The Park Avenue Armory and Old Vic London Production of Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Hairy Ape” is a physical feat. Bobby Cannavale leads the charge in a beautifully choreographed non-stop journey from the bowels of a transatlantic ocean liner to the wealthy neighborhoods of New York.
As Yank, Cannavale portrays a self-assured strongman, whose identity is inextricably tied to powering the ocean liner. But a brief encounter with the daughter of the head of the steel company that makes the ship, quickly throws him into an existential crisis — she sees him as a “hairy ape.” Realizing she owns more of the ship than he does, Yank scours the streets of New York, determined to get back at her for insulting him. Through his pounding the pavement and multiple rejections from society, Yank comes to understand that he doesn’t belong anywhere and begins to see himself as the ape that so horrified her.
The stage design by Stewart Liang also plays a significant role in literally moving the fast-paced production along. Taking full advantage of the vast Park Avenue Armory, Liang focuses the space by punctuating the action with vibrant, almost unnerving, colors.