×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: Denzel Washington in ‘The Iceman Cometh’

Denzel Washington shakes up the deadbeat patrons of Harry Hope’s saloon in this slick revival of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece of despair.

With:
Denzel Washington, Colm Meaney, Bill Irwin, Tammy Blanchard, Carolyn Braver, Austin Butler, Joe Forbrich, Nina Grollman, Thomas Michael Hammond, Neal Huff, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Dakin Matthews, Danny McCarthy, Jack McGee, Clark Middleton, Michael Potts, Reg Rogers, Frank Wood, David Morse.

With his buoyant air of all-American optimism and innate decency, Denzel Washington is well cast (by helmer George C. Wolfe) as Hickey, the long-awaited bearer of false hope, comforting lies, and unlimited free booze to the washed-up losers who patronize Harry Hope’s no-hope saloon. When the thesp sweeps down the aisle and onto the stage wearing a snazzy suit and a 100-watt smile, the whole theater warms up.

The huge ensemble cast (19 strong) presents a cross-section of some of the best character actors in the business. At center stage is the saloon keeper Harry Hope, played with worn-out Irish dignity and a bit of a warm brogue by Colm Meaney, who generously treats his bedraggled patrons to free drinks and lets them sleep it off in their chairs. (As one drinker notes, it’s living hell to crawl upstairs into a cold and lonely bed.)

It’s 1912 in New York City, a hard place to survive when you’re down and out. But this shabby neighborhood bar is a safe refuge from the bustling, terrifying street life. Santo Loquasto has designed the room with a dusty, but well-stocked bar that has seen better days. There’s some nice woodwork over the bar, but it’s obviously coated in many years’ worth of nicotine stain. The rest of the furnishings are spare and decidedly spartan — hard wooden tables and chairs and not a cushion in sight. As for the stairs leading upstairs to the furnished rooms, they look as if they turn on themselves at the landing and lead straight down to hell. Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer have done a remarkable job with the stygian lighting design, casting this depressing mausoleum in every shade of black, brown, and grey.

Here, everybody’s “pipedreams,” as O’Neill frequently reminds us, are accepted as gospel truth and never questioned. Harry himself can nurture the fantasy of sobering up and taking a walk around the neighborhood, greeting old friends just like he did in the grand old days before he was kicked off the police force.

Jimmy Tomorrow (Reg Rogers, Mr. Dependable) can kid himself that he’ll shape up and get his old job back at the newspaper. Joe Mott (Michael Potts, whose pipedream has a hint of pain) can fantasize about re-opening his old gambling house. Pat McGloin and Ed Mosher (Jack McGee and Bill Irwin, true knights of the barroom floor) can pretend they can go back to the jobs they lost at the circus. And hookers Margie and Pearl (Nina Grollman and Carolyn Braver, nicely costumed by Ann Roth) can laugh and flirt with Chuck the bartender (Danny Mastrogiorgio, on top of this) without ever having to acknowledge that he’s their pimp.

There’s no place for fantasy, though, in Larry Slade’s life. As played with a cutting edge by David Morse, Larry is the barroom philosopher who is never quite as drunk or as incoherent as all the other bums. He’s a haunted man with faraway eyes in Morse’s assured performance, a man who can’t forget (or forgive himself for) his past as an anarchic socialist who severed his deep roots in the movement. An annoying kid named Don Parritt (Austin Butler, annoying) tracks Larry down to confess his own weighty sins.

Helmer George C. Wolfe has trimmed the play to a reasonable length (it now runs just under 4 hours) without losing the nuances in the various life histories of the boys in the barroom. But this is still a long play with a lot of moving parts. The first act, in which all the characters are introduced and roughly defined, is the most attenuated. Everyone lightens up – a bit too much, actually – in the second act, which shoots for comedy. But everything comes together in the third act, which spells Drama with a capital D. The third act is where Hickey divests himself of his own pipedream, ending the play with a gasp-inducing revelation. In a daring, but quite devastating piece of stage business, Washington turns his chair around and delivers Hickey’s long monologue directly facing the audience. You want to talk theater? Take that, people!

Broadway Review: Denzel Washington in 'The Iceman Cometh'

Bernard B. Jacobs Theater; 1,054 seats; $209 top

Production:

A presentation by Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, Eli Bush, Universal Theatrical Group, Eric Falkenstein, Dan Frishwasser, John Gore Organization, James L. Nederlander, Peter May, Stephanie P. McClelland, Candy Spelling, Stephen C. Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey, Gavin Kalin Productions, Patty Baker, Caiola Productions, Diana DiMenna, David Mirvish, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Benjamin Lowy & Adrian Salpeter, Jason Blum, and executive producers Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, and John Johnson, of a play in three acts by Eugene O’Neill. Opened April 26, 2018. Reviewed April 25. Running time: THREE HOURS, 50 MIN.

Creative:

Directed by George C. Wolfe. Sets, Santo Loquasto; costumes, Ann Roth; lighting, Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer; sound, Dan Moses Schreier; hair & wigs, production stage manager, Narda E. Alcorn.

Cast: Denzel Washington, Colm Meaney, Bill Irwin, Tammy Blanchard, Carolyn Braver, Austin Butler, Joe Forbrich, Nina Grollman, Thomas Michael Hammond, Neal Huff, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Dakin Matthews, Danny McCarthy, Jack McGee, Clark Middleton, Michael Potts, Reg Rogers, Frank Wood, David Morse.

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Her publicist B. Harlan Boll confirmed the news. He wrote, “It is with [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content