Theatre Mirror Reviews - "he Iceman Cometh"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey

"The Iceman Cometh"
on Broadway

Reviewed by Our Mr. Finn

Well, it's six a.m. on Sunday morning.

And I am sitting at my desk with a potent libation in front of me. I mean, who the hell wants to sit with an impotant libation in front of them. Viagra as vermouth?

Ask not why I am drinking this early in the AM, but rather ask what in the name of Thespis I'm doing up so early. Truth to tell, I've not been to bed since Friday night. I went to see a show last night, and, if this show has not restored my faith in Broadway, humanity, and the whole damn thing, it has made giant strides. It was a giant of a script done by a giant of a company creating a seamless and staggering uber-giant of a production.

Iceman Cometh, of course.

I wasn't moved to tears or laughter - well, actually that is a bald faced dirty protestant lie, but, since I can cry big tears at card tricks and howl mighty laughs at obits, relatively speaking, this Iceman had no grandstanding moments. It simply was, moment for moment (For moment for moment for moment, for it is a very long text and production), one of the best things I've ever seen in my life. And whereas there is no truth to the rumor I had seen the previews to Our American Cousin and advised Abe to skip it, I have been attending live performances for about forty years. Now let me fix myself another drink.

I've spent my time in bars, and, goddess willing, I shall spend more time in such hallowed establishments. I wonder how many Western, and, now that I think of it, Eastern, religions have as the center of the celebration the consumption of alcohol in a comunal spirit. Strangers and friends have made me laugh in bars, and strangers and friends have made me weep in bars, in both cases, of course, within the bounds of civility. At its core, I believe, Harry Hope's Saloon in Iceman is a place we all have been.

I worked yesterday, took a plane late in the afternoon to New York to see the show, got to the Brooks Atkinson Theatre at 6.45, the show began at seven, ended at eleven thirty, two quick drinks at Barrymore's, the Sardi's for the Serious, then to the ever exciting Port Authority for the bus trip home. The bus trip back to Boston took less time than the show.

The first act is an hour and a half, and does all of the set up work. A bright child could explain the outcome from the information given. Frankly, as all exposition usually is, this act is a little klunky and you want more....something. However, the absolute realism of the staging and the consumate artistry of the performers goes a long way in disguising the information you are getting as dramatic action. The text was written fifty three years ago, and there's not been a dramtist before or after who could feed yiou this information as painlessly. But, boys and girls, you are learning about the lives of roughly fifteen people, and that takes time. Parenthetically, at the first intermission as I fought my way to the bathroom and then to the sidewalk for a cigarette, I overheard someone say, "These are trained actors. Why are they slurring their words?" Who would have expected George F. Kaufmann humor at an O'Neill intermission?

The second and third act are played together without a break. I think the opperative phrase is "without a break". At the end of this, I didn't need a cigarette or a urinal. And it was over two hours. It felt like, oh, maybe, fifteen, twenty minutes. My date for the evening, a bright chic lady who could bend steel with her humor, at this intermission said to me, "Just think, we could have seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Etc. twice and had dinner, just during these first two acts."

The last act is better than you can imagine. The status quo is, slowly, returned, and everyone, on stage and in the audience, is a better person for it. We have learned that we don't need "Pipe Dreams". We have learned that love can be an overpoweringly negative influence, unless controlled. We have learned that society wishes us to look at ourselves at our lowest and basest, what we are, not what we should or could be. Then, in a moment of astounding clarity, and pain, we, the characters and the audience, understand that Hickey was mad, that what we have learned is simply not accurate, the product of a mad mind. That Hickey has driven, or allowed, an equally tortured soul to suicide as the only release teaches us how rough it is to be human.

Tony Danza, the televison star, is Rocky, the bartender/pimp. Kevin Spacey, the movie star, is Hickey, the mad salesman. They both blend in seamlessly with the cast. The rest of the cast is as brilliant as I've seen ever.

Hey, it was good for me. I hope it will be good for you....

"The Iceman Cometh" (till 17 July
256 West Broadway, NEW YORK CITY

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide