‘The Iceman Cometh’ Broadway Review: Denzel Washington Is on a Mission

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Actors’ Equity has petitioned the Tonys to add an ensemble-acting award to its annual spring contest. That request couldn’t have any stronger support than George C. Wolfe’s revelatory staging of “The Iceman Cometh,” which opened Thursday at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. In a Broadway season filled with fine performances, Wolfe pushes his cast, led by Denzel Washington, to uncommon excellence.

Back in the days when Theater of the Absurd was all the rage on college campuses, Eugene O’Neill’s classic used to be taught as the ultimate in theatrical naturalism. It is four-plus hours of talk among a bunch of drunks in a dead-end bar sit around waiting for Hickey, the traveling hardware salesman, who occasionally stops in to buy everyone drinks at Harry Hope’s hotel and otherwise enliven their collective hangover.

Each of the four acts plays in real time. Wolfe’s approach is occasionally to suggest the surface realism of “Iceman,” but more often he is stripping it away to expose the play’s absurdist core. Maybe this is the “Iceman” that Samuel Beckett saw in his mind’s eye that led him to write his own masterpieces, particularly “Waiting for Godot.” Illusion and reality. O’Neill and Beckett’s characters are flattened by the one, and so they can’t live without the other.

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In the beginning, Santo Loquasto’s set for this “Iceman” revival suggests more of a wasteland than a tavern, everyone lit with an unhealthy glow by the designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer. Ann Roth’s costumes hint at anything but the recent past, that is, until the whores show up an hour into the first act and we are clearly in the 1912 timeframe of O’Neill’s play.

Over the course of that very long first act, before Washington’s Hickey shows up, most of the 17 actors on stage look as though were painted by George Grosz or James Ensor. This is not the West Side of Manhattan, much less anywhere in America.

The exception is Austin Butler’s Don Parritt. He’s the one newcomer to the bar, the teenage snitch who has turned in his own anarchist mother to the authorities. Butler is an Edward Hopper portrait come to life, and embodies that painter’s sense of urban alienation from the moment he opens his mouth. It’s an important Broadway debut in the role that a pre-“Streetcar” Marlon Brandon rejected in 1946. (He found the drama a long, gaseous exercise, and passed on appearing in the world premiere.)

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Parritt calls the denizens of Harry Hope’s bar “a bunch of cuckoos.” It’s a gross understatement. Under Wolfe’s direction, the actors convey an expressionistic freak show. There is Neal Huff’s wannabe attorney, Clark Middleton’s totally toasted editor, Michael Potts’s broke gambler, Frank Wood’s former captain, Reg Rogers’s fired war correspondent, Tammy Blanchard’s weary street walker, Bill Irwin’s circus has-been.

Sometimes these actors don’t even register as quite human, their respective physical features often obliterated. They all give the kind of transformational performances that have you checking the Playbill at intermission to identify who’s who, even if you’ve seen them many times in other plays.

The role of Hickey has two goal posts. The first is the character’s need to take a nap shortly after he enters the bar. It always takes audiences by surprise. Not in the case of Washington. His Hickey is a fired-up evangelist on the loose, and after a boisterous round of free drinks for everybody, he more than needs a nap. This man has done one of two things: won the lottery or murdered somebody. Washington makes it clear it’s not the former. He is ready to die, not sleep.

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The other goal post is Hickey’s admission that he killed his wife because he hated her limitless forgiveness and extreme pity. That break in Hickey’s façade is O’Neill being less than subtle. As delivered by Washington, the revelation is almost old news. He made hisreal feelings for Evelyn evident long before the final act.

The beauty of Wolfe’s direction is that he’s able to accommodate different acting styles in his often surreal vision. Washington’s missionary Hickey makes the perfect counterpart to his nemesis, David Morse, who brings understatement to the disillusioned anarchist Larry Slade. And lost between them is the enabler Harry Hope himself, always ready with the booze, played with Irish grandeur by Colm Meaney. Wolfe achieves with actors what other fine directors this Broadway season do with turntables, wires, elevators, and dry-ice fog.

Near the end of “Iceman,” it seems perfectly natural that Washington begins his long confession by pulling a chair up to the edge of the stage to address the audience directly. In the theater next door, Glenda Jackson is giving a performance of equally high voltage in “Three Tall Women.” One of these days we can expect an earthquake on West 45th Street.

