RE-PRODUCING 'THE ICEMAN'

 

Joyce E. Henry, Ph.D. 

 

 

Among the actors, there were several who would remain in the public eye: Peter Falk, Leo Penn, George Segal, William Daniels, and Henderson Forsythe.  There was a German who had worked with Reinhardt and a middle-aged fat man who had never been on the professional stage before.  Jason Robards, of course, was the star.  Often I went up into the theatre just to watch his first entrance, which was always different, with new tricks, new ad libs to the actors, something special for each of the assembled denizens of Harry Hope's establishment.  And with his entrance the level of excitement leaped high.

 

Another performance not so frequently described was that of Farrell Pelly as Harry Hope.  Farrell was a sweet little Irishman, who had once acted for Lady Gregory, whom O'Neill would certainly have felt an affinity with.  Farrell introduced me to Callard & Bowser toffees, and many times stuck one of those small rectangular cartons into my desk drawer with a twinkle and a grin.  He was 72 at the time–we knew that because he was collecting social security–but he guarded his age jealously and once asked Jose if he should powder his hair to look older.  Since the fringe of hair that he had was snow white, the question was moot.  Farrell was usually the first actor to arrive for the 7:30 performance.  He would stand at my desk, watch the others come in, share a story, and then disappear into the dressing room.  One night during the week between Christmas and New Year's he arrived somewhat later than usual, and seemed a little unsteady.  I was working hard trying to sell every seat in the house, canceling late reservations, shifting tickets, dealing with irate customers, and I breathed a sign of relief when the performance began and the ticket drawer was empty.  Five minutes or so into the performance Mike Murray, the stage manager, came down to the box office.  "Farrell's drunk," he said.  "I'm calling Jose."  I went up to the auditorium to watch.  Sure enough.  Peter Falk and the actors were covering for him, but his performance was wild, and, of course, there was no understudy.  Truthfully, I don't remember whether Jose or Ted arrived, or both, but one of them went out on stage and gave the lie to the audience that an actor who came on later in the show–the implication was that it was Jason–had been in an auto accident and, therefore, the management was forced to cancel the performance and refund the money or provide tickets for another show.  Ted and I serviced the public for the next hour, and Jose took Farrell home.  Although he could have been brought up on charges with Equity, no one was angry;  Farrell had no family, lived alone in a rooming house on 14th Street, and it was Christmas. We understood.

(Read more next week.)  

© 2010 by Joyce E. Henry.  All rights reserved.   

(A graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse, Joyce E. Henry acted, off-Broadway and in regional theaters, managed a dozen off-Broadway shows, wrote A Matter of Conscience, a play about Fanny Kemble, directed the theater program at Ursinus College, and edited five books, including One on One:  The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century; One on One, The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century; and Duo!:  The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—all from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. For three years or so in the late ‘50s, during the runs of Iceman, Children of Darkness, and Our Town, she worked at Circle in the Square.)

(Read Theodore Mann’s memoir, Journeys in the Night, also from Applause.)

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