The Cast Said…

Many people had things to say about The Iceman Cometh.  Here are some of the comments about the play and Howard Davies’ Broadway production by other cast members of Iceman that were included in an article in the April 19, 1999 issue of InTheater magazine. A hard magazine to come by at the time!

Katie Finneran (Cora): It’s a brilliant play. O’Neill gives every character a journey. But if the truth be told, the most exciting thing for me is being one of three women surrounded by 16 of the theatrical world’s finest men. Oh, sweet heaven!

Catherine Kellner (Margie): Last summer, Robert Sean Leonard, Katie Finneran, and I were performing in You Never Can Tell at the Roundabout, and Kevin [Spacey] came to see it. He knew Robert and, as they stood talking intently after the show, I lurked by a nearby pillar and eavesdropped, occasionally sighing and rolling my eyeballs back so Robert would notice and introduce me. After an oddly long stretch without even a twitch of acknowledgment from Bob, I moved closer and realized they were talking about The Iceman Cometh. They spoke of Manny Azenberg and how he had adored the show despite it’s length – “a nine-year-old would get hemorrhoids,” I believe he had said – how hard Kevin was working to get it here, the Equity rules about limiting the number of original cast members. But it was coming! “God,” I thought dreamily, “I wish I could be in that show.” This is truly an honor, especially because I’m a New Yorker and have never been on Broadway. The cast is like a gang of long-lost friends. It’s so rare to trust every other person on stage with you so immediately. And Howard Davies has pushed us further with an expert’s touch.

Kevin Spacey (Hickey): Just as Shakespeare is universal, this is a play everyone can identify with, That’s the strength of it. And it moves fast – at the end, I’ve never heard anyone [in the audience] say that they can believe four hours have gone by.

Clarke Peters (Joe Mott): The combination of O’Neill, Howard Davies, Kevin Spacey, and great British and American actors in one production has spurred me on to challenge my own pipe dreams … and don’t think you, the reader, are free of them!

Jeff Weiss (Ed Mosher): Howard Davies, in a stroke of genius, invited Kevin Spacey to play Hickey. They brought over from the U.K. a team of brilliant actors and cast the ensemble with the best American bunch on the boards. How a deadbeat downtown doofus like myself got into this remains a mystery. Howard and Kevin are the sweetest, funniest, and smartest guys I ever hooked up with. Manny Azenberg, I love you.

Steve Ryan (Moran): Although I have the smallest speaking role in Iceman, I sat through almost every rehearsal because I also cover three major roles. Watching Howard Davies work with the actors new to the show, using all the good stuff they brought to the table and gently guiding them and shaping the scenes into what he knew had succeeded before – plus taking into consideration the needs and expectations of Kevin and the others from the London production – was great to see. He did a wonderful job.

Ned Van Zandt (Lieb): You show up for rehearsals even when you’re not called. It’s that kind of show. Howard Davies is a director of such intelligence, wit and economy. Everyone’s special. People ask me, “What’s Kevin Spacey like?” he’s amazing. he’s smart, generous, and very funny. We laugh a lot.

Michael Emerson (Willie Oban): There are some plays that are such an immense undertaking, you know an attempt on them will be a milestone in your life. It means so much to me to make my Broadway debut in a huge, beautiful work like Iceman and to be directed by Howard Davies, who has the heart of the play so dead in his sights.

James Hazeldine (Harry Hope): During the first run of Iceman at the Almeida in London, I watched the first 25 minutes of Act Two, which I am not in. I was enthralled! Moved to laughter and tears in turn, I said to myself, as actors sometimes do, “I would love to be in this.” And then the realization: “I am.” One of the most thrilling moments of my career.

Tony Danza (Rocky Pioggi): What can I say … on Broadway doing Eugene O’Neill. I wish my parents were still around. the company is amazing, and to work with them is an honor. And they ain’t bad to go out for a drink with, either.

Paul Giamatti (Jimmy Tomorrow): When we first blocked the play, all the hookers had a tendency to want to sit with Jimmy Tomorrow – so I knew it was a good part. Aside from that, it has been an overwhelming pleasure. I’ve never worked with so many brilliant folks.

Stephen Singer (Hugo): Early in the rehearsal process, we were working on the first act. Howard Davies was dealing with parts of the act that did not involve me directly, but I had to remain at my table in the bar. Quite some time passed. Eventually, Howard apologized for leaving me unattended for so long a period of time. I said it was okay; I have to get used to it: Hugo sleeps on stage for about three-quarters of the play.

Skipp Sudduth (Chuck Morello): It is arguably the greatest ensemble drama ever written. I am only now beginning to understand the intensity of focus and concentration necessary to play it successfully. I was in the original London and Broadway casts of The Grapes of Wrath, so I know from great ensembles. This is a great ensemble, and has the potential to become over the next 12 weeks one of the best to ever grace a stage.

Richard Riehle (Pat McGloin): You show up early for rehearsal – and you’re not the only one. You look forward to coming to the theater every day for the chance to spend a little more time in this exciting environment, surrounded by all of these remarkable characters. An excellent example of the meaning of “ensemble” on every level: Wherever you look, on stage and off, and whenever you need it, you know you’ll have all the support you could possibly hope for.

Dina Spybey (Pearl): It’s wonderful to be part of this extremely talented ensemble. O’Neill has fully drawn 19 characters, each very specific, with a complete arc. Most playwrights these days never write for more than six characters at most. This is an epic work, not a star vehicle.

Ed Dixon (Piet Wetjoen): It was a lucky break for me that I did Cyrano on Broadway, since the entire production team was Dutch and had accidentally taught me the accent that I would need to play Piet Wetjoen. The night before my audition, I called Bill Van Dijk (Cyrano) in Amsterdam and had him give me a refresher course over the phone. I was working in Boston at the time and later found out that I was living next door to the building where Eugene O’Neill had died. To complete the coincidence, we rehearsed Iceman at the Neil Simon Theatre, where I had played Baker in – you guessed it – Cyrano.

Patrick Godfey (Cecil Lewis): Over a long time spent in the theater, there have been only two occasions when I’ve been involved in productions that I’ve felt have the capacity really to move an audience. The first was the RSC’s Nicholas Nickleby (Broadway, 1980), and the other is The Iceman Cometh, another infinitely rewarding experience. It’s also great for the complexion because we drink pints of water every performance.

Robert Sean Leonard (Don Parritt): I never thought I’d get the chance to play this part in New York. I never thought there would be a producer crazy enough to put this play on in New York. Thank goodness for Manny Azenberg. And God help him.

Tim Pigott-Smith (Larry Slade): It has been a rare and hugely pleasurable experience doing Iceman. It’s a great play, a great set, a great director, a great star, great costumes, great lighting, great music, great performances. As Larry, says to Jimmy Tomorrow, “What more do you want?”


InTheater April 19, 1999