The Hairy Ape
The Park Avenue Armory
March 25, 2017
|Photo courtesy of The Hairy Ape at the Park Avenue Armory|
The production of Eugene O’Neil’s The Hairy Ape, now playing at the Park Avenue Armory and produced in partnership with The Old Vic in London, is a larger than life experience. Director Richard Jones’ vision is titanic. Designer Stuart Laing uses the vastness of the Armory space in ways that make your jaw drop. His design gels with lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin and sound by Sarah Angliss to magnify the power of the characters, make them feel small when encountering the larger world, and then encage them in isolation and loneliness. Bobby Cannavale is riveting in the title role, leading an ensemble cast of brilliant actors in Eugene O’Neill’s classic, naturalistic tale.
|Bobby Cannavale in rehearsal for The Hairy Ape|
Photo courtesy of The Park Avenue Armory
Yank (played by Bobby Cannavale) is the fiercest of Stokers, keeping the coal fires burning in the bowels of a massive ocean liner. He claims it is his strength and endurance that keeps the tons of steel moving in the open waters. When Mildred Douglas (played by Catherine Combs), daughter of millionaire steel magnate, faints at the sight of him stoking coal, she calls him a hairy ape. This sets Yank on a journey through the streets of New York City to find her. Whether motivated by love, lust, or revenge, he is lead to the realization that he does not fit in anywhere in the class system of the day.
|Photo courtesy of The Hairy Ape at The Park Avenue Armory|
The themes of Eugene O’Neil’s play are viscerally understood as every element of this production comes together. The audience, sitting in bright “yellow” seats, becomes a part of the rendition of Mr. O’Neil’s class system. You identify with Yank as his physical strength leads the other Stokers to succeed at their backbreaking work, then struggles to redeem his lost sense of purpose. Choreography by Aletta Collins is crisp and sharp. The physicality of this production has a vitality that serves to establish the setting and tone of the experience and drives the action forward.
The Hairy Ape is playing at the Park Avenue Armory through April 22. You have to experience the magnitude of this production. It is a true testament to the potency of Eugene O’Neil’s writing.