Saturday August 19th 2017

“The Iceman Cometh”

Highly Recommended***** We all have our dreams! The current production on the stage of the Goodman Theatre, Eugene O’Neill’s classic, “The Iceman Cometh”, a story about a variety of personalities, all who have lost their dreams in the bottle, is in fact, for true theater audiences, a dream come true! This four plus hours of drama ( with a few laughs here and there) is directed by Robert Falls and has a cast of all star actors, some of Chicago’s finest and Brian Dennehy ( who adores Chicago audiences and is a regular at the Goodman) and Nathan Lane, yes THE Nathan Lane, who most of us know as the musical comedy and high comedy specialist, in a role that he takes on as his own- an incredible experience for any audience to witness.

To set the story, without giving away some of the little pieces that make the puzzle complete, the four act play takes place in New York, during the early 1900’s. The establishment where the action takes place is Harry Hope’s Saloon and Boarding House, run by a man that has become a sort of hermit, never leaving the building since his wife’s death some 20 years earlier. Harry is flawlessly played by Stephen Ouimette). The residents of this Boarding house are all misfits, who for one reason or another have also taken to drink but each has a dream that one day they will get back to their lives as they were, respectable jobs, families etc- Joe Mott(John Douglas Thompson) will one day re-open his all Nego gambling house; Ed Mosher ( Harry’s brother-in-law deftly played by Larry Neumann, Jr.) will once again be back with the circus;Piet Wetjoen ( well played by John Judd) will be back in the military as will Cecil Lewis ( the always reliable local favorite John Reeger), but they were on different sides;Hugo Kalmar, a one time editor of a periodical ( played with just the right comic touch by Lee Wilkof) will once again get his views published ;Willie Oban ( another Chicago favorite John Hoogenakker) will once again become a lawyer,James Cameron ( Jimmy Tomorrow) a war correspondent played byJames Harms who shows he can do more than musicals are the male residents along with Larry Slade ( Dennehy at his best) another war correspondent. A new visitor has arrived looking for Larry, Don Parritt ( charmingly played by Patrick Andrews) and his story is one to pay close attention to.

These are the male residents along with the two bartenders, Chuck ( Marc Grapey ) and Rocky ( Salvatore Inzerillo) who pretty much keep Harry’s place working although it is never clear as to how these losers can pay for their drinks. Oh, yes, there are some ladies as well. Ladies that are the “stable” for Rocky;Pearl(Tara Sissom),Margie(Lee Stark) and Cora ( deftly handled by Kate Arrington) who is the main female character as she is also having a love relationship with Chuck. The other character , the main character is Theodore Hickman, known as Hickey, a smooth talking traveling salesman who makes an annual trip to New York to buy drinks and entertain his “friends” at Harry Hope’s. This glib, suave, smooth talker is played by Nathan Lane, an incredible bit of work. In fact in the fourth act, he has a monologue that lasts about 34 minutes where he opens his heart and soul to the others as an explanation of why he has done what he has done on this particular birthday celebration. The fact is, when he arrives, he tells everyone he is a changed man, no more booze and attempts to convert each one of these misfits from their ways so they can reach the goals they have been dreaming about for all these years.

What we witness during this period is transformations on the part of nearly all of the residents, where it appears, during these series of events that Hickey has met the challenge he has given himself and has won his war. But, being O’Neill, we know this is not the case and that each of these people continue to have their dreams. Only Larry, who never follows the lead of Hickey, finds that a part of his life has changed at the end ( which I will not give away). One of the things about a play like this, one that looks deeply into the mentality of man, is that each audience member will see it in a different light. Many of us know people who are “dreamers” or who have lost a great deal and wallowed in their own self-pity waiting for something to happen that will reverse the order, but deep down knowing that they will only survive, if even that.

Falls has captured what O’Neill has written on paper and made it real. The four acts take place over a period  of less that 48 hours, so with the production lasting over 4 1/2 hours, we are almost in real time. There was a lot of coffee sold during the three intermissions, but nothing was as eye opening as the words that we heard and the portrayal of these characters on the Goodman stage. The sets by Kevin Depinet never distracted the eye of the viewer from the action. The lighting by Natasha Katz was a little dark in the first act as we were in the “back room” of the saloon. This is an area where during non-service hours, almost like a club, the men could drink while not being at the bar ( off hours) and the mood was being set during a very long and wordy exposition. As we learned about each of the men and the anticipated arrival of Hickey and his wealth, we began to get some direction as to how the story would unfold. The second act takes place in the upstairs dining room area where the birthday party will take place, the third act in the actual saloon and the final act back to the original set, but with a little better lighting. Merrily Murray-Walsh handles the costumes which are very fitting of the times

Tickets , I know, are hard to come by for this one ( and possibly it will get another extension), but if you can find a way to get to see it, this should be on your “MUST SEE” list. Rumor has it, Broadway is the next stop and based on what I saw tonight, that is where this production should go ( do I smell another Tony or two for the Goodman and Chicago?) we will see!

“The Iceman Cometh” will continue at The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn through June 17th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays,Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m.,Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. (5/10,24th and 6/7) and 7 p.m. ( 5/17,31st and 6/14),Saturdays at 1:30 ( JUNE 2nd only) and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. ( it is hard to imagine that they can do ths show twice in any one day- I am exhausted just thinking about it)

Tickets range from $61- $175 and are available at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

DAY OF SHOW DISCOUNTS ( subject to availability)10TIX ( student $10) and MEZZTIX ( half price mezzanine)

Be prepared for a long evening of theater 4 hours and forty-five minutes total, but an experience you will cherish.

                                                                     

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