Sneak Preview Review: HUGHIE

by Lynn on February 10, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre until March 3. Written by Eugene O’Neill. Directed by David Ferry. Set by Joe Madziak. Lighting by Melissa Joakim and David Ferry. Starring: Laurence Dean Ifill, Michael Kash.

Produced by Alley Theatre Workshop.

HUGHIE is Eugene O’Neill’s exquisite one act play about friendship, loneliness, loss and desperation. Hughie is not a physical character in the play, but his presence is everywhere. Hughie was the night clerk in a West-Side, mid-town small hotel in New York and Erie Smith’s only friend. Erie is a small-time hustler and gambler who regaled Hughie with stories of his gambling exploits and sexual conquests. Hughie loved it. Then a few weeks before Hughie died of a heart attack. Erie was thrown for a loop which sent him on a week long bender. He comes back to the hotel to find Charlie Hughes, the new night clerk. But try as Erie does to impress Charlie, it isn’t the same. Charlie is no Hughie.

The story is very small—two men and the memory of a third, in a seedy hotel lobby with one man trying to impress the other. It’s the emotions of the play that are huge.

As Erie Smith, Michael Kash is bombastic, deeply sad, brash, loose-limbed and compelling. As Charlie Hughes, Laurence Dean Ifill is mild-mannered, desperate to keep awake and a bit bored with Erie.

Director David Ferry is a sensitive, curious, meticulous theatre artist. He does his homework and has enormous respect for the play. But in his zeal to do justice to the play and its time I think he’s over directed. There is too much stuff there. Less is best.

Still, we rarely see this play. This is a chance not to miss.

HUGHIE plays at the Theatre Centre until March 3. Box Office call: 416-538-0988;

Full review on CIUT Friday Morning CIUT 89.5 FM from 9 am to 10 am. Feb. 10.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ms. Chambers February 11, 2012 at 4:52 am

I was one of 2 people in the Friday night audience for Huey and I found it a very stimulating production, more interesting by far that the Stratford production..and directing that was smart and insightful…but regardless of our difference in taste Ms Slotkin, I am astonished at your, and Mr Mestrucks and Mr Cushman’s coverage of “In the Heights”. So much more said about a tawdry non union production. How can you all pretend to be part of the theatre world and miss such an important issue as fighting economic crippling actions to our professional actors such as this despicable use of non union bus and truck productions by carpet naggers such as Audrey Dan?

Shame on you.


2 Lynn Slotkin February 12, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Dear Ms Chambers,

Excuse me but what are you talking about? Are you complaining because the matter of non-union shows are bring presented by Dancap and sold as if it’s a ‘professional’ production? Perhaps I didn’t understand your sentence. It has been covered and commented on by both Mr. Nestruck, in his various blogs and columns and by me on air for CIUT FRIDAY MORNING. What do you consider tawdry? The production? It wasn’t. It was stylish and quite reminiscent of the Broadway production. Some acting was poor–but you can get that no matter if a production is professional or not–the sound was terrible. That should have been addressed. Are you referring to the whole Equity/Non-Equity question as tawdry? Please explain.

Are you complaining because we covered them? Sorry but they are being presented by a professional presenter and that’s what we do. And the presenter has been receiving considerable flak because of his decision to book a non-Equity production and charging high prices. That’s a good thing–that he’s getting flak. I also covered Avenue Q presented by the Lower Ossington Theatre and that was non-union and I was happy to cover it. My radio station encourages such coverage.

What are you referring to when you say “fighting economic crippling actions to our professional actors such as this despicable use of non union bus and truck productions by carpet naggers such as Audrey Dan”? How is this American, touring production hurting “our (Canadian) professional actors?” A few corrections. I believe you mean “carpet baggers” and the name of course is not Audrey Dan, but Aubrey Dan.

Thanks for voicing your opinion. Glad you liked HUGHIE


3 Ben February 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm

This play is as bad as it could get! Everything in this play is flowed, starting with the selection of play.

First, Hughie is absolutely irrelevant to this day and time, and today’s folks will have a difficulty connecting with it. If you are planning on attracting younger audience, forget about it!

Secondly, the opening song was badly performed, the trumpet was off tune on more than one occasion…

And than acting: drunk Erie was overdone at the start, but by the end of the play Kash forgot that his character was drunk, and lost the connection to his initial self… Unless he sobered up in those 45 min on stage…

And why O’Neil??? He is hardly being played anywhere these days. Yes, a few theaters in North America play him, but if you venture into Europe, you’ll see not a trace of him… Why are we so stuck in the past??? Why are we so stuck with naturalistic theater? Do we lack creativity?… Do we lack good playwrights? I believe we do not, but the trouble is that new and young playwrights cannot get any space due to the legions of old and irrelevant but established man and woman of letters not wanting to step aside…

To be honest, I am bored with our theater today, and the fact is that Toronto audience is sick of this bad naturalistic theater, and it should be no a surpise that Torontonians are increasingly staying away from it…

I do hope these guys make some cash on their Hughie, for if they continue treating the theater in this same awful way , there is a slim chance they will make any buck in the future. Good luck to them!



4 Lynn March 6, 2012 at 3:18 am

Opinion is a great thing. People are entitled to their opinions, no matter how insubstantially they are re-inforced. But, Ben, inaccuracy has to be addressed. The play is not irrelevant if you have ever been lonely; lost a true friend; lost your way in life; been at rock bottom; tried to impress someone with a tall story; and wished you had a better life. That’s HUGHIE all over.

O’Neill is done often in North America and England. He’s been done well and often at Stratford and in Toronto. He’s been done in New York. And there will be a stellar production of THE ICEMAN COMETH in Chicago in May. As I don’t live in Europe, I don’t care what they do over there.

If we don’t know our history of and in plays then how can any writer move to the next step of writing the next classic.

Theatre is hard no matter if one is young, old, established or just starting out. The good people who put on HUGHIE did it on a shoe string and made almost nothing. And they are some fine, established theatre folks who did it. Any young, up and coming talent is of course able to pool all their money and do the same thing.

If you are so bored with this kind of theatre and the play, why on earth did you go and see it?

A puzzlement.