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The Iceman Cometh at The Vortex

The Iceman Cometh at The Vortex

“The Iceman Cometh” at The Vortex through April 9

Audience Member/writer Nate Maxson says:

Before I saw The Vortex Theater’s production, I had never seen or read Eugene O’Neil’s “The Iceman Cometh.” I’d heard of it, of course, it’s a canonical work of American theater. But seeing it live and blind was quite an experience.

It’s the story of a bunch of drunks in Greenwich Village in 1912 who mostly live in a bar and live for alcohol, waiting for their friend the salesman Hickey to come visit them on the owner of the bar’s birthday.

There are a lot of characters and they’re all fleshed out, the play is nearly four hours long but it’s not as grueling as it sounds because it stays engaging. The characters debate life and death and communism and anarchism and how human beings make meaning out of their lives even if it means lying to themselves.

The performance was pure hellfire and I mean that in the best way. Of particular note is Director James Cady’s performance as the retired anarchist Larry. He has an almost George Carlin-esque sneer to him in the way he looks down on the young man Parritt (played by Michael Wepler) who comes to him for advice but gets, at best, tough love. Hickey the salesman is played by Philip J. Shortell who gave a phenomenal show as what can probably be called the center character. His transition from Hickey as magician-like flim-flam man to increasingly desperate loon is a thing to behold. All the actors are on point in this play, which

leaves the viewer exhausted, battered, feeling run over even. This play feels as relevant now in our current political climate as it did over 60 years ago, when 1912 was the edge of known history and O’Neil found dark humor in mining the arguments of the day. Prohibition and the Boer War come up [as issues] and there is a sense that all of the sad sacks in the black hole that is Harry Hope’s bar are circling the drain. I highly recommend seeing this production as it’s a part of our history brought to excruciating life.

Philip J. Shortell as Hickey in “The Iceman Cometh” at the Vortex. Photo by Bob Jesser.