The Iceman Cometh

The Iceman Cometh

4.7 4
by Eugene O'Neill

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Harry Hope's is a Raines-Law hotel of the period, a cheap ginmill
of the five-cent whiskey, last-resort variety situated on the
downtown West Side of New York. The building, owned by Hope, is a
narrow five-story structure of the tenement type, the second floor
a flat occupied by the proprietor. The renting of rooms on the
upper floors, under the


Harry Hope's is a Raines-Law hotel of the period, a cheap ginmill
of the five-cent whiskey, last-resort variety situated on the
downtown West Side of New York. The building, owned by Hope, is a
narrow five-story structure of the tenement type, the second floor
a flat occupied by the proprietor. The renting of rooms on the
upper floors, under the Raines-Law loopholes, makes the
establishment legally a hotel and gives it the privilege of serving
liquor in the back room of the bar after closing hours and on
Sundays, provided a meal is served with the booze, thus making a
back room legally a hotel restaurant. This food provision was
generally circumvented by putting a property sandwich in the middle
of each table, an old desiccated ruin of dust-laden bread and
mummified ham or cheese which only the drunkest yokel from the
sticks ever regarded as anything but a noisome table decoration.
But at Harry Hope's, Hope being a former minor Tammanyite and still
possessing friends, this food technicality is ignored as
irrelevant, except during the fleeting alarms of reform agitation.
Even Hope's back room is not a separate room, but simply the rear
of the barroom divided from the bar by drawing a dirty black
curtain across the room.

The Iceman Cometh


SCENE--The back room and a section of the bar of Harry Hope's
saloon on an early morning in summer, 1912. The right wall of the
back room is a dirty black curtain which separates it from the bar.
At rear, this curtain is drawn back from the wall so the bartender
can get in and out. The back room is crammed with round tables and
chairs placed so close together that it is a difficult squeeze to
pass between them. In the middle of the rear wall is a door
opening on a hallway. In the left corner, built out into the room,
is the toilet with a sign "This is it" on the door. Against the
middle of the left wall is a nickel-in-the-slot phonograph. Two
windows, so glazed with grime one cannot see through them, are in
the left wall, looking out on a backyard. The walls and ceiling
once were white, but it was a long time ago, and they are now so
splotched, peeled, stained and dusty that their color can best be
described as dirty. The floor, with iron spittoons placed here and
there, is covered with sawdust. Lighting comes from single wall
brackets, two at left and two at rear.

There are three rows of tables, from front to back. Three are in
the front line. The one at left-front has four chairs; the one at
center-front, four; the one at right-front, five. At rear of, and
half between, front tables one and two is a table of the second row
with five chairs. A table, similarly placed at rear of front
tables two and three, also has five chairs. The third row of
tables, four chairs to one and six to the other, is against the
rear wall on either side of the door.

At right of this dividing curtain is a section of the barroom, with
the end of the bar seen at rear, a door to the hall at left of it.
At front is a table with four chairs. Light comes from the street
windows off right, the gray subdued light of early morning in a
narrow street. In the back room, Larry Slade and Hugo Kalmar are
at the table at left-front, Hugo in a chair facing right, Larry at
rear of table facing front, with an empty chair between them. A
fourth chair is at right of table, facing left. Hugo is a small
man in his late fifties. He has a head much too big for his body,
a high forehead, crinkly long black hair streaked with gray, a
square face with a pug nose, a walrus mustache, black eyes which
peer nearsightedly from behind thick-lensed spectacles, tiny hands
and feet. He is dressed in threadbare black clothes and his white
shirt is frayed at collar and cuffs, but everything about him is
fastidiously clean. Even his flowing Windsor tie is neatly tied.
There is a foreign atmosphere about him, the stamp of an alien
radical, a strong resemblance to the type Anarchist as portrayed,
bomb in hand, in newspaper cartoons. He is asleep now, bent
forward in his chair, his arms folded on the table, his head
resting sideways on his arms.

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The Iceman Cometh 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it and saw the play performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Is not a light play, rather it is a tragedy that leaves you thinking about serious issues in life. In a superficial, quick overview, it is presented as what happens when people have their illusions shattered by someone who claims to be helping them to deal with the real world. The bad results are usually thought to illustrate that people need their illusions in order to survive the terrible realities of life. However, in this play, the shatterer of illusions/the helper is the traveling salesman who is initially presented as an uplifting member of the bar's long term drunken members. The playwright only gradually reveals the more sinister and untrustworthy true nature of the salesman, so that he is ultimately revealed to be an illusion himself. One could think that this is intended to convey the ultimate untrustworthiness of human beings, a cynical notion already fully endorsed and being lived out by the bar's drunks. And the salesman had tried to get them back out into and engaged in the world, only to have them all experience failure and to return to their previous hiding in the bottle. However, there is another possible lesson to this. And that would have to do with the way people can change and actually do better in living. Two things would have to differ from the course of this play. One would be for the "helper" to actually be living a healthy life himself, to be honest and a good, credible example of what he is trying to get the others to do. The other requirement is for the helper to better understand that people only give up their illusions, as well as their other defenses, only gradually and at their own pace, not the pace of an impatient helper. And they only let go of these protections as they succeed at finding good, trustworthy replacements, like experiencing good aspects of sobriety, better relationships, meaningful work, pride in accomplishments. This is why the trustworthiness of the helper is so crucial; it is the first risk the drunk is trying out and it needs to work well, not disappoint. It is not clear what the playwright intended as the takeaway message in this play. But it is very clear that the play is much more complex and thought provoking that just having to do with the illusions of a roomful of drunks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's the author's best work, bar none. The play tells the lives of various men and women who reside at a bar, each one with a pipe dream. It's somewhat long, but always entertaining.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author shows realistic but depressing lives of a group of men and women that live in a bar type boarding house.