BY Barbara Gelb
FROM The New York Times, February 16, 1964
who, at the age of 39, still conveys an impression of quixotic youth,
will establish some sort of record on Thursday when "Marco Millions"
opens at the ANTA Washington Square Theater. The revival of Eugene
O'Neill's 36-year-old satirical drama marks Mr. Quintero's fifth New
York production, within eight years, of an O'Neill work. And with
its unveiling, Mr. Quintero seems simultaneously to be burning his
bridges behind him and building castles in the air.
Under the influence of the same spiritual narcotic
that has caused Elia Kazan to devote himself to the vision of a
repertory theater, Mr. Quintero is pinning his future almost exclusively
on the Lincoln Center. He has a contract to direct four plays
there over a flexible period of time.
He has severed his connection with the Circle in
the Square, which he helped make famous, and which made him famous.
His only hope of averting future insolvency (for the repertory will not
make him, nor anyone else connected with it, rich) is an option on
O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra" and a tenuous commitment to direct
Paul Osborn's new play, "Film of Memory." The former work, whose
casting thus far has defeated him, is vaguely planned as a West Coast
production that may be brought to Broadway after an extended tour.
The latter work, also earmarked for Broadway, hinges on the cliché of
theatrical imponderables, "the availability of the right star."
But Mr. Quintero, who has never been a cautious
man even by Latin standards, does not worry very much over the state of
his bank account. To be working with the repertory company and,
particularly, to be directing an O'Neill play, is for him the highest
artistic satisfaction. O'Neill is the dramatist for whom, of off
contemporary writers, Mr. Quintero has the greatest empathy -- a point
he has empathized by his noteworthy productions of "The Iceman Cometh,"
"Long Day's Journey Into Night," "Desire Under the Elms" and "Strange
It is this fact that partly influenced Mr. Kazan
and Robert White head to invite Mr. Quintero to join the repertory
company. "Marco Millions" had already been selected as one of the
company's three initial productions when Mr. Quintero was approached.
He began preparing for "Marco Millions" last July,
and found that it occupied him to the exclusion of all other work.
His fee as director is $4,000, the total income he has earned during the
seven-month period. The pinch became so severe recently that his
telephone was shut off for several weeks because he could not pay his
Mr. Quintero is as fond as the next man of
creature comforts, but he would happily make the sacrifice again -- and
"I need to believe in doing something much bigger
than just a play," he says.
Although he was familiar with "Marco Millions"
before accepting the job of directing it, as he is with all of O'Neill's
45 published plays, Mr. Quintero found it full of surprises when he took
it up again last summer.
"It's better than I remembered it," he said.
"Its satire is so timely. It's different form O'Neill's other
plays. Most of them are confined, physically. This one goes
all over the world. It's a magician's show.
No Scene Cuts
"I haven't cut a single scene or character -- I
understand several things were cut in the original production.
People say O'Neill's plays are repetitious, but he wrote like a
composer, building theme on theme. In 'Marco' he says a thing in
detail; then he says it in a condensed form; then he says it in
pantomime; he knows exactly what he's doing when he repeats himself."
The choice of Mr. Quintero as the director to
alternate with Mr. Kazan the first season was based not only on his
experience with O'Neill but also on his extensive experimentation with
arena-style directing off Broadway. For Mr. Quintero, the
challengingly open stage of the company's contemporary theater poses few
technical problems; he has learned how to use suggestions of scenery and
paths of light to make up for the lack of conventional trappings.
In "Marco," which calls for lavish settings in Venice, Cathay, Persia,
India, and Mongolia, he will tap (with the help of his long-time
associate, the designer, David Hayes) every piece of lighting equipment
on the theater's switchboard.
In an early scene, for example, he will flood the
stage and much of the auditorium with rippling blue light, to evoke what
he hopes will be a network of Venetian canals; he will try to create the
effect of a gondola by revolving a segment of the stage, while Marco
Polo seems to be propelling it with a long pole.
One phase of the production that continued to
puzzle Mr. Quintero until almost the final week of rehearsal was what to
do about the play's epilogue. Dropped from the original production
in 1928, the epilogue is a sly attempt on O'Neill's part to force home
his point about man's complacency. It shows Marco Polo, a sleek,
rich, middle-aged businessman, sitting in the audience, blinking with
stolid disbelief at the play, yawning and stretching, and then walking
off into the night.
"I wanted very much to use the epilogue," Mr.
Quintero said. "But of course it's impossible to use it literally.
I'm using part of it, and I hope -- I think -- it will work."
Another factor that qualifies Mr. Quintero for his
present assignment is his demonstrated flair for discovering new acting
talent. He was consulted about many of the present members of the
company and himself brought in several of its most important members,
including Hal Holbrook and David Wayne, who have leading roles in "Marco
Millions." The company's star performer, Jason Robards Jr., was
discovered by Mr. Quintero and given his first important role in the
Circle in the Square's revival of "The Iceman Cometh" in 1956.
During rehearsals of "Marco Millions" Mr. Quintero
found that working in repertory created its own peculiar problems, quite
different from those of Broadway or Off Broadway. Although time is
theoretically limitless, in practice this was not true. The
theater was occupied evenings and two matinees a week by "After the
Fall," and many of the actors in "Marco" also perform in the Arthur
Miller play, necessitating their sleeping late.
"Ideally," he says, "I would like to see four more
directors working with the company on a permanent basis, and exchanging
Thus far, there has been no such exchange between
Mr. Quintero and Mr. Kazan; there seems, for the moment, to be a tacit,
hands-off policy, presumably to allow each of the directors to become
acclimated to repertory. Mr. Quintero attended no rehearsals of
"After the Fall," and Mr. Kazan, who is now rehearsing the company's
third play, S. N. Behrman's "But for Whom Charlie," has been too busy --
or too tactful -- to look in on "Marco Millions."
Mr. Quintero has no idea, yet, what his other
assignments for the company will be. He would like to do a Chekhov
play, and, of course, more O'Neill.
He is rueful about the recent disagreement he had
with Theodore Mann, his partner at the Circle in the Square.
"Someday, if Ted and I can get back to seeing eye
to eye on the artistic policy of the theater," he said," I'll do a play