCormick has finagled Babbybobby Bennett, a boatman, to sail her and her henpecked brother Bartley over to Inis Mór for an audition. Billy conjures a heartbreaking tale to secure a seat on the voyage and winds up getting the opportunity to take part in a film in California.  Billy’s sudden departure puts his adopted aunts Kate and Eileen Osbourne into a tailspin.  Kate begins talking to a stone and Eileen devours all the sweets in their shop to try to avoid worrying about the fate of Billy.  But you know what they say about the grass being greener, missing home Cripple Billy returns to face the place he tried run from, the hurt that was left in his wake and the secrets that have haunted him no matter where he traveled.

top-4-largeThe Cripple of Inishmaan first opened December 12, 1996 at London’s Royal National Theatre.  In 1998 the play opened in NYC and L.A.  The play returned to London’s West End in 2013 with Michael Grandage at the helm directing and Daniel Radcliffe as Cripple Billy.  The production was a hit and fresh off the heels of its sold-out run across the pond, The Cripple of Inishmaan opened at the Cort Theatre on April 20 for a limited 14-week engagement.  And this is one engagement that is not to be missed.  This play is may be about a cripple, but there is nothing deficient about this production.  Daniel Radcliffe truly shines in this revival.  The more he sheds his Harry Potter skin the more we are able to witness how his talent has matured.  He is a wonder to watch live, whether he is singing and dancing or using a crutch, Mr. Radcliffe is rad!  In fact, the whole cast is exceptional.   An awesome ensemble, they authentically project the intimate bonds that are created in a small town.  Sarah Greene is a terror as Helen McCormick, but as frightening as she is, she is equally as charming.  Pádraic Delany radiates brooding appeal as Babbybobby.  Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna are equally delightful as Cripple Bobby’s smothering adopted aunts. The zingers delivered by June Watson and Pat Shortt, who play Johnnypateenmike and his alcoholic mom, are absolutely scandalous and some of the best shade (insult throwing for those of you who don’t know) that I’ve heard on stage in a long time.  The scene and costume designs created by Christopher Oram transported the audience to that 1930’s Ireland and aided in projecting a close-knit community aesthetic.

top-1-largeIrreverent in all the right ways, The Cripple of Inishmaan is a winner and with the support of a great cast, this production stands with the best that Broadway has to offer this season.

Photos: Johan Persson

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F.A.M.E NYC’s St. Paddy’s Day Ticket Giveaway

Spring is near and if you weren’t already itching to get out of the house, let F.A.M.E NYC give you another reason.  Daniel Radcliffe is best known for conjuring magic on the big screen, but he has also been known to create some special moments on stage as well.  This spring Radcliffe is coming back to Broadway in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMANAnd we want to give someone a pair of tickets to see Radcliffe in action.  All you have to do is riddle us this?

What school did Harry Potter attend?

Leave your answer in the Comment Box below for a chance to win.  

We will choose the winner on St. Patrick’s Day at 5 p.m.  May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway, Where are Audrey and Truman When You Need Them?

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It’s a good thing that Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote have gone on to their greater glory so they wouldn’t have to bear witness to the goings on at the Cort Theatre.  On the other hand, maybe someone should’ve performed a séance before curtain call, so that their presence could guide the cast.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s was one of the productions I was most looking forward to this season.  Sadly, I must report that the core of this production, which on the surface seems to be about beautiful people sipping martinis and champagne, is a flat as an eight-day-old open bottle of Pink Champale.  It was unconvincing, inauthentic and could evoke more zzzz’s than a bottle of Ambien. 

The 1958 Truman Capote novella of the same name and its protagonist Holly Golightly are iconic symbols of American literature and culture.  Audrey Hepburn became synonymous with the character after portraying her in 1961 film.  Unfortunately, this production didn’t bring with it the spirit of Holly Golightly or the colorful characters of Capote’s book or Blake Edwards’ movie. 

4.185113Sometimes it is difficult to step into shoes that are as recognizable as Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  Nevertheless, it can be done.  Patti LuPone’s Evita was legendary, but Madonna (who isn’t necessarily known for her acting chops) gave the role new life when she played the larger than life wife of Juan Peron for the silver screen.  Outside of George Wendt, most of the cast’s feet were just too small to fill and walk in shoes of these characters.  It is rare that I can’t find one redeeming quality about a production, but as hard as I wrack my brain, I can’t find one.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s was more like breakfast at Denny’s there was no moon river, no dose of fabulosity.  Holly Golightly said it best when she explained to her husband Doc, “You musn’t give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get, until they’re strong enough to run into the woods or fly into a tree. And then to a higher tree and then to the sky.”  In essence, that is the problem with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Richard Greenberg and Sean Mathias gave their hearts to a wild thing that had flown the coup way before it hit the stage.

