Members say: Great staging, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing, Intense

About the show

Park Avenue Armory and the Old Vic present O’Neill's expressionist drama, a searing social commentary on the divide between the rich and poor in the industrial age. Starring Emmy winner and Tony nominee Bobby Cannavale.

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Cannavale stars as Yank, an unthinking laborer searching for his place in a world controlled by the wealthy. His journey from the bowels of a transatlantic ocean liner to the wealthy neighborhoods of New York society literally revolves around the audience like the conveyor belt of a larger machine, serving as a metaphor for the struggle between the working man and the industrial complex. The revival is directed by Olivier winner Richard Jones and is based on a previous mounting he helmed in London.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

“A mesmerizing revival…O’Neill’s nightmarish parable of alienation and class conflict still feels close to home…Mr. Jones’s interpretation is ravishing enough to please the sort of aesthetes who worship Robert Wilson’s exquisite dreamscapes. But this production also rings with primal pain...Mr. Cannavale’s emphatically flesh-and-blood presence makes him the perfect odd man out in a dehumanizing world of machines, literal and otherwise…The supporting cast is excellent.” Full Review


“Director Richard Jones gets to the essence of the playwright's intention by giving this expressionist work a staging that is both clear and confrontational…In this nightmarish realm, Cannavale is the only actor who seems convincingly human: O'Neill's salty prose feels at home in his mouth...We also feel implicated in his downfall thanks to Jones, who pulls no punches in this gorgeous and forceful revival…This revival could not have arrived at a better moment.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Environmental theater doesn’t come any more powerful than the staging of 'The Hairy Ape'...Cannavale superbly brings his raw, macho physicality to the leading role...The play is not exactly subtle in its language and themes. Director Jones exploits that artificiality by visually emphasizing the elemental aspects...Throughout the piece there are striking visual tableaus...This landmark production provides a sense of the bone-chilling excitement it must originally have generated." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"A staggering, last-word revival...Cannavale's body is giving us expressionism while his smooth interpretation of the speech is giving us realism...It anchors a production, gorgeously directed by Jones, that is otherwise full-tilt expressionism on the grandest scale...The performances of the other supporting actors are just as subtly calibrated...What I’m not sure it matches is O’Neill. You don’t have the sense, reading the script...that something this chic could ever have been what he sought." Full Review

New Yorker

“Yank is an embodiment of the playwright’s ideas about theatrical naturalism and how to elevate it beyond the proscenium and make it deeper, spookier…Reading ‘The Hairy Ape,’ you’d never imagine what Jones comes up with, and those surprises are the reason the production is such a thrill…Jones’s talent is genius. By engineering this spectacle of O’Neill’s tragedy, he makes the playwright’s twenties modernism modern now, just for us, and it’s astonishing.” Full Review

Theater Life

"High-caliber direction, design and acting...Richard Jones’ brilliantly bizarre production of the O’Neill play takes full advantage of the cavernous Park Avenue Armory space...Jones turns Yank’s journey into a road trip to hell, creating one amazing encounter after another. A noirish jazz-age dance number (Aletta Collins provided the frantic choreography) is followed by a riot in a cell-block...A daring example of unconventional theatrical forms." Full Review

AM New York

"Never again are we likely to see such a massive, thoroughly designed, technically complex staging of an early 20th century expressionist play as the stunning production of O’Neill’s tragedy...Everything about it is huge: the venue, the mechanized set design, the scale of the performances and the main character’s agony and desperation...Cannavale gives a raw, layered and highly physical performance...The ensemble reinforces the play’s otherworldly style through synchronized movement." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Jones’ brutal, cinematic and stunning visuals and sublime acting make this production a must-see. This is the theatrical event of the season...Cannavale’s feral encompassing performance is mesmerizing...Cannavale embodies Yank in his brutish emotional journey to perfection; the rest of the cast supports him to the fullest...This show, though artistic in every way. will punch you in the gut and leave you feeling changed. It is impossible to not be moved by this piece." Full Review

New York Daily News

"This massive and mighty revival of O’Neill’s 1922 play is awash in blaring, glaring yellow. It’s the color of a cage-like box representing the bowels of a ship, where grimy, brawny stokers do their drone-like thing...Which fits since nothing pleasant goes down in O’Neill’s expressionist look at class and identity as seen through the eyes of Yank (Cannavale, outstanding)...Jagged beauty abounds in the stirring production guided by British director Richard Jones." Full Review


