Martin McDonagh is an extraordinary playwright with a fantastic ear for the cadence of everyday speech. His finely crafted dialogue takes the straightforward language of his working-class Irish characters and turns it poetical. His plays are fraught with the conflicts and demons of all those struggling for a living (for life, for love), revealing them in plain lyrics, spoken with feeling.
Druid Theater’s production of "The Cripple of Inishmaan" ruins McDonagh’s play thoroughly. The staging is positively leaden. The set, the blocking and the choices of the actors would be met with strong criticism in any rudimentary theater class. To see these mistakes on one of Chicago’s premiere stages leaves this reviewer flabbergasted. All lyricism, all natural flow of dialogue is ignored; the actors stand in lines, evenly spaced from one another, motionless, reciting their lines in the proper order as dictated by the script with all the humanity of an automated parking lot card-reader. Scenes of violence and tenderness flop upon the audience at random; in one particularly ridiculous scene, an older, larger male character stands next to the eponymous lead, listening to him say his lines, expressionless, and then (with motions that look positively unrehearsed) pulls out some kind of extendable club and flaccidly waves it at the other actor. The resulting mock assault smears the craft of fight choreography; this reviewer has seem more creative work, executed with more enthusiasm, in games of Pictionary.
I’ll refrain from enumerating this production’s shortcomings any further. It’s not a task I take any pleasure in. Suffice it to say: there are many astounding productions and performances happening in Chicago over the coming weeks. I wholeheartedly encourage you to go see one of them and avoid The Cripple of Inishmaan.