Will Goodman Theatre's Sold-Out Iceman Cometh Find a New York Home?
By Kenneth Jones
The new Robert Falls-directed production of Eugene O'Neill's five-hour The Iceman Cometh, his drama of shattered illusions, now starring Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, is a sold-out hit in Chicago, with commercial producers hovering, according to published reports.
The extended run, to June 17 at the Goodman Theatre, has been attended by potential producers who may be seeking to give the work a New York life, but the 1946 work is difficult to stage commercially, owing to the large cast and extreme length (a commercial model would have to take into account understudies and overtime and a reduced weekly playing schedule).
The Chicago Tribune first reported the 2012 Tony Award-winning producer Scott Rudin (Death of a Salesman) holds Broadway rights to the play, but will not take the play to New York. Other producers, the New York Times reported, are now seeking to pick up the option from Rudin toward a potential Broadway run in the fall.
A spokesperson for the Goodman confirmed to Playbill.com that there are many producers interested in the show, but there is nothing to confirm about an actual future engagement at this time.
Nathan Lane (The Producers, The Addams Family, …Forum, Butley) stars as Theodore Hickman in the new production of O'Neill's four-act epic The Iceman Cometh, which opened May 3 following previews that began April 21 at the Goodman. Stephen Ouimette ("Sling and Arrows," La Bete) is among the denizens of Harry Hope's bar in the ensemble-oriented classic.
Here's how Goodman bills the classic by Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate O'Neill: "In The Iceman Cometh, Harry Hope's saloon is home to a ragtag band of drunks and dreamers who celebrate the arrival of Hickey, the charismatic traveling salesman whose raucous presence always ensures a grand good time. But when a newly sober Hickey blows in with a renewed outlook on life, his zealous attempts to fix the lives of his old friends leads to a series of events that are at once devastatingly comic and heartbreaking — and a revelation that threatens to shatter the tenuous illusions that fuel their lives."
In addition to Tony Award winner Lane (The Producers) as salesman "Hickey," Tony winner Dennehy (Long Day's Journey Into Night and Death of a Salesman) as Larry Slade and Ouimette (Broadway's La Bete, TV's "Slings & Arrows") as Harry Hope, proprietor of a bar and rooming house, Tony winner Falls' production also features Larry Neumann, Jr. as Ed Mosher, Hope's brother-in-law and one-time circus man; Sal Inzerillo as Rocky Pioggi, night bartender; Marc Grapey as Chuck Morello, day bartender; John Judd as Piet Wetjoen ("The General"), one-time leader of a Boer Commando; John Reeger as Cecil Lewis ("The Captain"), one-time captain of a British Infantry; James Harms as James Cameron ("Jimmy Tomorrow"), one-time Boer War Correspondent; John Douglas Thompson (Public Theater's King Lear, Irish Rep's Emperor Jones) as Joe Mott, one-time proprietor of a gambling house; Lee Wilkof (the original Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors) as Hugo Kalmar, one-time editor of anarchist periodicals; John Hoogenakker as Willie Oban, Harvard Law School alumnus; Patrick Andrews as Don Parritt; Tara Sissom as Pearl; Lee Stark as Margie; and Kate Arrington as Cora.
In a recent interview with Playbill magazine, Lane said he "certainly can relate to what Hickey goes through. My family was dysfunctional, to say the least. My mother was manic-depressive. My father was an alcoholic. Every one of my mother's siblings was alcoholic. I've had issues with alcohol over the years. I certainly knew about self-loathing and self-destruction and a suppressed rage for a long time. Finally, I just felt I want to explore that. I've been to therapy, but now I need to explore that in my work — to use muscles I don't very often get to use." Read about the Broadway career of Nathan Lane in the Playbill Vault.
The design team for The Iceman Cometh includes Kevin Depinet (set), Natasha Katz (lighting) and Merrily Murray-Walsh (costumes). Joseph Drummond is the production stage manager.
O'Neill, the father of modern American drama, wrote Ah! Wilderness!, Anna Christie, Long Day's Journey Into Night, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Desire Under the Elms, Beyond the Horizon, Strange Interlude, Hughie, A Touch of the Poet and more. The Iceman Cometh was produced on Broadway in 1946, but the four-and-a-half-hour hour drama wasn't embraced until a decade later with a posthumous production produced by Circle in the Square Off-Broadway. Read about the original Broadway production in the Playbill Vault.
Director Falls previously directed a Goodman production of the play starring Dennehy as Hickey, in 1990. He and Dennehy worked together on Goodman/Broadway productions of O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (2003) and Desire Under the Elms (2009). Falls won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for Death of a Salesman, which starred Dennehy as Willy Loman.
For Goodman tickets and information, call (312) 443-3800 or visit GoodmanTheatre.org.
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