"Could any play be timelier than this wrenching, tragic cry of an outsider looking for acceptance?...There’s nothing realistic about it, except for the emotional truths of alienation and dehumanization that suffuse the events leading to the play’s inevitable, tragic climax. Against this, and with the assist of a brilliant company, Cannavale gives a performance that’s utterly lacking in affectation, so completely open and raw, that by the end we’re left spent as well as rattled to our own core." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“An exceptional revival…O’Neill has never felt so unique and powerful...Cannavale seems to be born to play this prototype to all the brutes that Cannavale seems to play…It’s a miraculous use of space…The environmental production is a non-stop wonderland of visuals and metaphors…These are the unique moments that we theatre junkies live for…It’s a challenging and miraculous in-your-face spectacle, filled with beauty, intelligence, and exploration, with a layer of judgment.” Full Review


"A brilliantly staged and vibrantly performed production...There's plenty to keep you enthralled as you watch those eight scenes unfold in this stunning production...Though O'Neill's dialect is a challenging mouthful, Cannavale ably tames it, and at the same time meets the role's ape-like physical demands...It all adds up to his being an intensely heartbreaking, often gasp-inducing stage presence...The rest of the cast is also superb...A not-to-be-missed theatrical outing of this season." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"This gripping revival accomplishes the difficult task of making this problematic play acceptable for a 21st-century audience...Bobby Cannavale’s visceral performance as Robert Smith (Yank) anchors the production...The other cast members also excel...While O’Neill’s take on class conflict and the search for identity in the industrial age may have lost some of its power today, this production makes the best possible case for giving the play another chance." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“A spectacular revival of Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece about identity and class struggle is stylized to the nines, yet misses the opportunity to be searing social commentary…Cannavale convincingly portrays the earnest hothead…Jones's interpretation of the text is a playwright's wildest dream coming true…It's difficult to recount all the good things about this production. However the lack of diversity onstage diminishes the play's potential for searing social commentary.” Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

“A stunningly beautiful staging…If you temporarily submit to the manipulations of O’Neill and Mr. Jones, you also come to see that the play is both more and less than agitprop. It is more because there are magnificent soliloquies in which we hear the rhythms and phrasings of actual people…At such moments, if you forget the author’s hectoring, you admire his artifice. The play is also less than agitprop, because it doesn’t fully accept the message it begins to peddle.” Full Review

The Washington Post

“The lives of the working stiffs in Eugene O’Neill’s ‘The Hairy Ape’ may be brutal, but the portraits of their labors in Richard Jones’s visually stunning new revival are sublime…Surrealism and naturalism mix marvelously…The tableaux are mesmerizing…The visual panache extends all through the production’s 90 minutes…With excellent assists from the ensemble...the 'nightmare distortions' of 'The Hairy Ape' come exhilaratingly into focus." Full Review


"As masterful as the sets, costumes, movement, and direction by Richard Jones all are, it is the mesmerizing performance of Bobby Cannavale in the born-to-play role of Yank that brings it all to life, and to heart...The performances and the staging will leave you speechless. And then you will exit that glorious edifice and find yourself on Park Avenue at the epicenter of money and the upper class, and you won’t know whether to laugh or cry. Either way, you’ll be glad you were there." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Rarely does a production explode upon the theatre scene like O’Neill’s 'The Hairy Ape,' now receiving an extraordinary revival...It’s a sensational set, bringing an appropriately gargantuan scale to O’Neill’s tragic tale...The setting is vast, and the spectacle is breathtaking...This special combination of directorial vision, design brilliance, star power, and seamless ensemble work has brought forth a unique revival...The stunning images evoked here will long be remembered." Full Review

The Modernist Beat

"A superlative production...It should also spark a revision of how we receive Eugene O’Neill’s work in the twenty-first century...As relevant today as the drama of Lynn Nottage’s 'Sweat'...Cannavale is a wonder...Director Richard Jones deserves a standing ovation in his own right. The production was flawless from the character work with the actors to the design elements to the production logistics...From start to finish, it was a dazzling achievement." Full Review

