A theatrical revival which throughout the years featured the likes of Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Jason Robards, James Earl Jones, Jeff Bridges, Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane is once again re-casted, reformed and already in previews on Broadway.
Billed “The Iceman Cometh,” the reemerging drama first presented in 1946 – seven years after it was written by Eugene O’Neill – returned last month and although a success story is slated for a limited run of only 14 weeks.
Since March 22, two-time Academy Award winner and Tony Award winning actor Denzel Washington has been captivating audiences during previews while leading a stellar cast of characters through engaging testimonies and confessions about life’s foibles.
Washington portrays Theodore Hickman, a hardware salesman at least a dozen of his associates refer to as Hickey.
It is 1912 New York and Harry Hope’s Greenwich Village saloon and rooming house is the place Hickey and fellow low-brow barflies congregate, commiserate and guzzle alcohol. The patrons in focus are 12 men and three female prostitutes who have a lot in common – they console themselves by justifying their self-serving actions with illusions and delusions.
When all is said and done, they are drunks who spend much of their time talking loud saying nothing and with little or no spending money regularly weasel the next free drink from Harry the owner and his bartenders.
Throughout they explain a purposeless existence which only finds meaning when Hickey drops in. Hickey’s reason for each reunion marks completion of a sales tour throughout his assigned territory with the bonus of celebrating and drinking when work is over.
“As the play opens, the regulars are expecting Hickey to arrive in time for Harry’s birthday party. The first act introduces the various characters and shows their bickering among themselves, showing just how drunk and delusional they are, all the while awaiting Hickey. Finally Hickey arrives, and his behavior throws the other characters into turmoil. He insists, with as much charisma as ever, that he sees life clearly now as never before because he no longer drinks. Hickey wants the characters to cast away their delusions and accept that their heavy drinking and inaction means that their hopes will never be fulfilled. He takes on this task with a near-maniacal fervor. How he goes about his mission, how the other characters respond, and their efforts to find out what has wrought this change in Hickey take over four hours to resolve. “
The title (The Iceman Cometh) refers to an inside story between Hickey and the group about going home after traveling his sales route to find his wife “rolling in the hay with the iceman.”
The real story is that Hickey has murdered his wife.
“Confessing his crime, he must confront the consequences, including the prospect of execution.” Allegedly, O’Neill uses “the iceman” as a metaphor employed to confront the unrealistic dreams of the characters.
Critics have contended that when death comes it dissolves reliance on hope.
Staged at the Bernard J. Jacobs Theater, this rebooted version casts Mount Vernon’s own super-star thespian in a role as big as his reputation.
Acclaimed for winning Oscars for his performance in the police thriller “Training Day,” and a Civil War ex-slave soldier in the film “Glory,” the 64-year-old box-office magnet exalts as the alluring star that attracted sold out audiences to see “Fences” and “A Raisin in the Sun” when he appeared on Broadway.
“He appeared in the film “The Mighty Quinn” and in “For Queen and Country” where he played the conflicted and disillusioned Reuben James, a British soldier who, despite a distinguished military career, returns to a civilian life where racism and inner city life lead to vigilantism and violence,” his biographical profile states.
Adored by admiring fans who consider the New Yorker a sexy talent and relatable actor, the Fordham University graduate is reputed for honing his career to excellence by performing community works at the Henry Street Settlement, elevating himself to snag a choice role on television’s “St. Elsewhere” and reaching the pinnacle of success in Hollywood after collaborating with Brooklyn director Spike Lee.
Three years ago, a revival of “the Iceman” starred Lane and Dennehy with an original cast from Chicago who presented the drama at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Five-time Tony winner George C. Wolfe is also adding his extraordinary directorial skills to this current limited engagement which opens on April 26.
Catch You On The Inside!