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Hughie

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...."He lurches into the vast, shadowy hotel lobby in a crumpled tan suit, a battered hat and fancy two-toned shoes that look to be the souveniers of flusher times.  He spreads his legs wide, as though to brace himself against the buffeting of a world that is no longer as steady as he would hope.
 
This is Al Pacino as Erie Smith, the grieving small-time gambler and Broadway hustler of Eugene O'Neill's brief, brilliant gem, "Hughie."
 
...Pacino's performance is a delicately nuanced, varied and mesmerizing turn...he demonstrates that he can play a loser with riveting results - though it's not so clear that Erie Smith is a loser.  He's just a man who needs to revive his dreams.
 
...Set in the summer of 1928 in the lobby of a small hotel on a West Side street in midtown New York, between 3 and 4 a.m., the play centers on Erie, who gets his moniker from the Pennsylvania town where he was born.  Erie has just gone on a days long bender, mourning the death of the hotel's former night clerk, Hughie, who was his pal and his support. 
 
Pacino is also making his theatrical directing debut.  He's made some choices that may not sit well with purists, and that have drawbacks, but the production works...Pacino has figured a way to make the stage directions palpable, adapting some of them into spoken words that Charlie - beautifully played by Paul Benedict...in a deadpan performance - delivers in a microphoned, echoing voice...
 
...Short though it is, the play fills an evening with moving and expansive force.
 
Excerpts from "Hustling a Hit Out of 'Hughie' Newsday; 8/23/1996 by Aileen Jacobson.

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"...The word this morning: bravo!
 
Mr. Pacino's performance is something of a wonder, helped by but certainly not dependent on his wardrobe: a cheap tan suit (the coat belted in the back), a Panama hat with the brim turned up all around, brown-and-white shoes (the kind the English call brothel-creepers) and socks of pearl gray.  It's the mind inside this ghastly outfit that animates the entire evening.
 
Though Mr. Pacino seems to be all over the stage, his is not a busy performance.  It's big, but it's one of controlled exhaustion.  His body suggests the fragile, tentacled mass of some sea anemone, leaning this way and that, twisting in the unseen current of his own panic.  It's a performance you see in close-up, no matter where he stands in the Circle in the Square's usually awkward space..."
 
"Pacino's Star Turn in a Pipe Dream" By Vincent Canby for the New York Times, Published: August 23, 1996.

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