Paste Magazine

"Cannavale delivers a viscerally charged performance that drives the show. He roars with conviction but also hints at the vulnerabilities that lie just below the surface...The aggressively blunt dialogue can grow tiring, but viewed in service of an allegory, it feels somewhat fitting. There are some thoughts that subtlety fails to express and need to be declared with a wallop. This sense of a breaking point propels the play foreword to its tragic conclusion." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"The cognitive dissonance between a work of art and a setting that inherently encapsulates the disparities at its heart is a jarring but ultimately effective tool...Director Jones also helmed a 2015 production, and the newly added American actors benefit from his intimate knowledge of the material...Cannavale brings an animalistic physicality to the central role...O’Neill’s cutting critique of American social and economic structures couldn’t be more relevant." Full Review

Escape Into Life

“There are constant amazing sights...Bobby Cannavale carries off the truly difficult task of convincing us he is the tough, vigorous, and imposing, verbally and emotionally restricted Yank. He and his inordinately skilled and devoted ensemble of fellow actors, work themselves to the bone to bring this nearly century-old play to electric life…To this landmark revival, that uses phenomenal theatricality to express both dreamlike, bitter farce, and very real tragedy...Thanks.” Full Review

Village Voice

“A muscular, visually astonishing production…Bold gestures help the production transcend what seems at first a simple agitprop premise, becoming something unruly and unreal. The searching, restless fury in Cannavale's knockabout performance likewise pushes the production past an exercise in raising class consciousness…Aided by O'Neill's relentless truth-telling and Jones's gritty visual poetry, Yank's hopeless struggle comes off as a Job-like plight of unusual urgency." Full Review

Daily Beast

"This isn’t a play; it’s a piece of art...Such pyrotechnics are necessary, since much of O’Neill has trouble translating across the decades since his death, not least 'The Hairy Ape'...Subtle it ain’t...O’Neill’s writing tends to land like a punch in the face...The show lives or dies on its production values, and in this case it’s the former...Each of the eight scenes is somehow more spectacular than the one before it...It is not possible to look away, even for a moment." Full Review

More Than The Play Blog

"A-larger-than-life experience. Director Richard Jones’ vision is titanic...Bobby Cannavale is riveting in the title role, leading an ensemble cast of brilliant actors in Eugene O’Neill’s classic, naturalistic tale...The themes of Eugene O’Neill’s play are viscerally understood as every element of this production comes together...You have to experience the magnitude of this production. It is a true testament to the potency of Eugene O’Neill’s writing." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Quirky, Resonant, Dated, Great staging

See it if You are open to new takes on classic theater pieces

Don't see it if You are more of a traditionalist

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Slow, Great staging

See it if you enjoy Bobbie Carnevale in a play with an impressive setting that has an important message

Don't see it if if you do not enjoy extremely stylized plays that are too long.

Also I'm glad that I saw the play, but I was disappointed that my seat was ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Intense, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Great staging

See it if Original and creative use of an enormous space. However, the dialect was so strong it was very hard to understand

Don't see it if Looking for light convetional drama

Ambitious, Relevant, Great production, Visually striking, Great staging, acting

See it if You're up for early O'Neil, saved from period and melodrama by fine performances, soaring visual effects and style.

Don't see it if You don't like stadium seating, or the color yellow.

Also Director Richard Jones and designer Stewart Laing make full use of the... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Expressionist

See it if you like awe-inspiring production design and Brechtian staging. Raw, rough, and beautiful; conversations about class warfare; O'Neill

Don't see it if you like lighter plays/comedies; you're not willing to go on a journey with an unlikeable character; you like some cadence to your stories.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if you want to see an amazing production with an excellent cast.

Don't see it if you dont like uncomfortable seats in a stadium like theater

Also This production is one of the best that I have ever seen.Bobby Cannava... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Masterful, Profound, Resonant

See it if / to see Cannavale in a tour de force; if you like O'Neill; to be immersed in a space that fits the production like a glove.

Don't see it if you're not interested in a drama about class and societal-vs-self expectations; you like your set design rather literal.

Also I loved the sound design and the expressionistic set design, especiall... Read more Read less

Dizzying, Edgy, Intense, Riveting, Great staging

See it if you like experimental theater. Bobby Cannavale gives a powerful performance but the production is the real star.

Don't see it if you are looking for a play that's easy to digest.

