Closed 1h 0m
Hughie
Midtown W
53

Hughie NYC Reviews and Tickets

53%
(147 Reviews)
Positive
34%
Mixed
31%
Negative
35%
Members say
Disappointing, Slow, Great acting, Dated, Overrated

About the Show

Oscar winner Forest Whitaker makes his Broadway debut in the revival of Eugene O'Neill's classic drama.

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Member Reviews (147)

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50
Absorbing, Slow, Intelligent, Disappointing, Flat

See it if you love O'Neill or Whitaker. There are strong moments, but not enough. The set is magnificent!

Don't see it if you want a meaty evening.It should be paired with another one-act; it's too slender to stand alone.Left wanting more. Whitaker lacked range.

88
Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Resonant

See it if You're a fan of character study plays. Not a lot of action but there is a lot of acting!

Don't see it if You're looking for lots of fluff. This is a serious look a serious side of life.

Critic Reviews (50)

February 25th, 2016

“Erie is portrayed by that excellent actor Forest Whitaker, in a transfixing yet modest Broadway debut.…Mr. Whitaker quietly breaks your heart…I hope his performance isn’t under-appreciated because it lacks showy bravado…'Hughie' feels as vaporous as smoke, though the kind that might come from an opium pipe...you could glean its shape and substance in a 20­-minute reading of the script. But you wouldn’t feel the full mortal ache and ghostly chill that this production summons.”
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February 25th, 2016

“The accomplished film star speaks Erie’s lines, but he misses the spirit of the character, leaving an unmistakable void not to be confused with the playwright’s poetic nihilism…When he should be a big-talking con man and Runyonesque swell, Whitaker tries something possibly more realistic, but ends up blunting O’Neill’s punchy lines...‘Hughie’ is only an hour long. But as we wait for Whitaker to gain confidence in his character, the night grows long and weary.”
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February 25th, 2016

“A huge set for a small play is usually compensating for something. In Michael Grandage’s production of 'Hughie', it’s pretty clear what that something is. Whitaker, who does 98 percent of the talking in the 60-minute one-act, hardly makes an impression…he seems catatonic, with peculiar diction...You spend a lot of the time looking at Wood, a theatrical creature through and through, doing much more with much less.”
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March 7th, 2016

"Together and separately, they’re more than fine actors; they’re poets equal to O’Neill’s poeticism...I wasn’t sure what I thought of the show until a few days after I’d seen it...But later I remembered Whitaker’s gracefulness...Erie is a white character played by a black man, and the complications inherent in that casting keep the production contemporary and important. Nothing significant happens in 'Hughie' except theatre--and the creative lives of its actors."
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February 25th, 2016

“With his sleepy eyes, soulful voice and fluttering hands, Whitaker is a superb actor who can wear sorrow like a baggy overcoat. However, as watchable as he is, the real star of Michael Grandage's production is the design team…Grandage and his team of frequent collaborators have honored the inherent theatricality of the slender piece while fortifying it with an immersive cinematic presentation.”
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February 26th, 2016

“The hour-long show passes quickly, and as Erie’s stories get bigger, the man himself seems to get smaller…‘Hughie’ exacts complex, commendable performances from its two leads, both effectively carrying the show’s study into a man’s need for success, both real and perceived. There’s only so much a shorter show like this can answer — I was left wanting to know more about both Erie and the night clerk after I left for the night — but it’s still a hotel stay you won’t regret."
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February 25th, 2016

“There’s not really much of an arc to this one-hour play, which is essentially an extended monologue…Both actors have their best moments during this tug of wills. Wood makes Charlie’s silence seem both menacing and merciless, while Whitaker lays bare Erie’s terror…there’s no pretending that ‘Hughie’ is much more than a warm-up for ‘Iceman’, a far more devastating study of life as living death.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker has failed to beat the odds in Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Hughie’…Talented though he is, Mr. Whitaker is a film actor through and through, a pure naturalist accustomed to being seen by the camera rather than presenting himself to a live audience, and his bright, bouncy performance is as devoid of depth as his piping tenor voice…Mr. Wood is infinitely better equipped to keep up his end of the deal.”
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February 25th, 2016

