Quotidian Theatre Company to Open 16th Season with THE ICEMAN COMETH
Following a season that included the best-selling ensemble musical James Joyce's The Dead, the critically-acclaimed two-man drama A Walk in the Woods, and the highly-successful area premiere of Conor McPherson's adaptation The Birds, Quotidian Theatre Company opens its 16th season with The Iceman Cometh, a rarely-performed masterpiece by Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene O'Neill that The New York Times calls a "tough, loquacious, magnificent play". Quotidian's production runs October 25 - November 24 at The Writer's Center in downtown Bethesda.
The Iceman Cometh takes place in 1912 New York. In a dive bar and flophouse, a gang of drunken has-beens await their salvation; the charismatic salesman nicknamEd Hickey is due for a visit, and he usually provides good cheer, dirty jokes, and free drinks. When Hickey arrives this time, however, he's a changed man, and he brings with him a sobering truth that his old friends don't want to hear. O'Neill's evocative, ambitious ensemble piece wrestles with the necessity of pipe dreams - the lies we tell ourselves to make it through each day.
"Iceman has all the dramatic weight you expect from O'Neill at the height of his talent and acumen," says Michael Avolio, who makes his directorial debut with the play. "It was written around the same time as Long Day's Journey into Night and Hughie, and spreads similar emotions and insights over a much larger canvas. O'Neill's grappling with some major issues here - politics, race, gender, war - but above all he's asking, 'Can we live without illusion?' In a culture that glorifies distraction over truth, The Iceman Cometh is profoundly relevant."
Actor Steve LaRocque appeared in QTC's 2008 O'Neill offering, Long Day's Journey into Night, and plays Hickey in this, his 20th Quotidian production. The Iceman Cometh, he says, is "tragically contemporary" and "a rich pastiche of wisecracking humor, prickly satire on the political and philosophical movements of the day, and expressions of endless self-deception."
Playing former anarchist Larry Slade is DC actor and QTC favorite Steve Beall, who's been seen onstage regionally at Folger Theatre, Taffety Punk Theatre Company, Forum Theatre, and Constellation Theatre Company, among others. He returns to Quotidian after playing Gabriel Conroy in the company's hit musical James Joyce's The Dead and roles in such Conor McPherson plays as Shining City and The Seafarer. Beall says Iceman is "the struggle a barroom full of bums, losers, criminals and tattered idealists have with the 'little' things in life: love, integrity, truth, dreams, community, and justice. Which of these - if any - are essential to us as human beings? What do we really need - besides riotous humor and rivers of booze - to live a meaningful life? Or can we live meaningful lives at all?"
The Iceman Cometh is famous for its multitude of fascinating characters, and Avolio has filled the production's acting ensemble with a blend of QTC favorites and DC area powerhouses new to Quotidian's stage. Joining LaRocque and Beall is Chris Stinson, who makes his Quotidian debut in the role of Don Parritt, a tortured young man whose mother was a leader in the anarchist movement. Stinson has been seen in the Capital Fringe hit We Tiresias with Beall (named Best Local Play by Washington City Paper), as well as shows at 1st Stage Theatre and The Hub Theatre, where he is a company member. Also featured in the monumental cast are Matt Boliek as Willie Oban, Frank Britton as Joe Mott, Danny Brooks as Pat McGloin, John Decker as Jimmy Tomorrow, Tiffany Garfinkle as Cora, Genevieve James as Pearl, Carolyn Kashneras Margie, Ken Lechter as Piet Wetjoen, Brian McDermott as Moran, BranDon Mitchell as Ed Mosher, Louis Pangaro as Cecil Lewis, Manolo Santalla as Hugo Kalmar, Ted Schneider as Harry Hope, ChristIan Sullivan as Chuck Morello, andFrank Vince as Rocky Pioggi. Bill Largess, artistic director of Washington Stage Guild, serves as artistic adviser on Iceman.
While a widely-revered play, The Iceman Cometh has been rarely performed since its 1946 premiere due to its complexity, length, and large cast. After O'Neill's death, a 1956 production with Jason Robards as Hickey helped reignite interest in O'Neill's work. Goodman Theatre in Chicago mounted a critically-acclaimed production last year with Nathan Lane as Hickey and Brian Dennehy as Larry Slade. Tony Award winner Robert Falls, who directed the Chicago production, called The Iceman Cometh "the greatest American play". With Quotidian's production, D.C. area audiences will be given the rare opportunity to see this masterpiece staged.
"This is art that challenges its audience," Avolio says. "It demands their time, their attention, and their empathy. But it rewards that audience with laughter, tears, and thought-provoking honesty. This is a unique, powerful night of theatre."