Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Cripple Of Inishmaan (The SOB Review)

The Cripple Of Inishmaan (The SOB Review) - Linda Gross Theater, Atlantic Theater Company, New York, New York

***1/2 (out of ****)

Who would have thought that a play so politically incorrectly named would pack such a powerfully funny, yet emotional punch?

As currently revived as a joint project by New York's Atlantic Theater Company and Ireland's Druid Theatre Company of Galway, Martin McDonagh's The Cripple Of Inishmaan gives new meaning to the term "break leg." This show is crackling with wit and pathos.

With frequent McDonagh collaborator Garry Hynes at the helm, the two have spun an exceptional yarn. Set in the Depression-era on a remote Irish island, a physically challenged reject nicknamed "Cripple" Billy -- an exceptional Aaron Monaghan in a breakthrough role -- finds fame, if not necessarily good fortune, when he's defied all odds in being cast in a documentary being filmed on the nearby isle of Inishmore.

With his trademark black humor, McDonagh infuses each character with remarkable shadings that reveal themselves with his characteristic complexity. Chief among them is the extraordinary David Pearce as Inishmaan gossip JohnnyPateenMike, who never met a rumor he didn't like to exploit, yet who ultimately maintains a secret that proves he has a heart.

Despite all the violence for which McDonagh is known, and Cripple Of Inishmaan certainly has its share, the playwright intrigues with his compassion for humanity. It certainly bubbles to the surface in this great work. Along with his rich humor, outstanding cast and Hynes' loving direction, this able play easily ranks among the year's better revivals.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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