The Hairy ape

   With this eight-scene drama, Eugene O'Neill concluded his formative years as a playwright with the Province-town Players. It opened on 9 March 1922 for 120 performances at the Provincetown Theatre. The expressionist scene design elements by Robert Edmond Jones and Cleon Throckmorton created a nightmarish quality admired by critics of the original production. "Yank" Smith (played by Louis Wolheim) is a grimy, inarticulate stoker on a steamship. A wealthy young socialite, Mildred Douglas, is allowed to visit the boiler room, and she faints upon seeing Yank. This disturbing vision of another mode of existence sparks Yank's soul-searching journey. When the ship docks in New York, he visits Fifth Avenue where his rage at the swells results in his arrest. Even in jail, Yank doesn't fit in. Upon release he visits the IWW (the leftist International Workers of the World or "Wobblies") and offers to blow up the Douglas Steel Works for them, but they reject him. Seeking to belong somewhere, Yank visits the gorilla at the zoo. He attempts to set it free, but it crushes him in its powerful embrace. The play, subtitled "A Comedy of Ancient and Modern Life," stresses the alienation of the individual in a technological, capitalist society, and is among O'Neill's most-revived works. A 1944 motion picture version starred William Bendix and Susan Hayward.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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