"The Iceman Cometh" (Goodman Theatre): Double Shot of Sobering Realty with a Twist

"The Iceman Cometh" (Goodman Theatre): Double Shot of Sobering Realty with a Twist

In the final week of this Chicago-based epic, I was fortunate to get a ticket to the now sold-out production. 

Goodman Theatre presents THE ICEMAN COMETH.  Harry Hope’s saloon is home to many men and three whores.  The vagabonds spend their days boozing it up together.  They drink.  They pontificate.  They pass out.  They drink.  They pontificate.  They pass out.  Repeat. Repeat. The drunks coexist in a delusional state of future purpose.  For now, the goal is eternal blitzed.  And they are all equally successful.  On the eve of Harry’s birthday, they await the arrival of Hickey.  He is a traveling salesman.  Hickey is always good for a laugh and some rounds.  When he finally arrives, Hickey wants to buy drinks and bust dreams.  Newly sober Hickey pushes the gang to put down the bottle and pick up their aspirations.  What happens when someone calls you on your drunken bluff? THE ICEMAN COMETH is a double shot of sobering reality with a twist.

Award-winning Playwright Eugene O’Neill is a masterful storyteller.  He takes a bunch of barflies and makes them real people.  He gives them dreams and lets them drink them away.  It’s depressing but also enlightening.  Sure, these guys are buzz killers. Their lives are exaggerated wastes of time. But there is something also relatable.  O’Neill personifies flaws like self-loathing, over-indulgence, life complacency along with cruelty, self absorption and fear.  It’s a virtual smorgasbord of self-discovery.  There is a stunning take away for every individual in this timeless classic.  

That said, I did think an hour could be shaved off for modern-day sensibilities.  The dialogue is often repetitive.  In a 140-character age, people’s attention spans are child-like.  They can’t seem to be off-the-grid for any length of time.  I counted *SEVEN* cell phones going off during this production despite numerous reminders to be respectful.  IDIOTS!     

On an impressive set designed by Kevin Depinet, Director Robert Falls fills the stage with mega talent.  He orchestrates authentic moments of human frailty, triumphant and failure.  INCREDIBLE!  It’s like a rat chewing off his foot to get out of a trap, escaping but then coming back to hang out by its foot.  The large, talented cast all deliver a solid ensemble performance.  In the lead, Nathan Lane (Hickey) is the perfect upbeat, pushy salesman.  He peddles his newfound life with cult-like zealousness.  Later, Lane spirals into despair with unexpected depth. Lane was amazing.  Brian Dennehy (Larry) anchors the show with drunken foolosophy.  A magnificent Dennehy is the seasoned voice of troubled wisdom.  Another standout was Stephen Ouimette (Harry).  Ouimette rages like a true drunken Irishman.  Sometimes he is gut-busting hilarious, sometimes gut-punching hopeless.   Despite the marvel of this production, there is a sadness that stays with you long after the standing ovation.  The visual from the final act, dejected individuals sitting isolated, will continue to haunt me forever.   

THE ICEMAN COMETH and is now going.  It’s completely sold-out but follow @GoodmanTheatre on Twitter for potential ticket(s) released for that day’s performance.    

Production photograph courtesy of Liz Lauren.

Running Time:  Four hours and forty-five minutes includes three intermissions.

At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn

Written by Eugene O’Neill

Directed by Robert Falls

Thru June 17th 


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