“It’s a brave, if odd, choice for a Broadway debut, this meager work that reads better than it plays…The biggest miscue of Michael Grandage’s production is that Erie seems to believe his bullshit. Whitaker lacks the sense of desperation that O’Neill says will overcome Erie during the course of this dark hour…The result is a failure to lift this small work into the tragic realm to which it aspires…That’s surely as much O’Neill’s fault as Whitaker’s. But it’s Whitaker we’ve come to see."
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker may have an Oscar but his Broadway debut is largely inconsequential — he brings no heft or insight to Erie Smith…Michael Grandage’s direction emphasizes a spooky atmosphere that makes you wonder if the characters are dead and in some kind of purgatory. It’s an interesting thought to ponder, which you’ll have time to do as you daydream during Whitaker’s monotone monologues.”
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February 25th, 2016

“This 'Hughie' is hooey. It’s not that Whitaker’s acting is bad in this high-profile revival. It’s that this likeable Oscar winner is not doing any discernible acting to speak of…Whitaker, known for emotionally vibrant performances is simply reciting his lines…Christopher Oram’s scenic design is an unqualified success…If you tire of Whitaker’s disconnected talk, gaze at the faded tin ceiling or the broken elevator.”
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February 25th, 2016

“There’s a reason why O’Neill’s 1942 two-hander ‘Hughie’ is usually presented on a double bill: it is only an hour long and is essentially a rambling monologue…Oram’s towering set design of a decaying hotel lobby is visually impressive but inappropriate for such a small piece. Whitaker gives a hyperactive yet sensitive performance…while Wood does a fine job serving as the blank-faced listener.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker's inexperience is clearly evident throughout the first two-thirds of the evening…Yet as we come toward the end Whitaker suddenly comes to life. The artifice in his line readings virtually disappears…Whitaker's physicality is extremely surefooted and thoroughly heartbreaking...If only he could get the first half of his performance up to the level of the second, this 'Hughie' would be a safe bet.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker's performance is far too undistinguished…Under Michael Grandage's direction, he's a rather ordinary...There's little depth, or even vocal variety in his portrayal and the proceedings get dull quickly. It would be unfair to say that Wood steals the show with his tiny role, but his fine, understated turn is a lovely display of a stage actor's craft.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker delivers a thoroughly amiable and thoughtful performance…The problem with Whitaker's approach, however, is that it's a shallow one… moments are angled so wide that they become arid, not rich, and feel more like filler…Although Whitaker is not there yet, he may still make it. The energy, resourcefulness, and raw ability he shows here suggest it's a distinct possibility. But right now, like Erie, Whitaker is potential and fantasies unrealized, underutilized, and underwhelming.”
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March 5th, 2016

"Director Michael Grandage has taken an unconventional approach in presenting this small-scale work by creating tremendous imagery with theatrical stagecraft that inventively and faithfully realizes the material...This production of 'Hughie' vividly fulfills O’Neill’s intentions with its inspired physical representation and engrossing performances."
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February 25th, 2016

“Short and not really a play at all...Whitaker seemed to be on his way toward a slicker and more polished characterization than was yet visible. However, I would expect that the nerves and uncertainties that punctuated some of his lines and actions will soon be addressed. What should have been addressed is the distracting and often intruding underscoring of scenes by the otherwise excellent composer-sound designer Adam Cork.”
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March 4th, 2016

"I once had a wonderful acting teacher who said that the purpose of a monologue was to keep the other character from leaving. Be so compelling that the other(s) stay and listen. This is why standing in the most brightly lit corner of the room and speaking does not constitute a monologue all on its own."
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March 8th, 2016

"Forest Whitaker is an imposing stage presence, yet even he appears weary and small in the cavernous set. In the capable hands of director Michael Grandage, it's amusing to watch him caper around the stage...At first I thought Whitaker's stilted, start and stop delivery was symptomatic of him struggling with the text...But once you settle into the tragic restlessness of the character, his affect drives O’Neill’s circuitous cadences home...Overall, the play is a simple but poignant rumination."
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March 9th, 2016

