Stars like Angela Bassett, LaChanze, Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III, and more were at the Booth Theater Thursday, Feb. 25 for opening night of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie. The play, directed by Tony Award winner Michael Grandage and also starring Tony Award winner Frank Wood, served as the Broadway debut for Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. Rolling out was on hand for opening night and also got a chance to see the production.
Hughie is set in the lobby of a New York City hotel. Erie Smith, played by Whitaker, walks into a local hotel that he frequents after a series of nights of drinking. Smith has been on a bender because the former night clerk, Hughie, recently passed away. This leads the unmarried Smith to combat his loneliness by checking into the hotel, but never going to his room, as he carries on a conversation, sometimes forced, with the new clerk. He is ignored at times, but remembrances of Hughie and stories about women and gambling finally catch the attention of the night clerk, whose name is never revealed.
Rolling out spoke exclusively with the award-winning director. “I think (Forest Whitaker is) the most awesome actor, amazing screen actor…I’ve never worked with a full method actor before. It felt a lot of the time like a great privilege. I don’t really say that very often as a director but it was a privilege because I thought this man is incapable of a dishonest beat. He absolutely goes inside and inhabits from within so totally that it was kind of awesome to watch,” said Grandage
“Forest Whitaker is a great actor … I was really touched by the strong performance of Forest Whitaker. [There were] some cultural differences, but the interplay laid the foundation for some sermons on life and the confidences that we can give each other and encouragement at all levels of life. I enjoyed the play and I encourage anyone with an appreciation of good playwrights and good acting to see Hughie,” Butts, the pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, told rolling out.
Rarely do you have the opportunity to see an Oscar-winning actor make his Broadway debut, but with Whitaker in Hughie you have just that. Add a Tony Award-winning director and actor to the mix, and you have excellence on and off the stage. Hughie will leave you applauding loudly and wanting to see an encore of the production.