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Nathan Lane, Brian Dennehy in 'Iceman Cometh': What did critics think?

May 04, 2012|By Jamie Wetherbe
  • Brian Dennehy as onetime anarchist Larry Slade, with Nathan Lane as Theodore Hickman, in "The Iceman Cometh," directed by Robert Falls at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
Brian Dennehy as onetime anarchist Larry Slade, with Nathan Lane as Theodore… (Chicago Tribune )

A revival of Eugene O'Neill's great American drama "The Iceman Cometh," about the dangers and delusions of addiction, opened Thursday in Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

The play, written in in 1939, was first produced on Broadway in 1946 and had a more recent run at the Goodman Theatre in 1990 with director Robert Falls at the helm.

Falls has once again resurrected the nearly five-hour, four-act production, this time with Nathan Lane as salesman Theodore “Hickey” Hickman peddling the illusion of salvation to the alcoholics and streetwalkers inside a 1912 New York City dive. Brian Dennehy, who played Hickey in the 1990 production, takes on the role of an ex-anarchist, Larry Slade.

"The Iceman Cometh" is rarely staged – it’s only appeared on Broadway a handful of times. Not for lack of importance, but because of the length, large cast and the acting marathon that is the ever-charismatic Hickey.

The reviews are in from Chicago, with critics praising this complex play of lost souls who linger long after the curtain closes.

Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the "closely detailed, formatively rich and relentless demanding production" featured an "intense ensemble of actors whose demons rage before you for close to five hours." He added that Kevin Depinet's "powerful set design" proves "to be at once simple and then suddenly epic."

The Chicago Sun-Times' Hedy Weiss called Falls’ production "gorgeously realized, crystal clear, meticulously cast" and praised Nathan Lane's "blistering, revelatory performance." Weiss added that the director's "precisionism of this version, with its incisive orchestration and strikingly high-definition portrayal of each character, suggests the grand payoff from his two decades spent exploring every facet of O’Neill."

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times wrote that the "characters are portrayed with heart-scraping pungency" and following the performance Isherwood spent his time "replaying moments that had been tattooed onto my consciousness." He added that Falls’ "superbly cast production contains as many great performances as I’ve seen in a single show in years, certainly more than I saw in any Broadway show of the past, imperfect season."

The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout called the production "extraordinary, a totally successful staging of a formidably difficult play in which [Lane] gives a performance that will stay with you for as long as you live." He added that, when it comes to theater, "No matter how far you have to go to get there, the place to be right now is Chicago."


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