Eugene O’Neill certainly couldn’t have known that Bobby Cannavale would one day play Yank in The Hairy Ape. Yet, this part seems to have been written for him. I can’t think of another actor who embodies machismo as well.
Yank works in the stokehole of an ocean liner where he feeds coal into furnaces. Unlike many of his coworkers who believe that they are in living hell, Yank believes in his vitality and his importance to society. But the yin to Yank’s yang is Mildred, the daughter of the steel magnate who built the ship. She resents and is uncomfortable with her privilege and is compelled to learn how the other half lives so she can help them change their lives and alleviate her own sense of guilt. That is, until she comes face to face with Yank. At that pivotal moment both are thrown off kilter. Mildred faints from Yank’s beastliness and her cause célèbre is destroyed. Yank’s existence is brought into question and he no longer knows where he belongs in a society that loathes him.
Written in 1922 and although somewhat dated, Bernie Sanders would probably like O’Neill message about the country’s 99%. He would also appreciate the irony that The Park Avenue Armory, where the Hairy Ape has taken up residence, is situated where many of this country’s 1% reside. But the The Armory is a unique venue for artists, and this production uses the space to its fullest extent to create an artsy production worth seeing. (My one complaint was with the uncomfortable plastic seats). Not only is Cannavale’s performance riveting, Roger Jones’ direction is outstanding and Stewart Laing’s design is exceptionally innovative. And like Mildred, if I ever came face to face with Bobby Cannavale I too would faint – but for very different reasons. LAR
The Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street
Ticket price: starting at $30
Discount Tickets: Broadway Box $30-$126
Runs Thru: April 22nd
Running time: 90 minutes