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Saudi Arabia’s First New Movie Theaters Welcome Women – But Only With Chaperones (For Now)

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Saudi Arabia’s first modern movie theater opened in a gala screening of “Black Panther” last Wednesday to an audience where men and women sat together freely, but it remains to be seen whether that will still be the case when the theater opens to the public this week — and whether other new cinemas will also be integrated.

“Things are moving so fast in the kingdom right now that the plans have changed three or four times,” John Fithian, president of the U.S.-based National Association of Theater Owners said this week at CinemaCon. “We’ve offered showtimes for prayer time and for purposes of Ramadan. We want to respect the country’s cultural values. We want to be responsible to the leadership and we want to be responsible to the people.”

AMC CEO Adam Aron, whose company opened that first new cinema in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District, noted how many details of day-to-day-operations are still in flux even after last week’s gala premiere.

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“As recently as three weeks ago, all showings were going to be integrated,” he said on a CinemaCon panel. But then there was a twist in the plans, with the Saudi government calling for “bachelor”-only screenings and “family screenings” requiring women to be accompanied by a husband or male relative. For now, Aron said screenings of “Black Panther” at the Riyadh theater will be “family screenings only.”

“It’ll change again and again as the country tries to get it right,” said Aron. “If I can make a prediction — they are going to integrate theaters. That’s our working expectation. But it may take some time.”

Such are the growing pains of a country trying to start a fledgling entertainment industry in the midst of a major cultural shift. Several exhibition executives who spoke with TheWrap at CinemaCon said that such rule changes should be expected in the coming months and even years as the Saudis develop the infrastructure to bring the cinematic experience to Riyadh and beyond.

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“There’s two sides to this: the government and the culture at large,” said Hamid Hashemi, CEO of iPic, which aims to open its first theater in Saudi Arabia in the coming months.

“You go to a restaurant right now, and there’s a section for single men and a section for families. It’s a rule that has been in place for so long that it’s been ingrained in people’s minds,” he said. “It’s more than just the law. It’s one thing for the government to just come out and say, ‘You don’t have to segregate,’ and it’s another for the people to adapt to it. There are going to be men who aren’t going to let their daughter go to a movie if it’s not segregated.”

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There’s also another big challenge faced by exhibitors: Once you build the theaters, who is going to work there? As part of the government’s Vision 2030 plan, Saudis are requiring the majority of movie theater jobs go to native-born citizens, a big change from industries like restaurants where up to 75 percent of jobs can go to expats. This is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan to move his country’s economy off of the oil industry that has fueled its rise to power in the Middle East.

“If you want to get the country off of oil, first you have to get the workers off of oil,” said Hashemi. “But when there hasn’t been a movie theater industry there for decades, who knows how to run a movie theater? There’s going to be a learning curve for everyone involved in growing this business, and that includes companies having to do a lot of employee training.”

Many execs at CinemaCon believe that Saudi Arabia is committed to building the infrastructure, and dealing with the messy details later. The government is directly driving this speedy development, as its Public Investment Fund (PIF) is jointly operating AMC theaters in the country.

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Vue Entertainment will be the next exhibitor to open a cinema in Riyadh, possibly as early as next month. AMC will be adding additional screens before the end of the year, and plans to show such Hollywood fare as Disney/Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and Warner Bros.’ “Rampage.”

IMAX, which already screens science documentaries at the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center in Khobar, is expected to be a major partner in the new cinemas. (Before the ban lifted, that museum-based screen was the only public cinema in Saudi Arabia.)

“Because of our presence with that screen, people in Saudi Arabia already know about us and what it’s like seeing films on such a big screen,” IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond said. “Plus there’s the fact that there are a lot of millennials in Saudi Arabia who have traveled to Bahrain and other neighboring countries and seen films on IMAX. So we know that there’s a big demand.”

Ultimately, those Saudi millennials are driving fast change as much as the crown prince. According to the country’s official statistics, more than two-thirds of the current population is under the age of 35. Not all of them agree with bin Salman’s plans. A Bloomberg report in January showed that some middle- and working-class Saudi’s are resentful of the new taxes and subsidy cuts that have come with his new economic strategy.

But the wealthy youth of the country have spent so much money traveling outside the country that their demand for modern entertainment experiences has been a key selling point for bin Salman’s pitch to Hollywood.

