Martin McDonagh is legendary for writing tales gorged with gallows humor and violence. So he’s in consolation zone together with his completely entertaining however not fully hermetic play “Hangmen.”
Mixed together with his Oscar-nominated “Three Billboards Outdoors Ebbing, Missouri,” the sold-out play on the Atlantic Theater Firm is extra proof that McDonagh is having an excellent yr.
The play spins off of precise occasions within the mid-1960s. Because it opens, Harry (Mark Addy), England’s No. 2 hangman, and his less-than-deft assistant Syd (Reece Shearsmith) oversee the execution of Hennessey (Gilles Geary). The convict declares his innocence to no avail.
Flash-forward two years. Harry and his spouse Alice (Sally Rogers) run a pub and lease rooms above it. On the day hanging is abolished, Harry’s motley usuals collect to gab and guzzle, together with a wily cub reporter (Owen Campbell) who name-drops the No. 1 noose-man Albert Pierrepoint (an actual determine, performed by Maxwell Caulfield) to get blustering Harry to remark for a juicy story.
Enter Mooney (Johnny Flynn), an odd, barely menacing stranger who asks about renting a room and takes an unsettling curiosity in Harry and Alice’s 15-year-old daughter Shirley (Gaby French, splendidly sympathetic).
Like a pint of Guinness, the plot is thick. To say rather more would spoil twists (some that you just see coming) as McDonagh chases concepts about energy, guilt and innocence.
These are signature McDonagh themes, ones that toll loudly in his revenge film “Three Billboards.” Mooney is a reminder of a small however pivotal character — a person who’s responsible of one thing however precisely what’s unclear — within the movie.
Flynn, a useful holdover from 2015 London runs of the play, is a mashup of sexy-roguish Michael Caine and shaggy Rhys Ifans. Flynn enthralls even when the script fails to make a case for a few of his illogical actions.
Below the course of Mattnew Dunster, the entire ensemble is killer — proper right down to small roles of quirky barflies performed by Billy Carter, Richard Hollis, John Horton and David Lansbury. The set, which harbors its personal surprises, costumes and lighting hit the best notes as they add to the temper.
There have been higher McDonagh performs in New York — amongst them, “The Pillowman” and “The Cripple of Inishman.” However “Hangmen” comes out swinging and regardless of questions that come up about why some characters do what they do, the play ropes you in.