Alley Theatre Workshop gambles to win with Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie
Presented by Alley Theatre Workshop
Written by Eugene O’Neill
Directed by David Ferry
Michael Kash in Hughie. Photo by Alley Theatre Workshop.
Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie takes place in a shabby New York City hotel lobby circa 1928. Presented by Alley Theatre Workshop, the moody two-hander directed by David Ferry is now on stage at the Theatre Centre, starring Michael Kash as small-time gambler Erie Smith and Laurence Dean Ifill as Charlie Hughes, the hotel’s night clerk.
At 45 minutes, the production offers a snapshot of city life at the height of the Jazz Age–prohibition is in full swing and the stock market is just a year away from the famous crash. Musicians Michael Sereny (piano) and Alex Baro (trumpet) play a rhythmic “Blues for Hughie” before the show, establishing the tone for the rest of the performance.
Featuring realistic sound design by Thomas Neuspiel and Melissa Joakim, Hughie opens with a bored Charlie counting the hours until the end of his shift. He quietly ponders outside noises (his thoughts projected onto a screen, silent-film style) when Erie Smith first makes an appearance. Stumbling, fresh off a bender, onto Joe Madziak’s faded set, Kash’s defeated Erie proceeds to talk Charlie’s ear off in a drunken attempt to connect with the exhausted clerk (a wonderfully understated Ifill) over the loss of his only friend—the titular Hughie.
The play makes great use of 1920s slang: men are “rats,” “chislers,” “suckers” and “cheats,” while women are “dames,” or “dolls.” Erie is either “in the bucks” or he’s been “taken to the cleaners.” When all is said and done, nothing much happens in Hughie. But what the play lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in hustle.
Click here to read our Q&A with Michael Kash.
Hughie is on stage now until March 3 at the Theatre Centre. For tickets call the box office at 416-538-0988 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benefit performance Feb 26, 7pm. All proceeds go to Anaphylaxis Canada. Tickets $50 and $100.