"Despite how much of an outlier it is in the O’Neill oeuvre, it is a delicate, late-career masterpiece currently receiving a fine Broadway revival with Forest Whitaker in the lead role...Excellent performances notwithstanding, the best part of this 'Hughie' is Christopher Oram’s stunning set, dominated by a looming, grand staircase...Despite a bit of directorial interference, this production deserves full marks for its courage to embrace the play as it is given to us."
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February 26th, 2016

"If Whitaker is guilty of anything on stage, it’s portraying Erie as perhaps too kind and affable...Still, whether his character is processing a difficult emotion, concocting his next tall tale, or fumbling though a pocket of I.O.U.’s, Whitaker is fascinating to watch...As Whitaker takes the stage and goes on what is ostensibly a 50-minute monologue, Wood delivers a masterclass in the difficult art of active non-listening."
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C
February 25th, 2016

"What O’Neill wants us to appreciate is just how lonely Erie is behind his bonhomie... Whitaker manages to capture Erie’s good-time exterior and his gift of gab...But that well of loneliness behind the bravado, isn’t really present in Whitaker’s performance. It creeps in for a moment, but it’s far too fleeting to make us feel much for Erie. In the end, by the sheer brevity of the play, its repetitive nature, and Whitaker’s semi-successful star turn, I believe we’ve all been shortchanged."
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February 26th, 2016

"The character’s self-delusion seems obvious, the stories he tells not especially vivid, the relative slightness of O’Neill’s effort tilting it towards a theatrical exercise. The audience is in danger of identifying too closely with the night clerk, who stops listening, his mind drifting, while Erie prattles on...I’m reluctant to blame all this on Whitaker...He has his moments...'Hughie' is more effective as a work of literature than a star vehicle, at least based on the current production of it."
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker is now playing Eugene O'Neill's stemwinding character Erie Smith, a character he hasn't been able to crack…‘Hughie’ is not quite workable as a stage piece. A character study, and a rich one; but not a satisfying play…The same sense of the wrong play at the wrong time applies to director Michael Grandage…Whitaker and Grandage can certainly combine for high octane theatre; but not this time, starting as they did with a not-quite play."
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February 25th, 2016

“No one captured urban isolation on canvas better than Hopper, and if he’d ever decided to paint the now slightly crumbling lobby of a hotel in Times Square this ‘Hughie’ as designed by Oram and directed by Grandage would be it…The Oscar-winning [Whitaker] delivers a most endearing Erie, right down to the nervous giggle…That kind of vital sign is completely missing in Wood’s equally disturbing night clerk.”
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T
February 26th, 2016

"It’s a potentially powerful short play, but Whitaker is so shaky and insubstantial that Erie’s desperate situation seems no more important than a toothache. The marvelous character actor Frank Wood manfully tries to bring life to the clerk but even his one flash of emotion expressing a desire to burn down the city, is weirdly muted...Barely more than an hour, 'Hughie' makes for less than a full evening of theater, particularly with this limp staging and especially not at Broadway prices."
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February 25th, 2016

“British director Michael Grandage emphasizes the play's bleak intimacy here…Whitaker makes his character worthy of compassion…But brings an awkward sweetness that makes his desperation not only pitiable but accessible…Erie's struggles, like his flaws, are above all human, and will resonate with anyone who catches this gently moving production."
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February 25th, 2016

“What a quietly satisfying, touching pleasure this production turns out to be…Whitaker brings a buoyant, sweet, almost delicate sensibility…It is hard to imagine a more compelling, almost silent, witness than Frank Wood as the new clerk. With little more than a disbelieving blink and a dry stare, Wood dares us not to acknowledge this as a two-character drama.”
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February 26th, 2016

"It's a slight piece...Whitaker is pretty good, high praise indeed for a role that can prove a swamp. We are never lost in his telling, though the potential magic of the tale and Erie's sad despair never quite comes out, not really. Some film actors need the close-up of the camera. Not Whitaker. 'Hughie' is no triumph but it's the start of what could be a promising stage career."
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February 26th, 2016

