Plan Your Visit
The Hairy Apeby Eugene O'Neill
This movement-based production highlights the athleticism of Eugene O'Neill's text, rich with tension between muscle and steel, humanity and mechanization
directed by Brenna Geffers
with Chris Anthony as Yank
costume design by Robin Shane
set design by Thom Weaver
EGOPO CLASSIC THEATERPhiladelphia, PA
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A debutante's visit to the underbelly of her luxury ocean-liner upends the coal-stoker boss, Yank's, overblown self-esteem.
O'Neill's daring 1922 text vaulted beyond the realism of his earlier plays to forcefully dramatize the human cost and terror of the rapidly mechanizing twentieth-century.
"This production, directed with great imagination by Brenna Geffers,
offers a master class in expressionism onstage."
"...it’s the actors’ voices and bodies that bring The Hairy Ape to life in all its brutal glory."
- Philadelphia City Paper
About the Play
In The Hairy Ape, O’Neill demonstrates an urgent concern for the industrial working classes caught up in the crimes and indignities of the capitalist system. At the same time, the play is critical of a socialist movement that can’t fulfill individual needs or solve unique problems. Both the world of the rich and the world of the poor ultimately prove, through Yank’s trials, alienating and dehumanizing.
The play is divided into eight scenes, which take the audience along on Yank’s tormented journey -- from a cruise ship to New York’s Fifth Avenue, then to a prison cell at Blackwell’s Island, and finally to the zoo, where an interaction with a caged ape brings about Yank’s deepest revelation.
"A stunning expressionist spectacle in which images count as much as words ... a play that shows the ability of expressionism to pin down the encaged isolation of the eternally oppressed." -- The Guardian, London, 2015
About the Production
This review of EgoPo's production by The Philadelphia Inquirer was originally published on the website philly.com in April 2015.
"Two boards and a passion": that, according to the old saying, is all you need to make theatre, and EgoPo Classic Theater proves this -- literally -- in their stunning production of The Hairy Ape.
Matteo Scammel, a human forcefield, provides much of that passion, in a very impressive, very visceral, very muscular performance as Yank, the central character in this early expressionist play by Eugene O'Neill. And this production, directed with great imagination by Brenda Geffers, offers a master class is expressionism onstage -- a highly stylized kind of theater where the character's feelings are made visible and audible. And Yank feelings range from arrogance to rage to desperation.
Act One takes place in the engine room of a luxury liner; the stokers shovel coal and drink and chant and goad each other. "Nix on de loud noise. Can't youse see I'm tryin' to t'ink?" And that's the real action of the play: watching a barely literate man trying to think about existence. Scammel strikes a Rodin-like pose; we can almost hear his mind churn as he declares, "I belong."
But, like many tragic O'Neill characters, Yank discovers he doesn't belong, that he has no home in the world. Unlike Long (Colleen Corcoran) who believes socialism, the workers of the world rising up in revolution is the solution, or Paddy (Steven Wright) who is nostalgic for the good old days when ships were ships and men were men, Yank discovers that the problem isn't political but existential.
The instrument of that discovery is a visit from a first class passenger, a rich young woman (Lee Minora) who wants to see the stokers and goes slumming in defiance of her chaperoning aunt (Amanda Schoonover). Yank and Mildred meet in a scene of sensationally charged sexuality. When he realizes she thinks of him as a "hairy ape," he vows revenge as a last ditch attempt to assert himself. "I'll fix her."
Act Two takes place first on Fifth Avenue, where the rich and their merchandise are on display, and then at the zoo, where real hairy apes are on display. The ensemble -- including Langston Darby, Maria Konstantinidis, Chris Anthony and Carlo Campbell -- plays the stokers and the gorillas and the IWW members and everybody else.
The production's energy never flags: it starts high and stays high, driving home the play's idea. "Thinkin' is hard." You can say that again. And he does. If O'Neill's investigation into the tragic core of human life is more like an assault, the production balances that with the pleasures of its theatricality.
-- Toby Zinman
About the Company
EgoPo is a nonprofit theater company committed to revitalizing the great classics of theater and literature. We strive for virtuosity in vocal and physical performance in order to create innovative and provocative theatrical events.
EgoPo, the 24-year-old award-winning theater company, relocated to Philadelphia from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. EgoPo, whose name derives from the French for "The Physical Self", was born in 1991 as both a theater company and as an acting style. EgoPo's company of actors undergo grueling training to create a vocal and physical style of acting that is extremely dynamic, yet remains textually driven. In their work, EgoPo draws on the belief that by listening to the body and following its impulses, the actor will find greater emotional truth. EgoPo audiences, in turn, are swept into visceral and electrifying experiences. Founded by Artistic Director Lane Savadove, EgoPo has staged over two-dozen productions nationally in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago, and Washington D.C.; internationally in Indonesia and Croatia; and on National Public Radio.
EgoPo's structure is known as a "repertory" ensemble - a structure that used to be the norm in American theater. This means we have a core group of actors from which we cast most of our shows. We believe that actors who have worked together, created shows together, and have trained together can create a more dynamic ensemble together.