The Cripple of Inishmaan: Broadway Reviews

Ben Brantley, The New York Times

When I saw it in London last year as part of a season of plays staged by Mr. Grandage, who began his own theater company after a fertile reign as the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, this “Cripple” was a ringing testament to the talents of everyone involved, and it now feels even more full-bodied. It affords Mr. Radcliffe, previously on Broadway in “Equus” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” the chance to deliver his most satisfying stage work to date. [...] Mr. Radcliffe’s Billy embodies the essence of this beautifully ambivalent play without dominating it, which would throw the production off balance. Despite Billy’s gnarled form, which makes even walking an agonizing process, he often registers as just one of many vivid portraits in a gallery of oddballs. But then he turns his sea-blue stare outward, and the loss and loneliness in his eyes lance right through you.

Elysa Gardner, USA Today

The marquee star, an Englishman whose father hails from Northern Ireland, nails the accent and makes Billy’s physical disability — which requires him to stagger around with considerable effort, using what others mockingly describe as a “shuffle” — painfully authentic. But the performance is most notable for its lack of affectation, for how Radcliffe captures Billy’s struggle to be accepted for his goodness and intelligence without flaunting those qualities in ways that would contradict them. Interacting with his “aunties” and the more colorful townsfolk — the preening old gossip Johnnypateenmike, the pretty but wildly pugnacious Helen McCormick — Radcliffe’s Billy conveys the patience and discretion of a precocious child who has learned to respect the limits of others.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

There’s not a weak link in the cast, but the gorgeous Greene is just marvelous; her Helen is a spiky presence as perversely endearing as she is frightening. As for Radcliffe, this adventurous young actor could be living idly off Potter revenues forever, but continues to stretch himself on the stage after doing impressive work in Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His accent, at least to these ears, is no less convincing than the cast’s Irish natives, and he’s masterful at conveying a forlorn sense of solitude while firing off sly put-downs that illustrate Billy’s underestimated intelligence. His fever-dream monologue in Act II gives the play an unsettling element of mystery.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety

 Having earned his legit chops (in “Equus” and “How to Succeed ….”), the grown-up teen idol turns in a warm, sympathetic performance as the sweet-tempered but broken-bodied “cripple” who has long resigned himself to the gleeful cruelty of his cloddish neighbors.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

Daniel Radcliffe — whose global celebrity wholly disappears inside this much-maligned character in Michael Grandage’s truly formidable London-to-Broadway revival of Martin McDonagh’s 1996 play, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” — delivers a Billy with one heck of a limp, a body-twisting contortion that, when in motion, is quite the theatrical thing to behold. [....] Radcliffe, a man of slight build, not only grabs onto this role physically, he understands that what interests us most about Billy is how he reacts when people add that “crippled” to his name. Show too much pain and you’re off base. Even a crippled fellow can still get a kiss from the live-wire Helen (the ebullient Sarah Greene) and certainly will make Johnnypateenmike’s news on regular basis (he’s played with real joy by Pat Shortt). Show no pain at all and everything is a wash of black farce. Radcliffe rightly lands slap in the middle — his Billy has learned to go along to get along, but he still winces with quiet pain, mostly inside.

Of the three Radcliffe performances I’ve seen on Broadway (the others were in “Equus” and “How to Succeed”), this by far is the best. It really breathes as it hobbles along, and yet it’s never showy nor overly optimistic. Radcliffe, who reveals chops here I’ve never seen on stage nor screen, is surrounded by superb character work throughout, including the killer likes of June Watson and Gary Lilburn.

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News

Daniel Radcliffe has appeared naked on stage, but he’s never been as emotionally raw or as steady on his feet as he is now portraying Billy, a palsied Irish bloke who can barely walk in “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

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. This is the 24-year-old actor’s best performance on Broadway, where he’s previously headlined the drama “Equus” and the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” [...] Through it all Radcliffe tightly hugs the curves of the spirited Billy’s journey. He vividly captures the melancholy, determination and, all too fleetingly, his joy.

David Finkle, The Huffington Post

Daniel Radcliffe is out to prove something, and he’s doing a bang-up job of it. Set for life as the #1 Harry Potter alumnus, he could undoubtedly make a career of movie romcoms. He absolutely refuses, and now after giving his all–and showing it, too–inEquus and singing and dancing on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he’s taken on the physically punishing eponymous role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh’s hilarious, heart-shattering 1997 dramedy. [...] It’s Radcliffe, the instant movie superstar, who commands the stage as a lost boy who only wishes he could become a faraway Hollywood somebody. Perhaps Radcliffe’s most commendable facet is that he eagerly embraces his status as an ensemble performer.

