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The Hairy Ape

From 25 critic and 287 member reviews
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. More…

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.

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


"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


"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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Intense, Riveting

See it if You like Bobby Canavale and want to see how relevant a play about the working class can be, many years later. Very imaginative staging.

Don't see it if You are not interested in exploring class differences in a different way.

Also The Park Ave. Armory was a perfect site. Best production I've seen thi... Read more Read less

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

Edgy, Great acting, Absorbing, Brilliant

See it if you want to see an unforgettable performance in a mesmerizing production of a play as revolutionary now as it was when it was written.

Don't see it if you are looking for light entertainment. This is a powerful, avant garde production pitting blue collar against the 1%. It hits its mark.

Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Must see, Intense

See it if You like great acting and amazing staging. It was written in 1922 but was very timely. It's a very physical show. Bobby Cannavale was rivet!

Don't see it if You are looking for something light and fluffy. It's very intense.

Epic, Masterful, Profound, Stunning, Riveting

See it if Every scene in this powerful expressionist story takes place in a visually stunning expressionist set. Great acting and symbolism.

Don't see it if You prefer something happier or more realistic. You don't want to think about the meaning of the colors, masks, balcony, etc.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You love Bobby Cannavale - inventive staging - and O'Neil in short doses.

Don't see it if You hate Eugene O'Neill.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Edgy, Masterful, Intense

See it if You enjoy Eugene O'Neill and expressionist or existential theatre. Absolutely stunning staging & incredibly strong work from Bobby Cannavale

Don't see it if You don't enjoy avant garde theatre or prefer easy to swallow narratives. This is out there, in the best possible way. Do your homework!

Absorbing, Ambitious, Dizzying, Profound, Must see

See it if You must see it. No if's. A once in a life time experience!!!

Don't see it if You hate everything or want a big splashy musical. Basically, see it!!!

Ambitious, Great staging, Must see, Masterful

See it if just WOW! what a production..innovative and exquisitely done. The cast was magnificent and the story remains compelling today.

Don't see it if you don't like Expressionistic theatre and having to pay attention.

Also I was just blown away by the sets and lighting and sound effects. It i... Read more Read less

Masterful, Must see, Profound, Great staging, Great acting

See it if You want to experience a once in a lifetime event with masterful acting, staging, visuals. Very impactful. Bobby Cannavale rocks!

Don't see it if You want a light hearted, simple and straightforward show.

Also The staging is out of this world!!!

Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Relevant

See it if You are a fan of obscure O'Neill and if you like inventive amazing groundbreaking theatre. Bobby Cannavale is spectacular. What a show!

Don't see it if You like a basic show. This is avant garde theatre and not for everyone.

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful

See it if SEE IT....Really SEE IT....

Don't see it if If you want light and fluffy...SEE IT!!!

Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Must see, Profound

See it if I like drama. Like bobby carnavale. He is great.

Don't see it if Like musicals

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Must see, Masterful

See it if You appreciate great theater performed in a creative space with superman acting by the cast, most notably Bobby Cannavale.

Don't see it if You have trouble going up and down stairs as the metal seating area is high, high, high and steep.

Also The choreography of movement and sound is fabulous and there is never ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see

See it if you want to see the largest performance space in NYC flushed out to its most epic and inspirational. Bobby Cannavale is the perfect casting.

Don't see it if you don't like plays written in the 20th century.

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a lesser O'Neil play made modern and absorbing. All the actors are excellent and Bobby Cannavale is simply amazing.

Don't see it if you like your O'Neil straight.

Clever, Entertaining, Exquisite, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You like shows with strong messaging, great acting and inventive staging. Hairy Ape truly is something to behold.

Don't see it if You don't appreciate avant-garde staging, or are uncomfortable around pieces critical of socio-economic inequality.

Great acting, Must see, Thought-provoking, Great staging, Clever

See it if you love cutting edge theater, unique staging, incredible acting

Don't see it if You're at all not able to grasp deep layered ideas, if you always want something completely light

Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Profound, Relevant

See it if you're open to a totally novel theatrical experience; shattering the norms of theater and stage; visceral and alarming

Don't see it if you prefer to eat pablum; you need the flow to be calm and gentle and linear; you'd rather be watching tv

Must see, Masterful, Profound, Riveting, Relevant

See it if You want to see a brilliant and contemporary realization of a rarely performed O'Neill classic. Cannavale and his ensemble and set - bravo!

Don't see it if you enjoy enjoy musicals.

Ape in perfect shape

See it if you enjoy great acting in a cavern with stadium seating. Cannavale, Costabile and crew keep coal coming. Scalding hot production will amaze.

Don't see it if Hard plastic seats biggest issue. Sprawling venue itself a zoo to navigate. Scrape $30 for Ape. Visually lavish and provocative.

Also Matinee best given the inconvenient venue. Director Richard Jones more... Read more Read less

Great staging, Brechtian, Well acted, Well directed, Intelligent

See it if you like to think when you go to the theatre and want to see a play staged in a fabulous place

Don't see it if you need linear storytelling, vapid musicals, traditional bourgeois staging

Also this show stays with you and it is an incredibly still relevant commen... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging

See it if You want to see great theater. The set is amazing, the acting is amazing and the story is amazing.

Don't see it if If you are anti-union and against workers rights which the unions protect .

Also This is great must see theatre. It is a classic play that will endure ... Read more Read less

Riveting, Relevant, Great staging, Great acting, Absorbing

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!

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

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

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