"Whitaker gives it a game effort, but you’re always aware that he’s acting, working at persuading us he’s a small-time hustler named Erie Smith rather than simply being him. The two-character play is one of O’Neill’s distinctly minor efforts...Whitaker, under the direction of Michael Grandage, gives us the character’s surface. His Erie is a pleasant-enough guy with a genial laugh, but there isn’t a vital arc to his story. The actor is a warm presence, but not much more."
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February 26th, 2016

"Forest Whitaker, on stage here for the first time in decades, does offer a convincing portrayal of Erie...But there is a deep seam of charismatic pathos within this role that Whitaker never fully mines...It can be easy to drift off at times...Director Michael Grandage might have pushed his star a little harder...We are desperate to believe in what is happening on stage even when it disappoints. Grandage’s 'Hughie' does just enough to sustain that bleak vision."
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February 25th, 2016

“Forest Whitaker is brave to spread his wings to Broadway, but his performance, at least for now, is disappointingly one-note…He plays Erie as consistently content, but such joviality doesn’t seem to fit the circumstances...Maybe he’s still trying to find his footing with O’Neill’s rhythms…I’d wager that Whitaker’s performance will evolve in the weeks ahead, but for the moment he’s throwing snake eyes.”
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February 29th, 2016

"'Hughie' is a low-octane one-act character study set in the lobby of a NYC hotel...Forest Whitaker is charming and quite commanding, playing the character in a more chirpy mode than some previous actors, who went for more boozy squalor...But when it’s over after about an hour, some might wonder if they’ve been conned by Erie too."
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February 25th, 2016

“Forest Whitaker swallows his words and looks deeply uncomfortable onstage…Whitaker doesn't even begin to illuminate Erie or make it clear to the audience why we should care about him…‘Hughie’ does feature a very beautiful set and lighting design…The designers gorgeously evokes a place gone to seed. But that's about all this undercooked, altogether listless production has going for it.”
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W
February 27th, 2016

"O'Neill is known for his compassionate, nuanced portrayals of such sad-sack characters. Indeed, this short work is a wonderful character study and an affecting portrait of grief. What it isn't is a compelling narrative. Not a lot happens in 'Hughie' — and the one thing that does, toward the end, is so unbelievable, it warps the story. It makes sense that the play was never produced during the playwright's lifetime."
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March 7th, 2016

"'Hughie' offers a devastating look at loneliness and our need for someone to look up to us in order to make ourselves appear more important than we actually are...Whitaker seemed relatively comfortable as Erie...A major problem in the play is with the role of the Night Clerk...Grandage is unable to make the almost different planes of existence Erie and Charlie inhabit effectively merge. Despite the problems in its execution, O’Neill’s messages still shine through powerfully."
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March 3rd, 2016

"He is an incredible actor to watch and so it pains me to say he is making his Broadway debut in 'Hughie,' a non-existent Eugene O’Neill play and his interpretation of the beleaguered character Erie Smith is all wrong. To be sure, Mr. Whitaker is giving an earnest performance, but unfortunately it is a misplaced one...Considering there is no plot or point to this play, the bravado has to be an essential part of the show, for without it the show becomes a big snooze."
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February 25th, 2016

“This is a two person show that lasts 60 minutes…Forest Whitaker enters the elegantly designed set and he rambles for 60 minutes. Then the show ends. This is all. I didn't have a clue why we were watching him, why he was there, and frankly was bored and disgusted at his pointless babbling. Dumb, Expensive, Meaningless. This was my waste of a Wednesday night at the Theatre.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Whitaker is out of his depth and has a very hesitant stage range. He’s incapable of drawing the audience into a production that while very handsomely dressed up has nowhere to go. This is the Michael Grandage Company’s first project direct on Broadway and he invests it with lots of atmosphere, but it feels like very hard work for all concerned, including the audience.”
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February 25th, 2016

