Review Round Up: Hangmen, Golden Theatre

We take a look at what critics have had to say about Martin McDonagh’s play starring Alfie Allen and David Thelfall.

Deadline: “no one does dark impulses with as much comedic flare – yes, it’s sneaky, menacing and funny – as McDonagh at full tilt.”

Variety: “a deadly beauty, flawlessly cast and directed in the mordant style of an executioner’s song by Matthew Dunster.”

Entertainment Weekly: “director Matthew Dunster, another London alumnus, keeps the action moving at a brisk but unhurried clip, ferreting out the deeper feeling embedded in the script even as the tone walks a tricky line between tragedy and farce. (Imagine a very special episode of Cheers, viewed through a pint-glass filter of neck-snapping nihilism and Northern accents.)”

Chicago Tribune: “Meticulously directed by Matthew Dunster and designed within an inch of its life by the brilliant Anna Fleischle, it offers up dextrous plotting, sardonic satire, subtle observations about the gray northern life and, above all, an unforgettable central character in Harry, a hangman who also loses his job and who also decides to run a pub in Oldham, Lancashire.”

Broadway News: “The cast and director Matthew Dunster have trouble navigating the tonal shifts. “Hangmen” is quite successful in building suspense and a sense of mystery in the first act. But in the second act, when things go off the rails, everything is still played with the same stiff-lipped, morose air — as if everyone is afraid of letting the audience laugh too much. The punchlines land with a heavy thud.”

New York Theater: “As with almost all his plays, both good (“The Beauty Queen of Leenane”) and bad (“A Behanding in Spokane”), McDonagh employs a mordant humor that involves a gleeful reliance on violence bordering on the sadistic. (It may be worth mentioning that McDonagh’s use of violence in his plays is far less pointed, and more gratuitous, than in the Oscar-nominated film he wrote and directed, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”)”

New York Post: **** “McDonagh fans will be delighted. The playwright gives his executioner and unhinged pervy weirdo the same sympathetic, funny treatment he gave a Northern Irish terrorist in the also teriffic “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” In fact, this is his finest play since that one, 16 years ago.”

Theatremania.com: “It’s always a pleasure to watch a show you like on a bigger stage, especially when you think it really deserved to move; and it’s just as sad when you realize that a return viewing can’t live up to your first time.”

The Wrap: “Threlfall’s steely performance creates a black hole that leaves little oxygen for any other actor on stage. Matthew Dunster’s direction wisely uses this negative force to highlight the staccato performance of Alfie Allen (“Game of Thrones”).”

Time Out: *** “Dunster’s staging adds to the sense of artifice, with lurching shifts of mood lights, Tarantino-esque music cues and a physical space that works directly against the would-be suspense of the play’s denouement. For a while, yes, it seems cool: Hangmen has plenty of twists. But the twists wind up forming a sloppy noose that is strong enough only to leave the play dangling, without a lethal snap, when the bottom falls out in the end.”

Theatrely.com: “Hangmen is the kind of play we don’t really see anymore. There’s no immediate hook for our present day situation; it doesn’t bend over backwards to make itself relevant. But it’s a welcome callback to the plays that built contemporary theatre: sturdy, well-observed, and vividly performed.”

Talkin’ Broadway: “Something is amiss overall. Hangmen does not work the way it did at the Atlantic Theatre Company, and there is more to it than the transfer to a larger Broadway venue. The play requires taut and cohesive directing and a uniformity of style to hold it together. Here, it seems as though the actors have been left to their own devices to figure out their characters and how best to perform them. It takes a lot of work to pull things back together after a break of four years, and an ensemble work like this requires exquisite timing and consistency, elements that are, alas, in short supply.”

NYStagereview: **** “Is Mooney a pervert? A murderer? Or just a really strange chap who likes to wind people up? We’ll never know. On all of those subjects, the clever McDonagh leaves the audience, you’ll pardon the pun, hanging.”

New York Theatre Guide: “Her outfitting of a show that’s arrived on Broadway at the wrong time is worthy of the ticket cost, but not worthy enough to sit through the play’s entirety and struggle through deep North England accents, snide remarks about monkeys in Africa, and social content that doesn’t deserve a giggle. The audience here are the ones to watch. They laughed and gasped, but in 2022, with sensitivities so high, Hangmen needs to be hung out to dry.”

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