Bobby Cannavale, Becky Ann Baker, David Costabile and More Open in THE HAIRY APE at Park Avenue Armory Tonight

Bobby Cannavale. Photo by Lia Chang
Bobby Cannavale. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony nominee Bobby Cannavale (The Big Knife, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Motherf**ker With the Hat, Trust, Mauritius, “Boardwalk Empire”) leads the cast as Yank in the Park Avenue Armory’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s iconic American drama The Hairy Ape, directed by Oliver Award-winner Richard Jones which began previews on March 25th at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street in New York, and runs through April 22, 2017. Press opening is tonight.

Alongside Bobby Cannavale, the cast features David Costabile (Translations, Manhattan Theatre Club; Titanic, Broadway; “Billions”) in the role of Paddy, Becky Ann Baker (All My Sons, Broadway; Good People, Manhattan Theatre Club; “Girls” ) as Mildred’s Aunt, and Catherine Combs (Gloria, Vineyard Theatre; Smokefall, Goodman Theatre) as Mildred. The cast also includes Chris Bannow, Tommy Bracco, Emmanuel Brown, Nic Bruder, Phil Hill, Cosmo Jarvis, Mark Junek, Henry Stram, Jamar Williams, Isadora Wolfe, and Amos Wolff.

Activating the industrial-scale architecture of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the production brings new dimension to the classic work, which follows a laborer on his journey from the bowels of an ocean liner to the New York of the Roaring Twenties.

The staging adds a fresh and inventive approach by placing the action on a stage that revolves around the audience like the conveyor belt of a large machine, serving as a metaphor for the struggle between the working man and the industrial complex found at the heart of the play.

Jones’ acclaimed production was mounted at the Old Vic in London in the fall of 2015 as a proscenium stage presentation and is being radically reimagined for the Armory’s space.

“The Armory’s Drill Hall is unlike a traditional theater with a fixed stage and seating. It allows for dramatic changes to the relationship between audiences and art, adding thrilling new layers to the experience of classic works,” said Rebecca Robertson, Executive Producer and President of Park Avenue Armory. “The Hairy Ape holds deep relevancy to our current moment. Under the visionary direction of Richard Jones, it also extends our program of groundbreaking productions that challenge artists to transform the Drill Hall and provide audiences with unprecedented experiences, as has been realized in previous stagings from Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth to Douglas Gordon and Hélène Grimaud’s tears become…streams become… to Peter Sellars’ St. Matthew Passion.”

Written in 1922 by Nobel Prize-winner Eugene O’Neill, The Hairy Ape is a searing social commentary on the divide and friction between the rich and poor in the Gilded Age. The story follows the journey of Yank, played by Bobby Cannavale, a laborer who revels in his status as the strongest stoker on a transatlantic ocean liner. When Yank is deemed a “filthy beast” by the daughter of a rich steel merchant, he experiences an awakening of consciousness that leads him on a journey through the worlds of both the disenfranchised working class and wealthy society of New York.

The Hairy Ape features a design by Stewart Laing that animates the Drill Hall’s attributes-including the industrial character of its interiors and vaulted iron metalwork ceiling-as both physical and metaphorical elements of the action. The audience, on sulphur yellow seating, is placed within a monumentally scaled ring-shaped stage that revolves around them as they follow Yank from the stokehole of a transatlantic ocean liner to the wealthy neighborhoods of New York society.

“O’Neill’s story of capitalism and inequality has as much resonance in contemporary discourse as it did when it premiered nearly a century ago, during a surge of industrialization and the kind of social disruption it wrought,” said Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of Park Avenue Armory. “We are pleased to produce a bold reimaging of this work, inviting Richard and a visionary creative team to reinvent the production from its original Old Vic commission in a new design concept that utilizes the Armory’s space like never before and with a phenomenally talented cast. It is thrilling to have a visionary director working in the Armory to make epic theater.”

Park Avenue Armory’s dynamic platforms-from the Wade Thompson Drill Hall to array of exquisite historic period rooms-enable the creation of new artworks and experiences for New York audiences that could not be realized in traditional concert halls, theaters, and museum galleries. The Hairy Ape is featured as part of the Armory’s 2017 season.

Performances: March 30 – April 22
Opening Night: Thursday, March 30 at 7:00pm
Schedule: Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30pm; Friday at 8:00pm; Saturday at 2:00pm and 8:00pm; Sunday at 3:00pm; Wednesday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm (April 12 and 19). Tickets start at $30 for previews/$60 for performances and can be purchased at armoryonpark.org / (212) 933-5812.

ADDITIONAL PROGRAMS:
As part of its Interrogations of Form: Conversation Series, the Armory will host two programs in its historic period rooms focused on The Hairy Ape. These conversations feature artists and scholars exploring the realization of Armory productions and their resonances today, encouraging active discussion on a range of themes and complex issues.

A ‘Hairy Ape’ for the 21st Century: Artist Talk
Friday, March 31 at 6:00pm
The Hairy Ape director Richard Jones, Bobby Cannavale, and Robert M. Dowling (Eugene O’Neill scholar and Professor of English, Central Connecticut State University) discuss the challenges of presenting Eugene O’Neill’s play nearly 100 years after its first production by The Provincetown Players in 1922.

The Hairy Ape & New York City: Class vs. Identity
Friday, April 14 at 6:00pm
Catherine Combs, Chief Historian at the New York Historical Society Valerie Paley, and Annan Professor in English and Professor of Theater at Princeton University Jill S. Dolan discuss The Hairy Ape’s opposing forces of class and identity, issues that continue to entangle the social fabric of New York City today.

ARMORY AFTER HOURS
Audiences also have the opportunity stay at the Armory following evening performances for libations with fellow attendees-and often the evening’s artists- at a special bar in one of our historic period rooms.

Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang_photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com

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