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She Says: Martin McDonagh’s Hangman Asks Who Really Are The Killers

She Says: Martin McDonagh’s Hangman Asks Who Really Are The Killers
David Lansbury, Gilles Geary, Billy Carter

David Lansbury, Gilles Geary (seated), Billy Carter. Photo by Ahron R. Foster

How many innocent men are killed or put into prison? According to statistics about 120,000.00 are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. In 2015, 149 people were cleared for crimes they didn’t commit, more than any other year in history.  I remember the movie “The Thin Blue Line”, changed my perspective and innocents on the ideal that people in prison and who were killed, were guilty. Enter Martin McDonagh’s (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri“) Hangmen.

Mark Addy, Sally Rogers, Richard Hollis, John Horton, Billy Carter

Mark Addy, Sally Rogers, Richard Hollis, John Horton, Billy Carter. Photo by Ahron R. Foster

We begin in 1963, a prison in England, as Hennessy (a wonderful Gilles Geary), pleads for his life proclaiming his innocence. The no nonsense warden or the hangman, Harry (the stalwart Mark Addy, Robert Baratheon on Game of Thrones) tells him it will go quickly, if he just relaxes. Harry’s assistant, Syd (the snake like Reece Shearsmith) stammers with nervousness over the situation and in the end Hennessy is hung. Harry and the crew go to breakfast, just like it is any other day. McDonagh adds a sarcastic wit, to this violent outcome.
Mark Addy, Sally Rogers

Mark Addy, Sally Rogers Photo by Ahron R. Foster

The set changes with an electric glare thanks to lighting designer Joshua Carr and in a blink of an eye set and costume designer, Anna Fleischle brings us to a pub in Oldham, Lancashire. The bar is owned by Harry, who turns out is the #2 hangman and his wife Alice (a wry Sally Rogers). With the abolishing of death by hanging, Harry holds court, still a local celebrity. Bill (Richard Hollis), Charlie (Billy Carter) who repeats everything to Arthur (John Horton), the police inspector Fry (David Lansbury) and Clegg (Owen Campbell), a newspaper reporter who is trying to get a quote from Harry, gather to shoot the breeze and drink pints. Enter newcomer, a shaggy haired Mooney (Johnny Flynn), a menacing, seductive stranger from up north. Mooney orders a pint and a bag of nuts. He brings with him an air of unfamiliarity that the locals do not like, except for 15 year-old Shirley (Gaby French) and Alice. Mooney is looking for a room to rent and at first Alice agrees. The next day as the storm starts to intensify with eerie sound effects by Ian Dickinson, so does the feeling of doom and impending violence. And we can’t leave out Albert (Maxwell Caulfield), England’s No. 1 hangman. Not everything is as it seems.

Johnny Flynn

Johnny Flynn Photo by Ahron R. Foster

The cast is a well put together ensemble with Johnny Flynn as the standout. His layering of this character leaves us off guard. We are seduced, fearful and carried on his manipulative journey of no return.

Johnny Flynn, Gaby French

Johnny Flynn, Gaby French Photo by Ahron R. Foster

Matthew Dunster’s direction is propelled as if this were a murder mystery. He has taken us on this rollercoaster ride that whips into a frenzy, bringing out the best in his actors.
Mark Addy, Johnny Flynn

Mark Addy, Johnny Flynn Photo by Ahron R. Foster

Hangmen had a successful run in London and like all McDonagh plays, twists and turns that feel like a knife in your gut are abundant and gleeful. The difference is the blood and gore has gotten more internal than external. McDonagh is a master in psychological mind f**ks. He hides racism and sexist comments in sardonic wit and sinister delight.
I expect Hangmen to move to Broadway in time for Tony season and be a serious contender for Best Play.
Hangmen: Atlantic Theatre Company; Linda Gross Theatre, 20th St. until March 7th.

Off Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. Currently she has a screenplay in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She was the Broadway Informer on the all access cable TV Show “The New Yorkers,” soon to be “The Tourist Channel.” email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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