February 12, 2015

The zombies stomping all over pop culture these days will seem about as scary as Santa’s elves once you’ve met the dead souls inhabiting the sepulchral gloom of Robert Falls’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. The bloodletting and brain-eating in this case may be metaphoric, but make no mistake: None of the suffering men and women seeking comfort in the bottom of a bottle in Harry Hope’s saloon will emerge truly alive. Mr. Falls’s magisterial staging of O’Neill’s harrowing drama, one of his very greatest, floored me when I first saw it at the Goodman Theater almost three years ago. Once again, at the conclusion of this blistering production, currently at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I had to scrape myself up from my seat, with my innards churning. As enacted by a cast that is not likely to be bettered this season — on Broadway or off — O’Neill’s symphonic ode to the lies we tell ourselves to survive sustains an enthralling dramatic intensity for pretty much all of its famously long running time, notwithstanding the undeniable longueurs and repetitions. (You could get mighty soused if you knocked back a shot every time the words “pipe dream” cropped up in the dialogue; this is not recommended.)