How it’s New York: Irish Rep presents the piece, one of the finest gems of a residential theatre in the city.
How it’s Irish: Eugene O’Neill was proud of his Irish heritage.
“The Emperor Jones” is Horror.
It is in the Horror genre the way “Night of the Walking Dead” is Horror.
How did I never notice this before?
“Blair Witch Project” has nothing on Eugene O’Neill’s (1920) play “The Emperor Jones.”
From the moment Brutus Jones (Obi Abili ) enters the woods, to try to get to the other side of the island, away from the natives he robbed blind, the drums never stop, the shadows hide monsters, and the creep factor is too high to measure.
O’Neill wrote his one-act this way—the “little formless fears” are the first thing Jones encounters. But usually the takeaway is the psychological study, the ghosts of Jones’ own past that afflict him and the race memory that takes him to an auction block and even a slave ship.
Also, the takeaway from the show is usually the tour de force of the eponymous role. But while Abili brings gravitas and intensity to his role, his performance is not the main event. The play itself is, and that’s how it should be.
Director Ciarán O’Reilly, with the help of choreographer Barry McNabb, and evocative music by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab, additional music by Christian Frederickson, has put together a dark, precise and unforgettable production.
What terrors lurk in the woods?