WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 7-13: The Iceman Cometh Opens at BAM and Audra and Will Set for Williamstown

News   WEEK IN REVIEW, Feb. 7-13: The Iceman Cometh Opens at BAM and Audra and Will Set for Williamstown
 
The big New York opening of the week happened in Brooklyn. The Goodman Theatre production of Eugene O'Neill's four-act epic The Iceman Cometh, starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, opened Feb. 12 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Director Robert Falls helms the five-hour drama that sold out its Chicago run in 2012. The original Chicago cast and creative team reunite for the BAM engagement, which is presented in association with producer Scott Rudin, who holds Broadway rights to the play. Fall and Dennehy have joined forces on a number of other O’Neill plays over the past couple decades. Dennehy plays Larry Slade, with Lane is in the central role of salesman Hickey.

The critics liked the show very much, but expressed themselves in harrowing terms that may have made the reader wonder if they enjoyed the experience. For instance, the Times wrote that, “at the conclusion of this blistering production, currently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I had to scrape myself up from my seat, with my innards churning. As enacted by a cast that is not likely to be bettered this season...O'Neill's symphonic ode to the lies we tell ourselves to survive sustains an enthralling dramatic intensity for pretty much all of its famously long running time.”

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If scraping yourself up from your seat isn’t your idea of a good time, just be glad you weren’t the critic from Newsday, who had this to say: “Hours do not fly by in this revival of The Iceman Cometh. Not for a minute. Instead, in director Robert Falls' devastating production starring Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, the hours — nearly five of them — burrow and dig. They pick and wear us down and grip with the cumulative thrill of Eugene O'Neill's unrelenting excavation of the ‘pipe dreams’ that cling to the haunted losers at Harry Hope's saloon.”

The New York Post put it plainly: “There's no getting around it: The Iceman Cometh is hard to take.” Yet the paper admitted, “Still, this production is as good as a straightforward production gets.”

Are those the kind of reviews that send a show to Broadway? Can you put “innard-churning” and “hard to take” on a marquee? Wait and see. ***

Well, that didn’t last long.

On Jan. 21, John Cameron Mitchell, the co-creator and original star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, made a triumphant return to the Broadway revival of the show, playing the role he created.

That run came to a temporary halt this week when he suffered a knee injury during a recent performance. Mitchell will be taking a week off to recover. In the meantime, the revival's recent star, Michael C. Hall, will fill in during his absence.

Mitchell was injured during the Feb. 7 performance at 7 PM, but finished the show; that night's 10 PM performance was canceled. He resumed performances in the show Feb. 10.

Hall will step back into the production Feb. 17-Feb. 21 in order to allow Mitchell time to attend to his injury. Mitchell is slated to return to Hedwig Feb. 24 to continue his extended engagement through April 26.

Michael C. Hall
Michael C. Hall Photo by Joan Marcus

***

Throughout the history of the theatre, married thespians have found ways to be cast in the same show, and thus spend more time together (and bolster one another’s careers to boot). Think Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn; think Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson; think the Lunts; think John Barrymore and whomever he happened to be married to at the moment.

In that tradition, married actors Audra McDonald and Will Swenson have now found a mutual vehicle.

The will star in a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Moon for the Misbegotten — she as the hard-bitten farmer’s daughter Josie, he as the dissolute landlord, Jamie Tyrone, who loves her.

The show will be presented at the Williamstown Theatre Festival this coming summer. The production will be staged by Gorden Edelstein, artistic director of New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre.

Edelstein seems to never tire of this script. He also staged the show for his theatre in 2005, Hartford Stage in 2006 and Houston's Alley Theatre in 2007.

***

Michael Gambon, the towering English stage actor known as “The Great Gambon,” will no longer appear in stage productions due to memory problems, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The 74-year-old actor told the Sunday Times Magazine that memorizing lines has become too difficult for him. “It’s a horrible thing to admit but I can’t do it. It breaks my heart. It’s when the script’s in front of me and it takes forever to learn. It’s frightening,” Gambon said.

The actor, however, does plan to continue his TV and film career, which does not require the same type of memorization.

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