• "The Hairy Ape" play at the Odyssey Theatre (Photo - Enci Box).

      “The Hairy Ape” play at the Odyssey Theatre (Photo – Enci Box).

      This is a starkly staged and beautifully choreographed presentation of the story of Robert “Yank” Smith (played by Haile D’Alan), head coal stoker on an ocean liner, where he is king of his world and rules with brute strength and camaraderie with his fellow laborers, and most of the time remains safely focused in his dark and smokey element, having convinced himself that he’s not hindered by past failures or future possibilities and revels in the “now,” yet he still sees himself as fully ready to meld with the new machine oriented age.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      Meanwhile, his innate human desire for validation and acceptance and a sense of place in the world overshadow his bravado and play into his brief interaction with an elitist, “spoiled little rich girl” socialite (played by Katy Davis) visiting the engine room with a vague thought of connecting in a charitable way with this lower class, but who immediately recoils, and makes no secret of her repulsion and fear of the grossly sensual laborer, the “filthy beast.” Her disdain enrages him and he stampedes violently through Manhattan seeking revenge while trying to understand his place in the world.

      "The Hairy Ape" play (Photo - Enci Box).

      “The Hairy Ape” play (Photo – Enci Box).

      Although the actor playing Yank is black, the story is not about race relations, it’s about social stratification, and casting a black actor as the lead (a more culturally diverse group of associate laborers would have helped), unfortunately leads to association with our more recent past and our civil rights struggles, especially as the final emotionally-charged interaction is at the zoo between Yank and an ape. Nevertheless, that passing thought did not really impact the effect of the overall story, and the final scene did not lose it’s impact, The presentation is powerful in word as well as physical presence.

      Although the actor
      playing Yank
      is black,
      the story is not
      about race relations,
      it’s about
      social stratification

      The stark set, without physical props, serves as a backdrop for the characters to create their social dance (nearly literally, as the movements of the actors were “conducted” by percussionist Will Mahood, who with his instruments created stop action and slow motion, and sometimes evoked exaggerated actions to convey emotion and chapters of the story. The movements of all the actors are rhythmic and lyrical (the scene of the laborers sitting on a bench as the ship rocks, swaying side to side, had me moving a bit with them and I felt like I could have talked myself into feeling a little seasickness). It is strong, stark, and violent, (and maybe not for everyone), and definitely unforgettable. Looking forward to a second visit to experience this performance again, even though the images are still fresh in my mind.

      The Hairy Ape
      • Written by Eugene O’Neill.
      • Directed by Steven Berkoff.
      • Starring Hailé D’Alan, Benjamin Davies, Katy Davis, Joseph Gilbert, Jeremiah O’Brian, Andres Ramacho, Anthony Rutowicz, Paul Stanko, Jennifer Taub.
      • Produced by Beth Hogan.
      • Presented by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Ron Sossi, artistic director.
      Odyssey Theatre
      2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025

      Thru July 17:
      • Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: June 15 ONLY
      • Thursdays at 8 p.m.: June 23; June 30 ONLY
      • Fridays at 8 p.m.: June 17**; 24; July 1. 8, 15
      • Saturdays at 8 p.m.: June 11, 18, 25; July 2, 9, 16
      • Sundays at 2 p.m.: June 12, 19, 26; July 3, 10, 17
      * Post-show discussion with the cast scheduled
      **The third Friday of every month is wine night at the Odyssey: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show.
      • $25–$34 (reserved seating)
      • Discounted tickets available for students and members of Equity/Sag for select performances.
      • “Tix for $10”: Fridays – July 1, also, discount tickets available at goldstar.com for $12.50 (plus service charge).
      • Box Office: 310-477-2055 EXT. 2

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