At some point, you may have heard me utter the phrase, “Grab Your Group and GO”. Could have been in conversation, on this blog or as it pertains to our theater group. In any case, I’m sure all of you have heard it from me more than a time or two. What I mean when I say this is: “Get out there. GO do things. Connect with your people. And add more people to your Group through shared experiences.” What I do not mean is grab your group and go sit and drink in a bar where everyone knows your name for days, weeks and years on end. Do not do as the characters in our most recent play, The Iceman Cometh, choose to do.
The characters in this Eugene O’Neill play represent the antithesis of grabbing your group and going. This is a group that gathers and stays and waits. They stay in a bar that offers them solace from reality, company to commiserate with and amber liquid to numb their angst. They wait for a catalyst to catapult them out of their grim existence (oft referred to as a pipe dream in the dialogue). They wait for an ill chosen protagonist who offers the briefest of respites from their hum drum lives. And they are always, always impatiently waiting for the next bottle to be cracked opened.
When faced with booze infused dramas the debate always is: did life force them down this boozy lifestyle path or did the booze land them at this destination? A very chicken and egg situation. I guess this leads to the question: should you grab your group and go watch this group sit and stay and wait? As we had a group of 50+ people my definitive answer would be: maybe, it depends on who you are.
One person headed for the hills after the first act. Her comment being, “I don’t know what I was thinking coming here tonight…I hate Eugene O’Neill.” If this is you, I recommend a different show. A few more group members left during the mid way pause in the show, indicating this was “not how they wanted to spend their time.” The rest of us hunkered down to watch this ensemble play out their sad and downright hopeless life stories on stage. Some of us were pleased with this decision and others deemed it “torture.” Such a variety of opinions! After the show I heard comments like “epic” and “riveted”, so I know for a fact there were some happy customers in the crowd.
I think the show is worth going to for the Denzel Washington monologue in the final act. My goodness can that man act. I realize this is not a news flash. Perched on a chair at the front center of the stage, leaning forward as if conversing directly to the audience, this was something I was grateful to see. The man beautifully straddled the dual role of protagonist turned antagonist as the charismatic and tortured master of his own demise. The balance of the cast delivered equally riveting performances that were worthy of the applause they received on their final exits.
I might advise someone who is reluctant to log four hours at the theater, but eager to see these actors at work, skip the first act (which was a bit on the long winded side) and arrive in time for the second, third and fourth acts as a potential viewing strategy. Just a thought. So be thoughtful about your group and your arrival time… make sure they have considered what they are getting themselves into.
For those of us that experienced the full four hours, we were rewarded with some of the best performances we’ve seen on broadway this season from one of the greatest actors of our generation and the entire supporting cast. Grab your group and go watch these characters sit and wait and endure their liquor infused lives…