Photos: Broadway.com

Time Is On Their Side

In some ways a trip to the theatre can be compared to a photograph – it is a moment that encapsulates a specific period of time and emotions.   The only difference is one image is recorded in your mind, the other recorded on a glossy sheet of paper.  After the moment is over, life goes on and like other memories that fade or become altered with age, the image one captures from a theatre experience will not change, nor will a photo.  Inside the Cort Theatre awaits an unforgettable experience that will leave an indelible impression on the consciousness.  Time Stands Still is a timeless piece of art that will leave viewers captivated and questioning the world around them.  Written by Donald Margulies, the play premiered in February 2009 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles with Anna Gunn, David Harbour, Robin Thomas and Alicia Silverstone performing the play’s four characters.  In January 2010, it began its initial run on Broadway with Laura Linney, Brian d’ Arcy James, Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone as the only cast member to reprise her role.

When I first heard about Time Stands Still it was creating quite a stir and receiving rave reviews.  Tickets were as hard to find as the Willie Wonka golden chocolate bar wrapper.  By the time its first Broadway incarnation at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater ended on March 27, the play had garnered two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Laura Linney.  I had thought I might have been jipped out of one the best shows of 2010 and was ecstatic to read that the show would resume in September after a brief hiatus to allow Ms. Linney to fulfill scheduling commitments for The Big C, a new series on Showtime.  Now playing at the Cort Theatre, the original Broadway cast has reprised their roles with the exception of Alicia Silverstone; Christina Ricci was cast in her stead.

With Time Stands Still, Donald Margulies has crafted a modern masterpiece; it is a sociology exposition done right.  He scrupulously places the elements of new millennium relationships, beliefs and society under a microscope, dissecting each aspect until its essence is exposed and theories are challenged.  The play involves two couples Sarah (Laura Linney) and James (Brian D’Arcy) and Richard (Eric Bogosian) and Mandy (Christina Ricci), but centers on the relationship between Sarah and James.  Sarah and James are war correspondents; she is a photographer and he is a reporter.  For nine years they have been shacking up together and documenting the most gruesome aspect of the human condition.  As the play opens, Sarah had just been severely injured in a car bomb explosion in Iraq and has returned to their Brooklyn apartment to convalesce.  James recently survived a jarring experience which led him to leave Sarah in the Middle East and is now wracked with guilt.  Shortly upon their arrival back from a hospital overseas, they are visited by Richard, a photo editor and friend, and his newest love interest Mandy.  Richard suggests that since Sarah is recuperating, her and James should collaborate and create a coffee table book of their experiences in Iraq with her photos and his commentary.  But as Sarah and James begin working on the book, infidelities are revealed and life as they know it also questioned.  James is ready to try a more conventional life and Sarah is addicted to the adrenaline rush and is reluctant to change.

The cast brings this stellar story to life with compelling conviction.  Sarah finds solace in the square of the lens.  The moment she clicks the chaos of her surroundings, the world is silent (hence the title Time Stands Still).  She finds excitement and a sense of duty by showing the world the atrocities of war.  Most of all she is unabashedly unconventional.  Laura Linney is one of the most inspiring actresses of this century.  Her talent enriches the complex relationship Sarah and James share.  She is able to penetrate the core of Sarah’s personality and bring across all her fearlessness, flaws and vulnerabilities in a poetically human performance.  Laura Linney’s Tony nomination was well deserved; her depiction of Sarah is one of the most riveting displays of acting prowess that was offered this year. 

Brian D’Arcy’s acting chops have been well-honed on stage and his portrayl of James is another magnificent testament to a skillful Broadway veteran.  James is a man who has hit a wall going 100 mph and is on the precipice of change; in fact, he needs it in order to move forward.  The subtle desperateness D’Arcy exudes as he struggles to hold on and fix a relationship that is slowly disintegrating is genius and vividly sets up the tug-of-war aspect as the future of Sarah and James’ relationship is explored.

Eric Bogosian is probably best known from the 1988 film Talk Radio and his role on Law &Order: Criminal Intent as Captain Danny Ross, but he is also an accomplished novelist and playwright. His understanding of character development has served him well with an engaging portrayal of Richard.  In the wrong hands Richard could easily become a less memorable character, but Bogosian brings him alive with wittiness and grace.

 

 

Charm and exuberance are two traits Christina Ricci has in ample supply; she is one of the most interesting young actresses in Hollywood.  She could not have made a better Broadway debut than the role of Mandy.  Mandy’s youthful, naïve way of seeing the world and her devotion to Richard is the catalyst that inspires the questions and sparks the conflict in Sarah and James’ relationship.  Ricci turns a character that could be perceived as a bubblehead into a sweet, profound young lady.  She and Eric Brogosian’s performances are the perfect compliment to acting superiority of D’Arcy and Linney.

This play lacks nothing.  By the final curtain close I was rushing to my feet to give this show and its cast an enthusiastic standing ovation.  Time Stands Still has all the elements of 007 martini – all the best ingredients shaken to perfection.  Mature and momentous, to miss this show is to deprive yourself from a truly enthralling and entertaining theatre experience. 

Photos:  Joan Marcus