Todd Van Voris Stars in Eugene O'Neill's HUGHIE at Imago Theatre

Travis Bogard, one of the foremost authorities on Eugene O'Neill, considered Hughie "a perfect dramatic poem."

From 3:00 to 4:00 a.m., on a New York City summer night in 1928, O'Neill has frozen time as a small-time hustler, Erie, sees magic in the mundane. Erie delivers an elaborate series of tales to the new Night Clerk, Charlie. He is plagued by a deep-seated belief that his luck has gone bad since the death of his closest companion Hughie, a night clerk who recently died. Through Hughie's eyes, Erie saw greatness in himself. However the greatness and hopefulness have waned since Hughie's passing, and luck itself has disappeared.

Imago Theatre will present Hughie, O'Neill's infamous one-act, opening September 2 and playing through September 18, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $15 to $25 (pay what you can), and can be purchased by calling Imago at 503.231.9581, or online at Ticketswest.com (503.224.8499). Shows are held at Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Avenue in Portland.

Jerry Mouawad directs and created the scenic design, and has cast Todd Van Voris in the lead role. Sean Doran plays the Night Clerk.

Mouawad says, "This work is the toughest I've directed. Having Todd Van Voris as the lead is a big leg up. I'm a director who likes to take a classic and give a fresh look. However with Hughie, there's no need to do that here and I shouldn't. If I can give this work a straight ahead staging that is of merit, I'll be more than happy."

Lighting Design is by Jeff Forbes. The Costume Designer is Sumi Wu. The Associate Scenic Designer is Sarah Andrews. Sound Design was created by Kyle Delamarter.

The tone, the tempo, and the nuances are giving Imago the toughest challenge of this tightly woven 30-page poetic gem. After 32 years of playing Erie, Jason Robards shifted from bravado to minimalism in finding the right nuance. Ben Gazzara played Erie like a "nervous turkeycock." Al Pacino was described as "controlled exhaustion." A reviewer of Forest Whitaker's recent performance wrote "you wouldn't be surprised if he just evaporated before your eyes." The polarized ways Erie has been played is a testament to the elusive nature of Hughie. Ruby Cohn, theater scholar and a leading authority on Beckett, associates Erie with the heroes of Camus, Sartre, Beckett, Ionesco, and Genet, and holds that "in Hughie O'Neill dramatizes the prototypical Absurdist situation--man's confrontation with mortality."

O'Neill, known for lengthy stage directions, goes into extreme detail in Hughie. Jason Robards: "Whereas most people would say he wrote too many stage directions . . . I made a terrible mistake once when somebody said erase all the stage directions [in Hughie] . . . Well, the minute we did that, we were completely lost. "

Mouawad: "I've come to the same conclusion as Robards about the stage direction. When I first read the piece it was somewhat humorous to me that O'Neill would go to such great lengths describing the inner life of the Night Clerk. At first, I thought the stage directions were intended to flesh out the role of Night Clerk, but it soon became evident this was to inform the entire play. These are very precise images, thoughts, and subconscious stirrings, that taken in context with the larger work paints a brush stroke on which Erie's tales hang."

Pictured: Todd Van Voris as Erie (right) and Sean Doran as Night Clerk



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