Hairy Ape
Reviewed by David Kashimba

Marin Theatre takes us on a journey of love and hate at first sight in their current production of Eugene O’Neil’s Hairy Ape. Deep inside a fancy ocean liner in the 1920s, below the waterline, lies the ship’s engine room where Yank (Aldo Billingslea) and his coworkers shovel coal into the furnace that provides the power to move the steel ship forward. Yank, a young man with a muscular body sculpted from hard work, sees himself as a man at the bottom, but a man of steel who keeps things going, a prime mover of the industrial revolution.

But his confidence is shattered when he meets the daughter of the rich industrialist that owns the ship he works in. The genteel Mildred (Bethanny Alexander) descends into the engine room dressed in white, thinking she’s going on a tour of the ship. But the heat of the engine room like a slice of hell, and the sight of Yank, glistening with coal dust and sweat, are too much for her upper class sensibilities. When she faints, Yank takes it as the ultimate insult, and for the first time becomes aware of class differences. His shipmates kid him that his seeing Mildred is “love at first sight,” but he counters saying it is “hate at first sight.”

From that point on he begins to realize that he doesn’t fit in anywhere, a lost link in the evolutionary chain he is somewhere between human and hairy ape. In frustration he even tries joining a terrorist group in hopes of blowing up the steel ocean liner, but the terrorists don’t trust his enthusiasm. Rendered completely isolated from all groups, his only hope is to journey inward. The question is no longer a question of we: To which group do I belong? The question is individual: Who am I?

For tickets to this thought-provoking evolutionary journey call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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