Edward Cowan’s Event Journal

Iceman cometh 920
Sunday November 10, 2013 / 2:00pm
The Iceman Cometh
2 tickets
General Admission

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This production at the Quotidian Theater in Bethesda (behind the Writer's Center on Walsh Street) was brilliantly acted. The play, like so much of O'Neill's work, is about alcoholism and the vicissitudes of life. Like other O'Neill, it is a talky, over-written play. The four acts, compressed to two at the Quotidian, have one set--a New York City bar and adjacent backroom. (Upstairs are rented rooms.) Some of the action occurs at stage far right (opposite our seats), some a good 40 feet away at stage left, and some occurs in the middle. If one is seated to one side, the dialogue at the far side can be difficult to follow--especially when the characters speak in foreign accents, including a thick Irish brogue. For that matter, the actors playing Noo Yawk hoores speak in a high-pitched, squeaky Noo Yawk accent that can be difficult to comprehend. After a somewhat desultory Act I, in which we learn that most of the 18 characters are troubled in some way, Act II offers some coming together in long speeches by several of the characters, speeches that reveal backstory that is essential to understanding their present problems. Hickey, the recovering alcoholic who has proclaimed himself at peace, proves to be deeply troubled. So is Larry, evidently the playwright's alter ego, whose speech is the most articulate and whose diction is the clearest. O'Neill and the audience have fun with some of the other alcoholic regulars in Harry Hope's bar, several from Europe or South Africa. Director Michael Avolio manages a stagefull of characters skillfully, shifting the action leftward and rightward. As for "the Iceman," who never appears, he is a metaphor, evidently for the fate one fears most. Or so this theatergoer thought.

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