Members say: Disappointing, Slow, Great acting, Dated, Banal

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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1928. New York City. A hotel lobby. A small-time gambler and big-time drinker makes his way back to Room 492. With a new night clerk on duty, he is forced to confront his personal demons and discover the real end to his own story. 'Hughie' is about the loneliness and redemption of one man chasing the American Dream.

This production also features Tony Award winner Frank Wood and is directed by the Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Michael Grandage.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

“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 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.” Full Review

New York Post

“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.” Full Review


“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.” Full Review


“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.” Full Review


“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.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“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.” Full Review

New Yorker

"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." Full Review

Time Out New York

“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.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

“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." Full Review

Theater Life

"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." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"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... Full Review

Front Row Center

"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." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"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." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

“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.” Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

“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.” Full Review

AM New York

“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.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“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.” Full Review

New York Daily News

“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.” Full Review


“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." Full Review


"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." Full Review

The Associated Press

“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.” Full Review

The Wrap

“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.” Full Review


"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." Full Review


“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.” Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"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." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if you are as fan of Forest Whitaker

Don't see it if cant think of a reason

Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting

See it if you like really great acting - Forest Whitaker was excellent

Don't see it if you're into lighter stuff

Ambitious, Indulgent, Disappointing, Overrated, Dated

See it if Someone gives you the tickets.

Don't see it if You have already seen everything else on your list and spending a cozy night at home seems to be a better choice.

Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Brief

See it if You're an O'Neill and Whittaker fan

Don't see it if You'll be upset paying full price for 60 mins of show

Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid, Dated

See it if you need to get inside from bad weather and have nowhere else you can possibly go

Don't see it if you want to be entertained, see a good play with good writing, see something that makes sense, have anywhere else you can go.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Confusing, Slow

See it if your penchant for O'Neill outweighs the knowledge that this is one of his lesser-known works (perhaps for a reason); you like one man shows.

Don't see it if you require more than one character's input to sustain interest in a show, or if you don't like Forrest Whitaker.

Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid, Slow

See it if you are a masochist. This is 60 minutes of listening to a narcissist grieve. And the actor was being fed lines at the water cooler.

Don't see it if you have literally anything else to do with 60 minutes of your time.

Absorbing, Great acting, Resonant, Entertaining, Great staging

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.

Disappointing, Slow

See it if you are a fan of Eugene O'Neill's work & are looking to see how long you can make 65 minutes feel.

Don't see it if are looking for a good time feel good story.

Great acting, Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Insipid

See it if you want to fall asleep. Not even the wonderful Forest Whitaker can keep my mind from wandering off while watching this!

Don't see it if you are interested in watching an engaging, thought-provoking play. It was really disapponting! :(

Excruciating, Miscast

See it if You have to.

Don't see it if You either like the play "Hughie" or have never seen or read it. Whitaker is horribly miscast and the one hour run time feels interminable.

Banal, Disappointing, Dated

See it if You live in a time warp

Don't see it if If you adore forest Whittaker and don't want to see him embarrass himself

Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow, Dated, Great staging

See it if You want to see Forest Whitaker on stage, no matter how weak his performance.

Don't see it if You're looking for a play with a plot, or can't stand what's basically a one-man play.


See it if you have seen everything else by Eugene O'Neill. Or see it for the set: It's great & you'll be staring at it a lot!

Don't see it if you respect Forest Whitaker as an actor. He does himself no favors here!

Great acting, Slow, Dated, Great staging

See it if You love Forest Whittaker. He doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately the script needed updating.

Don't see it if You wouldn't enjoy watching a monologue with no intermission.

Ambitious, Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Dated

See it if you are a fan of Forrest Whitaker A Eugene O'Neill completist

Don't see it if you want to gain clarity on ultimately an overrated play

Confusing, Didn't get it

See it if You want to see Forrest Whitaker on stage or if you want to check another O'Neill play off your list.

Don't see it if If you are expecting a play about anything of importance. I just didn't get it, but did enjoy seeing Forest.

Boring, Banal, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if You insist on witnessing Forest's Broadway debut.

Don't see it if You want to preserve your high opinion of Forest's talent - he should stick to movies.

Great acting, Disappointing, Excruciating, Slow

See it if You must see Forest Whitaker live.

Don't see it if Expect to be entertained for this ONE hour of your life.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Intelligent, Intense

See it if you love Forest Whitaker, he is amazing, his quiet acting reached me from the stage, I was transfixed.

Don't see it if You want an action packed, surface glancing story. You want laughs, color, visual excitement.

Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if You love O'Neil and want to see this terrific character study

Don't see it if you expect more than 55 minutes of show for your $150-200. I also HATED the padding of this 45 minute show with absurd pauses.

Indulgent, Banal, Excruciating, Overrated, Slow

See it if This is the only ticket you can get for a Broadway show.

Don't see it if You are a huge O'Neill fan. I personalluy found it boring. I could not even fall asleep. It seemed to go on forever.

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating, Overrated, Dated

See it if you can sit through an hour of a mess of a show. Not even Forest Whitaker can save this.

Don't see it if Don't go see it. And its closing, so you likely won't.

Indulgent, Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You enjoy seeing the star forget his lines and have the stage manager read him his lines out loud by the water cooler.

Don't see it if You want to remain awake.

Intelligent, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you need to see every single O'Neill, or every single Forest Whitaker performance. It does have a beautiful set.

Don't see it if you lack the patience for a small, talky play that is dwarfed by the theater's size.

Cast & Creatives (7)