“There are thousands of rich, young Saudis going to Dubai to get their fix of the high life, and the government sees that as tens of billions in cash being left on the table, one exhibitor told TheWrap. “If they can bring that experience closer to home, whether it’s moviegoing or some other entertainment, that could go a long way to realigning their economy.”

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‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Elizabeth Moss, Sarah Paulson and 9 More Stars You Forgot Appeared on the Show (Photos)

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With news that Geena Davis will reprise her role on “Grey’s Anatomy” before the season’s over, TheWrap takes a look back at other stars with roles on the longstanding medical drama.
Kyle Chandler
Honestly, who could forget Coach…

Cardi B Hit With $10 Million Lawsuit by Ex-Manager

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A man who says he’s responsible for the success of Cardi B has filed a lawsuit against the “Invasion of Privacy” rapper, accusing her of breaching her contract with him and defaming him, according to court papers obtained by TheWrap.

In the suit, filed in federal court in New York on Tuesday, Klenord Raphael, who also goes by the name “Shaft,” says he got the shaft from Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, despite making her the star she is today.

“Cardi B has not only declared the agreements [between her and Shaft’s companies] to be ‘void and unenforceable,’ but she has also repeatedly defamed Shaft, falsely communicating to her fiancé Kiara Kendrell Cephus p/k/a Offset, members of her entourage, and the public that ‘Shaft is robbing me,’” the suit reads.

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“Plaintiffs have never robbed or otherwise committed any improper act against Cardi B,” the suit adds. “Shaft and the companies through which he conducts business, WorldStar and KSR, have always observed and fulfilled their duties to her.”

The suit also cites a March 2018 Instagram Live video, in which, the suit says, Cardi B said, “There’s a lot of people that I had to cutoff, a lot of friends, a lot of management, a lot of people that I had to cutoff because … one thing I notice … people don’t give a f— about you.” The post was “reasonably understood by members of the public to mean that Shaft and his businesses were stealing from her and otherwise not serving her best interests,” the complaint alleges.

TheWrap has reached out to a spokesperson for Cardi B for comment on the suit.

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“Shaft conceived, arranged and orchestrated Cardi B’s rise to become the biggest music sensation on the planet. Owing to his vision and drive, Cardi B can now bring her talents to the world and obtain a level of success few artists ever achieve,” the suit reads, adding that, before she entered her “life-changing business relationship” with Shaft in 2015, Cardi B “was an inexperienced and struggling young woman from Bronx, New York.”

Alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment and defamation, the suit seeks damages “in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than $10 million.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Star Kevin McKidd on How the Doctors Try to ‘Clean Up’ Harper Avery’s Mess

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With last week’s bombshell news that the revered Harper Avery has several accusations of sexual harassment against him, the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” will be all about trying to right an old wrong.

Star Kevin McKidd, who also directed the episode, titled “Bad Reputation,” said that Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) in particular has a lot to grapple with.

“It’s his grandfather who has been accused, so it brings up … many, many intense feelings for him because it’s his own grandfather who he loves,” McKidd, who plays Dr. Owen Hunt, told TheWrap ahead of Thursday’s show. “But he’s passed away, and all of this posthumously has come out about the way he conducted his life.”

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If you need a quick refresher on last week’s episode: the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial discovered that Harper Avery routinely sexually harassed women he worked with, and Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) helped to pay the women in exchange for silence. At its close, the story is all over the news and the doctors are left struggling with how to deal with the scandal, and how to atone for Harper Avery’s sins.

McKidd explained that because Jackson is in charge of the Harper Avery estate, the responsibility of dealing with the scandal is upon his shoulders.

“He has a responsibility to try to right the wrongs of his grandfather,” McKidd said. “And he doesn’t quite know how to cope and how to strategize and how to do the right thing. And — what is the right thing?”

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“This is a huge hospital and a network of other hospitals, and this behavior was going on for many, many years, and was left unchecked,” McKidd continued. “And how do you clean up that mess correctly to honor everybody involved, all the victims? And I think the episode that airs this week really deals with that, in a really profound way I think … So I’m proud of it, I’m proud to have directed it.”

If the story of a man in power preying on women he works with for years sounds familiar, it’s because the writers deliberately chose to pull ideas “from the headlines,” McKidd said.

“It’s really cool to see the writers not just keeping it in the soap opera world of our show, but actually going, you know what, we’re going to tell the story and see our characters try to navigate these very difficult times in our hospital,” McKidd said.

Watch the clip above.

“Grey’s Anatomy” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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