The Iceman Cometh
Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh is often described as a masterpiece, but not often staged because it is utterly bleak—the story involves down-and-out drunks passing time (and passing out) in a grubby saloon and rooming house in 1912. O’Neill’s script also calls for a huge cast—19 characters. And it’s l-o-n-g: the much acclaimed Goodman Theater revival in New York this year, which included the B Street Theatre’s Tara Sissom in the cast, ran four hours and 45 minutes (with three intermissions).
This modestly mounted production—staged by Ed Claudio’s Actor’s Workshop of Sacramento—is possibly the first time Iceman has been staged locally since 1956 (at the then-new campus of Sacramento State). Claudio has trimmed the epic script a bit—the show runs three hours, 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Claudio directs, and plays the role of Harry Hope, the proprietor of the saloon. Harry acts gruff, but he allows the dead-end denizens in his establishment to linger. The inmates include Larry (Sean Morneau), a leftie anarchist who’s become disillusioned with The Cause. There’s Joe (Wayne Cook), who once ran a “Negro” gambling house. And there are three streetwalkers (Claire Langton, Keiko Deaver, Taylor Fleer) who pop through between engagements with clients. The much anticipated arrival of the dapper salesman Hickey (Sean Williams) upends the daily routine of drinking all day (and promising to quit tomorrow).
The performances aren’t always flawless—some of the actors were momentarily reaching to remember lines during the final hour on opening night—but they are largely on the mark. And it’s a rare chance to experience this legendary script up on its feet, living and breathing.