With “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” the cast and crew of the Tony-nominated show are bringing some British wit to Manhattan.
“It is a bit of magic. You are transported into a different world ... in this show from the minute the lights go down,” Sarah Greene, whose featured role as Helen McCormick has earned her a Tony nomination, said in a recent interview with Spectator.
Director Michael Grandage’s company is making its Broadway debut, arriving in New York after a sold-out stint on London’s West End last year with a cast that includes Daniel Radcliffe. The cast and crew of Grandage’s production were recently nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Director.
“I think Michael has this unbelievable ability to make an audience member feel and understand a play unlike any other director,” producer Arielle Tepper Madover said in an interview with Spectator.
Written by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, “The Cripple of Inishmaan” is set on Inis Meáin and is part of a trilogy inspired by the Aran Islands, though the final play, “The Banshees of Inisheer,” was never published. McDonagh grew up in London, but his parents were Irish, and he spent his vacations in Ireland with his family. The nation’s geography and culture serve as a backdrop for some of his most critically acclaimed creations, and he is considered to be one of Ireland’s greatest writers.
“What’s really incredible and beautiful about Martin McDonagh and what makes him I guess a new force of writing for his generation ... is that he is so funny and heartbreaking at the same time,” Madover said.
Though “The Cripple of Inishmaan” was first performed in London in 1996, the action takes place on the cusp of World War II and is based on the circumstances surrounding the fictional British documentary “The Man of Aran.” Despite the period in which the play is set and the elements of Hollywood grandeur the documentary’s filming brings to the community, Inishmaan is and remains a dull island for the three main characters.
With a mundane feel and a rural charm, the story is about characters with vibrant but emotionally flawed personalities.
“He’s [McDonagh’s] incredible with words, and he’s created nine really thought-out, deep characters,” Greene said. “And that’s a real privilege to play, I think, as a company because we all have our moment, we all have our little surprises and revelations along the way.”
Greene also noted that McDonagh’s dialogue allows the viewer to enter into another world because it reflects a time in Ireland when, despite the myriad problems that the country faced, people hesitated to talk about anything deeper than cats, geese, and sweets.
“Yes, it’s set in 1934 on a very, very remote island, but it talks and deals with issues of dreams and aspirations to be better than you are or to live a life better than the one you’re living,” she said.
According to the director’s note, the Michael Grandage Company is committed to sharing the performing arts with an eclectic audience. The box office will offer 10,000 discount tickets at $27 each so that theatergoers can afford a night at the Cort Theatre while “The Cripple of Inishmaan” plays out its 12-week limited engagement.
Radcliffe, who plays the titular role, chose the play from a selection of several scripts that Grandage recommended when he decided to collaborate with Radcliffe, who has previously starred on Broadway in “Equus” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Though Radcliffe is perhaps the biggest name on the bill, the actors emphasize that the production is a group effort.
“He’s just one of the team,” Greene said. “We forget sometimes that he’s Daniel Radcliffe until you go out to the stage door. And he’s working his ass off every night on that stage.”
“He hits every word really brilliantly, and none of that has to do with the fact that he is a movie star,” Madover said.