'The Hairy Ape' opens Nov. 17 at Ensemble
Cleveland Critics Circle award-winning director Ian Wolfgang Hinz will again take on a Eugene O’Neill masterpiece when he directs Ensemble Theatre’s production of “The Hairy Ape” this month.
Opening Nov. 17, the play is about a hard-working man, Yank, who has a bit of a crisis of identity when confronted by the daughter of a rich industrialist. Hinz won the award for Best Direction for Ensemble’s 2013 production of O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh.”
“O’Neill is asking the questions many of us in our polarized society are asking,” Hinz said. “Mainly, ‘where do we belong?’”
In keeping with Ensemble’s 38th-season theme, We the People, “The Hairy Ape” touches on the role of the working man in a society that is increasingly owned and operated by the rich. While working in the engine room of an ocean liner, Yank is confronted by a socialite, Mildred, who refers to Yank as a “filthy beast.” This ignites Yank’s sudden identity crisis and class awareness, sparking a journey as he travels to New York City’s Fifth Avenue to find a place for himself among the city’s elite class. Rejected at every turn, Yank’s attempt to avenge himself among the bourgeois becomes the slow decline of a man unable to break class ranks.
Like all of O’Neill’s plays, “The Hairy Ape,” first produced in 1922, touches on themes of the human condition and the struggles of the men and women who work hard to build a nation, while being exploited by the upper class.
“While Yank is shoveling coal on a ship, he could just as easily have been a steelworker in Cleveland,” Hinz said. “These themes that are so prevalent in O’Neill’s plays reflect society’s classism then and still today.”
“The Hairy Ape” runs through Dec. 10 at Ensemble Theatre, 2843 Washington Blvd., in Cleveland Heights.
For tickets or more information, call the box office at 216-321-2930, or visit www.ensembletheatrecle.org.
Tyler Whidden is the associate artistic director of Ensemble Theatre.