THE HAIRY APE

by Eugene O'Neill


Yank is a stoker on a modern ocean liner, cruder, fiercer, more powerful more sure of himself than the rest of the crew. O'Neill portrays him as a part of the mechanism of the ship... part of the fire and steel that make the ship and modern society run. His primitive "belonging" is shattered when a figure (Mildred) from the top of that society descends into the stoke-hole and in horror declares him a beast.

Yank ascends to the outside world to search, futilely, for a new place to belong. He ends up in the fatal embrace of a real ape with whom he has made a horrifying identification. O'Neill writes of the play: "I have tried to probe into the shadow of the soul of man, bewildered by the disharmony of his primitive pride and individualism, and at war with the mechanistic development of society."

The Hairy Ape initiated an interest by O'Neill in an expressionist form of drama evolving out of his earlier naturalism: "The treatment of any scene should be by no means naturalistic." One of O'Neill's directions for the voices of the crew is that they have "a brazen, metallic quality, as if their throats were phonograph horns." In this production Director Josë Quintero and Sound Designer Randy Thom have worked to fully realize O'Neill's original vision of the play. Thom: "The play is full of metaphors, it has little to do with physical reaity. To capture O'Neill's intent I tried to use sound effects like music."

O'Neill's thematic visions reappear again and again in his work. The Hairy Ape (Yank) haunts his late work. Lines in Long Day's Journey that might have come from the Hairy Ape's cage: "It was a great mistake being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want, or is not really wanted, who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death."

 

Directed by: José Quintero
Recording & Sound Design by: Randy Thom
Artistic Director & Consultant: Travis Bogard
Produced by: Erik Bauersfeld

Cast

Yank:
  George Dzundza
Paddy:
  Eric Christmas
Long:
  Christopher Grove
Frank:
  Larry Drake
Mildred:
  Deborah May
Aunt:
  Mercedes Shirley
Engineer:
  Steven Barr
Secretary:
  Bill Wanton

 

Charles Marowitz, LA Herald Examiner theatre critic:

The Hairy Ape entirely lives up to expectations and despite the strict parameters of radio drama (or perhaps because of them) it is the most haunting and lucid presentation of this work ever achieved.

Designer Randy Thom, has miraculously produced O'Neill's desired "brazen metallic quality" in the actor's throats. It is the audiophonic style that lifts it from the dreary level of operatic realism to which it so often sinks on the stage. Quintero has stylized the ship's crew in such a way that they seem to be reverberations of Yank's sensibility.

The greatest compliment to a radio play is an overwhelming desire to visualize it. Not because the radio interpretation is lacking but precisely because it is so compelling. It is like a séance that successfully makes contact with the spirit of Eugene O'Neill.

 

Length: 93:36

Listen: Earshot