“Hangmen” starts with a bang, or should I say, a snap of a neck. The play begins on the morning of an execution, with the condemned man proclaiming his innocence. “I’m getting hung by nincompoops!” he exclaims, frantic and desperate. Another man corrects him: “Hanged. You’re getting ‘hanged’ by nincompoops.” The audience laughs, as the man’s head is enclosed in a noose, and he is pushed to his death. This is the first sign that “Hangmen” is less of a crime thriller and more of an overlong Monty Python sketch.
The new dark comedy from British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh takes place in 1965 in a small town in Northern England (with the thick accents to match). The U.K. has just outlawed the death penalty and the town’s second-most prolific executioner Harry (an imperious, yet quietly hilarious, David Threlfall) is now out of a job.