Review | Lots of gallows humor in ‘Hangmen’

Colloquialisms such as “gallows humor,” “swinging sixties,” and “shoulder to shoulder” take on unsettling literal meanings when applied to “Hangmen,” Martin’s old-fashioned and highly entertaining new black comedy. McDonaugh.

British-Irish McDonagh’s new stage works (“The Beauty Queen of Leenane”, “The Pillowman”, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”, “The Cripple of Inishmaan”) have sadly become rare since he became a director and major Hollywood screenwriter (“In Bruges”, “Seven Psychopaths”, and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).

Inspired by a (potentially wrongful) execution that occurred shortly before the abolition of capital punishment in England in 1965, “Hangmen” follows Harry Wade (David Threlfall, who starred in the British version of the TV series “Shameless” ), the second best in the country. professional tormentor, who strokes his oversized ego in his northern England pub, in front of his working-class customers, his disillusioned wife Alice (Tracie Bennett) and his sensitive teenage daughter Shirley (Gaby French).

Then comes Mooney (Alfie Allen, better known as Theon Greyjoy in “Game of Thrones”), a self-proclaimed “menacing” young Londoner who might have framed a man Harry had hanged two years earlier for murder. He could also have kidnapped Shirley. Mooney has also involved Harry’s bumbling former assistant, Syd (Andy Nyman), in his elaborate plan, which (at the very least) aims to shrink Harry down to size.

“Hangmen” is a meticulously plotted work featuring eccentric characters and built on elements of pub drama, physical farce, thriller, action thriller and legal drama – not to mention a noose and countless pints of draft beer.

That being said, “Hangmen,” which premiered in London in 2015, really should have moved to Broadway four years ago, immediately after its sold-out Off-Broadway debut in 2018. Instead, the producers waited two years, until March 2020, and the show had to close in preview due to the pandemic shutdown.

Now, after another two-year wait, “Hangmen” finally opens on Broadway – but without Johnny Flynn, who gave an electrifying and starring performance as Mooney in London and Off-Broadway productions. (In 2020, Mooney was played by Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey”.)

Nonetheless, Allen and the rest of the current cast are excellent (although Threlfall seemed to struggle vocally during my performance) and the lively production (directed by Matthew Dunster, with rich scenic design) strikes an ideal balance between roaring entertainment and sinister malaise.

John Golden Theater, 252 W. 45th St., Until June 18.