A Gay Love Letter to James Franco
By Michael Musto
Pictured at Left: Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan | Photo by Johann Persson
AND NOW ON TO OTHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
Not just any other people, mind you. I’m going to stick to widely regarded stars who happen to be appearing on Broadway right now. Like that other screen idol, Daniel Radcliffe, who, like Franco, enjoys careening between blockbuster bonanzas and artsy provocations. Radcliffe has chosen his stage revivals pretty well (though Equus is always a tad overwrought and in How To Succeed…, he was appealing, but not quite conniving enough. The guy’s just so nice!). Now he’s in The Cripple of Inishmaan, the closest to “cute” of anything Martin McDonagh’s ever written, and a warm ensemble comedy about 1934 Irish camaraderie, gossip, oppression, and redemption. Michael Grandage’s production is high-pitched and chirpy, but lovingly put together, and Radcliffe does really well with his fast-talking victim character, who’s tired of going to doctors and fending off bullies and is aiming for a little romance to help ward off his various diagnoses. Radcliffe is committed to the character’s disability—he’s clearly thought it through and worked it out—and when the chance for Hollywood stardom enters the “cripple’s” world of possibilities, you know Radcliffe will be adept at that twist too. But as he convincingly limped across the stage, I couldn’t help thinking, Maybe that’s from having sex with the horse?
If Of Mice and Men and Inishmaan aren’t enough for you, there are two other shows about disability: Violet is just another musical about a girl with a gruesome facial scar riding the bus to meet a faith healer. Kidding. The 1997 Jeanine Tesori/Brian Crawley work has always been a special case, a delicate flower devoid of the old razzle dazzle, and in its first Broadway production, it gives two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster the chance to emotionally strip down and go full-on serious as a scarred young woman (though we don’t see the disfigurement) searching for a miracle of movie star looks. Foster’s full of integrity and gives her typically fine performance, and she’s ably abetted by Joshua Henry as the new soldier friend who’s also judged by his face. (He’s black, and this is the South in 1964.) Her touching “Lay Down Your Head” number and his rousing “Let It Sing” are highlights, and the mostly intimate production—which started at Encores!—reeks of sensitivity and class. I wish I could also report that the result was electrifying.
And finally, the scars of old age are the focus of Eric Coble’s The Velocity of Autumn (opening tonight), about a cantankerous old woman who’s physically and mentally spiraling, but who distracts herself with a sparring partner in the form of her long lost son. (He’s gay, by the way, which always made dad uncomfortable, “like gorgonzola cheese.”) At a talkback after the performance I saw, director Molly Smith said the two award winning actors—the formidable Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella—were like “wild animals” at rehearsal as they parsed through each line, asking millions of questions. I only had one. At the end of the talkback, why did the producer offer us tickets to see the show again, or to give to a friend? Everyone oohed and ahed over this act of supreme generosity, only to be handed a card that said, “Tickets from $45”! I’ll stick with seeing my man James Franco again for full price.