BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, January 25, 1960
Play Will Be Half of Double Bill With ‘Emperor Jones’ –
March 15 Premiere
The American premiere of Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie,”
the one-act play written in 1941 and published here last spring, will
take place on Broadway on March 15.
Theodore Mann, Leigh Connell and José Quintero will
present it as part of a twin bill that will include a revival of
O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones,” with Mr. Quintero directing both plays.
The offering will follow their production of Jean Gent’s “The Balcony,”
set to open at the Circle in the Square on Feb. 20.
Myron McCormick, whose last major Broadway role was
in “No Time for Sergeants” four years ago, is the leading candidate for
the starring role in “Hughie.” The producers also are looking for an
actor to play the title role in “The Emperor Jones,” the long and
difficult part created in 1920 by Charles Gilpin and later revived by
Paul Robeson, to whom it brought stardom.
Same Producing Trio
The twin-bill will bring together on Broadway
Messrs. Mann, Connell and Quintero for the first time since they
presented O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 1956. Also
associated with them again will be David Hayes, and Tharon Musser, who
designed the set and lighting for “Long Day’s Journey.”
According to the producers, “Hughie” and “The
Emperor Jones” are being done as companion pieces because they are both
studies of men who appear cocky and confident in their worlds but who
can gradually be seen to crumble as their true selves are revealed.
“Hughie,” like “The Emperor Jones,” is virtually a
monologue. Although it is a two-character play, most of the lines fall
to Eerie Smith, a small-time gambler down on his luck, who harangues the
colorless night clerk of a seedy, West Side hotel. Hughie,
himself, is not a character in the play; he is referred to as the
recently deceased predecessor of the incumbent night clerk.
Staged in Stockholm
Successfully staged in Stockholm in 1958, “Hughie”
was written as part of a series of eight one-act plays, collectively
entitled “By Way of Obit.” It was the only one of the series O’Neill
completed, and he did not intend it to be given a conventional stage
production; a good deal of the play’s writing went into describing the
unvoiced thoughts of the night clerk. In discussing the play, O’Neill
declined to be specific about what he had in mind, saying only that it
would require “tremendous imagination” to put the play on.
“The Emperor Jones,” written in eight scenes, is a
monologue on the part of Jones throughout six of them. When it opened at
the tiny Provincetown Playhouse in 1920 (having cost just over $500 to
put on), it stood critics and audiences on their heads.
Woollcott, then writing for The New York Times, said that the play
“reinforces the impression that for strength and originality” O’Neill
“has no rival among the American writers for the stage.”