 Tom Geier, Entertainment Weekly

Daniel Radcliffe, who’s emerged as a fine stage actor since hanging up his Nimbus 2000 broomstick in a decade of playing Harry Potter on the big screen, plays Billy with a crafty mix of guile and vulnerability. His Irish accent is more than passable and while he doesn’t stint from the role’s physicality – curling his left hand and stiffening his left leg throughout the show – he refrains from milking the disability for easy sympathy.

Linda Winer, Newsday

Never let it be said that Daniel Radclifffe panders – not to expectations of Hollywood glitz nor, especially, to his Harry Potter fan base. Here he is, back on Broadway after his daring 2008 New York debut in “Equus” and his equally courageous, in a different way, 2011 musical-comedy turn in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” And Daniel Radcliffe is again wonderful, a low-key company player, as the sweet tragic figure, Cripple Billy, born virtually paralyzed on one side and hopping around the rocky, cartoon-Irish gothic landscape in a delightfully deadpan revival of Martin McDonagh’s 1996 “The Cripple of Inishmaan.”

 Jesse Green, Vulture

That’s true here, as each character’s craziness, beautifully inhabited by an excellent cast, eventually reveals itself as an outgrown garment, insufficient to cover the naked pathos beneath. The fabric keeps gapping. This is especially evident in Billy, whose clothing literally does not — cannot — fit, and who, cow-starer and book-reader that he is, is the only one who seems to be aware of his plight. It’s a perfect role for Daniel Radcliffe, with his lonely-little-wizard persona by this point hard-wired. Yet he’s also grown tremendously as an actor, so that his wiring is just a starting point. Note the acknowledgement of truth in his eyes — far more painful than sadness or anger — when Helen disabuses him of his last beautiful illusion, the idea that his drowned parents loved him. “They loved you?” the witchy girl scoffs. “Would you love you if you weren’t you? You barely love you and you are you.”

Zachary Stewart, TheatreMania

Radcliffe gives a physically committed, sympathetic performance. You root for him and feel really bad for laughing at some of the funnier (and crueler) lines at his expense.

Robert Kahn, NBC New York

Radcliffe is appealing in a role that must be extraordinarily uncomfortable to play. He’s constantly wheezing, and one damaged leg remains stuck out, straight as a board. For any movement around the stage, which includes climbing over walls in Christopher Oram’s evocative turntable set, he must oblige that impediment.

“How to Succeed…” and “Equus” reminded us that Broadway audiences will always be endeared to Radcliffe, who grew up before our eyes, and we support him unapologetically in his attempts to escape the bitter tedium of Inishmaan.

Matt Windman, AM New York

Radcliffe sensitively captures Billy’s fragility and gutsiness all the while conveying his physical deformities, limping around with a bent arm and stiff leg, and signs of serious illness.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap

Radcliffe was last seen on Broadway three years ago not in a play but the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” to which he brought his “Harry Potter” impish persona. Some of that charm, plus his signature soulful gaze, is on display in “Inishmaan,” but even his credible singing and dancing in “How to Succeed” never brought to mind Hollywood’s great song-and-dance man James Cagney of the staccato cadence, buttocks-out, legs-stiff, feet-tapping school of performance that only he could do. Until Radcliffe in McDonagh’s play.

Radcliffe plays, of course, “Cripple Billy,” as everyone on the very unforgiving in-every-way-possible island of Inishmaan calls him in the year 1934. The actor radically contorts his body but moves with a lithe grace that cannot disguise the enormous chiropractic bills the show’s producers must be paying to sustain this kind of performance eight days a week. Plus, there’s his big tour de force scene in the second act when he’s completely wracked with the painful effects of incipient tuberculosis. Radcliffe is so convincing the audience coughs back in utter sympathy.

Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com

[...] the erstwhile Harry Potter is really good in the production, which opened Sunday at the Cort Theatre, the best he’s been in his three Broadway appearances.

There’s no longer the specter of J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard shadowing his performance, as he dives into the title character, Cripple Billy, a severely lame young man living in an isolated Irish community in the 1930s, trying desperately to break free of his assigned identity. [...] It’s in these later scenes, particularly, that Radcliffe shines. We switch attention from his precise physical portrayal of a man with a twisted arm and stiff leg to the inner Billy, to his suppressed emotional agony, and the quiet will to become more than his handicap.