“Grandage lets it breathe and the actors make it work as a parable about connecting and disconnecting in modern life. By the time the clock hits 4 a.m. and the sun peeks out, there's something deeply satisfying about this little play, which O'Neill himself may never have expected anyone to actually mount on a stage. Thank goodness it has been, especially with Whitaker in the lead role.”
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March 5th, 2016

"If you want to see one of the world’s great film stars take on live acting, hurry to the box office because Whitaker’s performance is deft, subtle and as comfortable as a pair of old sneakers...The performance is what you expect from a master of the theatrical arts...I really wanted to love this production, but sadly, O’Neill’s work isn’t on a par with his more famous plays...Whitaker deserves a better result here, but the early closing isn’t his fault. I blame Eugene O’Neill."
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March 7th, 2016

"Whitaker is infinitely faithful to the sad emptiness that is Erie and gives a remarkable performance, true in its multiple layers, extraordinary in fashioning O’Neill’s difficult language and its punctuation into a verisimilitude of human speech...Even the 'greats' cannot be great all the time and 'Hughie', no matter how beautifully produced, performed, directed, remains a minor note."
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February 28th, 2016

"It's a kick to see Whitaker take on this 1920s New York charmer. He's a true pleasure to watch in the role, showing a lot of heart and humor...Wood is perfect...Under Grandage's direction, 'Hughie' is a robust production of a slight play. As a portrait of a raconteur realizing that he may be losing his touch, it is compelling during its slim 60 minutes...To be transported to this bit of old New York is a nice treat but still may not feel like a completely fulfilling evening of theater."
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February 29th, 2016

"The play was directed by Michael Grandage who attempts to capture the meaning and feeling of O’Neill’s script...
Mr. Whitaker downplays the character to a point of nothingness. Mr. Wood spends most of the show listening to the long monologue of Erie. This is a show which could have been more dramatic if [Whitaker] had played Erie like his Oscar-winning role in 'The Last King of Scotland.'"
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March 5th, 2016

"Whitaker plays a very generalized Erie Smith almost entirely on one note, a genial rube who thinks he’s wise, with a very generalized need to talk, never quite making the Broadway patois of the day fully his own. The aimless halting phrasing becomes tiring, without the flashing intelligence and sensitivity Whitaker has brought to so many movie roles so unforgettably. We get a vivid walk-on’s worth of character."
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March 7th, 2016

"Well worth seeing, thanks to its extremely talented, multiple award-winning cast and creative team. It is a definite star vehicle that provides an opportunity for Whitaker to transfer his formidable cinematic talents to the New York stage...Whitaker has a natural warmth and charm that serve his character well. His Erie is both believable and touching; as sympathetic as he is pathetic.."
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March 7th, 2016

"He gives an impressive performance as the sketchy Erie...The production is directed by Michael Grandage with a dream-like quality...The play is drawn out and repetitive leaving you wondering whether you have fallen asleep and are in a dream. Dare I question one of the great contributors of the American theatrical canon?"
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February 25th, 2016

"Whitaker imbues Eerie’s showboating with impressive understatement. He has a lovely physical refrain, a kind of shuffled pirouette of a jig…The night I saw it, there was that sense of every consciousness in the auditorium merging into one rapt and receptive cell. It was a moment of magic, of palpable pure attention. That kind of spellbound state cannot be forced, so it’s curious that Grandage would have chosen to intersperse the play with several heavy-handed interludes.”
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February 26th, 2016

"It’s hard to maintain momentum in a play that is largely a series of monologues by the same character... In addition to pacing, the play’s dated vernacular may also be an impediment to fully identifying with Erie’s emotional turmoil...Whitaker is a perfect fit for Erie in his Broadway debut. He always manages to embody the paradoxical complexity of characters like these: he is both imposing and vulnerable, grand and worn-down."
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February 26th, 2016

"I was spellbound by Whitaker’s acting. I find it a delight to watch some of Hollywood’s finest actors taking their talents to live theater so that we are treated to their gifts without studio magic. Whitaker fully immersed himself in Erie Smith with the perfect old school native New Yorker accent and all the braggadocio anyone can fill within an hour of a dominating conversation about oneself. Whitaker’s performance was pure magic."
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