He’s got the kind of laugh that turns into a hacking cough. And that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? Brian Dennehy is back at the Goodman and paired up once again with director Robert Falls for a production of the rarely performed Eugene O’Neill playlet, “Hughie,” about Erie Smith, a fictitious twenties-era down-on-his-luck gambler. He wanders into his shabby hotel (a gorgeously ornate set designed by Eugene Lee with faded-aqua walls and dark heavy wood furniture) and engages the night clerk (Joe Grifasi) in a tireless, one-sided conversation that is presumably an excuse to defer that nighttime limbo, lying in bed alone staring into the darkness, trapped with the kind of thoughts that daylight or drink normally drown out. Hughie, it turns out, is the name of the former night clerk—a pal of Erie’s who humored his bragging—who has recently died. Is it sad or just incredible that this was the closest person in Erie’s life? In the form of Dennehy, even a worn-out type like Erie has heft, and when he ambles in, puffing on a cigarette and slowly shaking off the effects of his extended bender, you know the guy’s going to come up with a few gems worth hearing. “Take a tip, pal,” Erie says to the hotel clerk. “Don’t ever know nothing.” Not quite an hour long, the play feels truncated, especially by O’Neill standards, but it gets its point across. And like a short story, it leaves you wanting more. When was the last time O’Neill did that? (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.