This summer, I got to take a journey to New York. While there, I got to watch The Iceman Cometh, which is a play from 1939 written by American playwright, Eugene O’Neill. This play came in at about 4 hours long and starred Denzel Washington. With it being this long, I don’t need to regale you with every detail but an important take away from the play is that effort counts twice.
The play follows a bunch of drunks who all consider themselves down-on-their-luck individuals who have big dreams of chasing their dreams.
However, the one highlight of their year is when a friend, Hickey, is coming to the bar. Hickey has a history of working hard throughout the year then blowing his savings buying everyone in the bar drinks and throwing a massive party. The opening part of the play is everyone getting excited about the person who is going to bankroll their drunkenness. The barflies talk about how excited they are to see Hickey and how after he comes, they will chase their pipe dreams.
Hickey arrives with much fanfare and excitement but something is noticeably different than the expectations set by the barflies at the onset of the play. Hickey is there and willing to pay for the drinks but his lack of participation is “killing the buzz” of everyone. Furthermore, he is starting to call people out for their pipe dreams.
Hickey’s main point of contention with these dreams of the barflies is that to actually achieve their goals, they will need to actually go do something. Larry, the resident philosopher, reminds us, ““Don’t you notice the beautiful calm in the atmosphere? That’s because it’s the last harbor. No one here has to worry about where they’re going next, because there is no farther they can go.”
The lack of effort these people have put into their lives has created this “beautiful calm”. These people have not put forth the effort and thus, have wasted their lives. This is terrifying to watch. Hickey comes in with the goal of getting people to accept their reality or actually go achieve their dreams.
As the play goes on, the barflies who once loved Hickey, now are beginning to hate him. The drinks at the bar are no longer getting them drunk, they have been forced to look their failure in their eyes. They hate what they see. Hickey pushes them to pursue their dreams.
In the play, the barflies are too scared to fail to truly pursue their dreams. They all make the first step, be it getting married for a couple of the barflies, to going outside for someone who is too afraid to face the outside world after the death of his wife (twenty years ago). Where Hickey has failed in motivating these people to pursue their dreams is they all lack the passion and dedication to their dreams to actually achieve them. They all come back, searching for new pipe dreams in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.
As Walt Disney once said, “The best way to get started is to stop talking and start doing”. As we discussed in this blog post, your skills and talents matter but if you don’t put forth the effort, all that is left is the unmet potential.
What do you think? Have you had a chance to see this play? Let me know what you think in the comments section below?