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Indulgent, Great staging

See it if like Bobby Cannavale and want to see theater in an interesting performance space.

Don't see it if you don't want to leave the theater scratching your head.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great staging

See it if Don't want to miss a landmark production of a rarely-performed "important" work by O'Neill. Hard to imagine a better version ever mounted.

Don't see it if You prefer naturalism, a storyline, and an absence of polemics. You can't sit for 90 minutes in chairs with too-shallow, too-high seats.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, Epic, Resonant

See it if Staged and portrayed with specific stylization to suit the scope of the staging within the space; superb cast and directorial conception

Don't see it if Can imagine that O'Neill's crucial dialogue can get lost in space depending upon one's seat

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Great staging

See it if You like expert ensemble actors led by Bobby Cannavale in the timeless story of man's search for his self-worth. Do not miss this!

Don't see it if You are looking for a happy ending. Do not like modern interpretations in a moving steel stage set.

Also Eugene O'Neill is an American treasure. This play is full of thought- ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Dated, Great staging

See it if you want to see an Eugene O'Neill play taken to a new dimension. Visually impressive.

Don't see it if if you want intimacy with the actors

Also I wish I could have seen this in a smaller venue (as this staging was ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Riveting, Great staging

See it if you want a visually stunning expressionistic play that fills the huge drill hall with dramatic sights and sounds. Very unique experience.

Don't see it if you don't want to see Bobby Cannavale in a great performance. Deals broadly with class and wealth as only O'Neill can. Run, don't walk!

Ambitious, Must see, Quirky, Best production of hairy ape you will ever see.

See it if Want to see the definitive production of this play. You will never see a better production of it.

Don't see it if Really don't like heights. The audience is at an extreme rake.

Also This is epic theatre. Must see. The Hairy Ape is not my favorite play.... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Great staging

See it if You want a dynamic, riveting production. You want great acting. You want a classic play that is still relevant.

Don't see it if You want a contemporary play. You prefer traditional staging. You don't like O'Neill, though this production, may change your mind.

Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You love the book and interested in extraordinary staging.

Don't see it if You are not a fan of the book, and prefers only musicals and typical plays.

Also Great use of space! Excellent and masterful direction. Kudos to the gu... Read more Read less

Great acting, Disappointing, Great staging, Repetitive

See it if if you want to see Bobby Carnevale in an interestingly staged Eugene O'Neill play.

Don't see it if you do not want to be hit over the head with the same theme for 1 & 1/2 hours in an uncomfortable, hard seat.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Must see, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you love innovative new productions This takes a not so new play and makes it feel vibrant and contemporary

Don't see it if You prefer plays that are staged very traditionally

Clever, Masterful, Slow, Extravagent

See it if You love innovative theatre and/or Eugene O'Neill's writing. It drags a little bit, but it's such a gorgeous show that you don't mind.

Don't see it if You don't like straight plays and prefer classical, proscenium theatres.

Ambitious, Clever, Riveting, Dated, Great staging

See it if if you want to see a classic American play, you're a fan of Bobby Cannavale, you want to see a unique, awe-inspiring set.

Don't see it if you have difficulty climbing stairs or have vision issues, you prefer more intimate theatre, you find some O'Neill dated.

Also I was somewhat disappointed. The set is superb. However, for me, the r... Read more Read less

Clever, Intense, Thought-provoking, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want an experience with fantastic staging. Interesting but dated concepts are expressed in beautiful monologues.

Don't see it if you want complex themes. This is an old study in personal verses political. The plot is thin and the characters are one dimensional.

Great acting, Must see, Profound, Great staging

See it if A most thrilling theatrical experience, Not to be missed by any theatre lover. Amazing direction, set design and phenomenal performance.

Don't see it if If you only enjoy light comedy and musicals.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Slow, Great staging

See it if You want to see a brilliant staging & central performance of a classic drama, even if you dislike the subject matter or the play itself.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy plays about not belonging & class inequity. This play is light on plot & heavy-handed on those themes.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Great staging

See it if you like expressionist plays, O'Neill's works, are open to unusual and very creative staging, amazing performance by Cannavale

Don't see it if you don't like the above, long-winded monologues, stories of working-class pain, or being in the armory where acoustics not always good

Also 1. The Armory actually adds to the feeling of the play especially when... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (22)