Photo: Carol Rosegg
We could all use a friend like the Night Clerk in Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie. Played by Randall Newsome, the Clerk is a great listener- the kind that doesn’t interrupt your train of thought or dominate a conversation. He is the perfect person for venting, complaining or revealing your inner most secrets.
He’s also the equivalent of talking to a brick wall. The hotel clerk is pretty much checked out for most of the play’s duration. O’Neill could have replaced the character with a dead white guy propped up in a chair ala Weekend at Bernie’s and you wouldn’t notice a difference. The Night Clerk is simply trying to get through his graveyard shift with as little effort as possible. An omniscient narrator who continuously commentates on the state of the Clerk’s wandering attention span is received by the audience with many laughs.
That doesn’t matter for “Erie” Smith though. He’s looking for anybody that will listen to him, even if he’s not really listening to him.
And thus you have the makings of a beautiful relationship in the latest production at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre: a two-man, one-act play that is essentially a one-man monologue and character study.