Theater Review: The Iceman Cometh

February 13, 2015 4:09 AM

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Theater Review: The Iceman Cometh

Though The Iceman Cometh is generally considered one of Eugene O’Neill’s greatest plays, it did not win (as four of his others did) the Pulitzer Prize; the Pulitzer is not, after all, awarded for Sadness. Nor do the judges give extra points for difficulty, and Iceman is famously difficult on the director, the actors, and the audience. It’s not just the length, all five hours of it (though the 2012 Goodman Theater production, now in residency at BAM, is relatively swift at 4 hours and 45 minutes). It’s the weight. O’Neill seems to have loaded the play, which was written in the late 1930s but not produced until 1946, with a lifetime’s worth of ambition to make a comprehensive statement about the human condition. A lot of statements and a lot of humans make for heavy lifting.

That the Goodman’s production, which stars Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy, is beautiful and generally exhilarating is therefore hard to explain. Nothing has been done to make it more “palatable.” It has not been significantly cut, rearranged, lightened, or updated. If anything, the director Robert Fa...

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