BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, April 27, 1959
'More Stately Mansions,' Thought to Be
Destroyed, Will Not Be Seen Here
A play Eugene O'Neill thought he had destroyed
shortly before his death will be produced next season, but anyone who
wants to see it will have to be in Sweden.
The play, "More Stately Mansions," will have its
world première at the Royal Dramatic
Theatre in Stockholm. According to the Nobel Prize-winner's widow,
Mrs. Carlotta Monterey O'Neill, it will never be published or released
for production anywhere else.
Never completed by O'Neill to his satisfaction,
the play was discovered two years ago at the Eugene O'Neill Collection
of the Yale University Library by Dr. Karl Ragnar Gierow, director of
the Stockholm theatre. At that time, Mrs. O'Neill gave Dr.
Gierow permission to study the overlong manuscript and see whether he
could cut it for possible production.
Until recently, it was believed that the chances
for making a playable script from the version left by O'Neill were slim.
But largely because of Dr. Gierow's perseverance and the interest of Dag
Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the United Nations, an acting script
is now ready for production.
On a visit here a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Gierow
showed Mrs. O'Neill the cut version and obtained her approval to present
it "when he wishes." He had cut O'Neill's manuscript, which would
have taken between seven and nine hours to perform, to about four hours
playing time -- a little longer than that of "Long Day's Journey Into
Night," the first production of which was done at Dr. Gierow's theatre.
World premières have also taken place in Sweden of
"A Touch of the Poet" and the one-acter, "Hughie," recently published in
this country but not yet produced here.
"I have given this play to Dr. Gierow for
production as a tribute from my husband," Mrs. O'Neill said yesterday.
"My husband always felt that Sweden had done his plays better and with
greater interest and enjoyment than any other country. I know he
would have wanted me to put the manuscript of 'More Stately Mansions' in
Dr. Gierow's hands."
The manuscript found at Yale was one that Mrs.
O'Neill had typed.
"It included extensive notes written by my husband
as to how he wanted to cut the play," Mrs. O'Neill said. "He
always overwrote his plays in first draft and usually spent from six
months to a year cutting and revising; sometimes he spent as long as
four years on revisions."
Mrs. O'Neill added that Dr. Gierow had not changed
"one comma, one dash, one period." He has just cut from O'Neill's
own explicit instructions, she emphasized.
"More Stately Mansions" is one of the eleven plays
O'Neill had conceived as his giant cycle, which was to trace an American
family from 1755 through 1932. He did not live to finish it.
"A Touch of the Poet," set in 1828 and now being
shown on Broadway, is the only play that O'Neill completed in the cycle.
"More Stately Mansions," written in 1938 and revised in 1940, was to
have followed it chronologically, covering the period from 1837 to 1846.
Some years before his death in 1953, when O'Neill
knew that illness would prevent him from completing the cycle, he and
his wife fore up the original handwritten manuscripts of all the cycle
plays except "A Touch of the Poet." One typewritten draft of "More
Stately Mansions" somehow escaped destruction and found its way to the
O'Neill collection at Yale.
Mrs. O'Neill, who has successfully attended to the
publication and production of her husband's plays during the last five
years, has been criticized in certain quarters for "violating" her
husband's wishes concerning certain plays. The fact is that
O'Neill gave his widow all of this property unequivocally, both in his
will and in a literary trust.
"He left everything to me and I can do as I
please," Mrs. O'Neill said yesterday.
This cannot be disputed. Mrs. O'Neill now
pleases to unveil and bury "More Stately Mansions" in Sweden, and
Broadway will have to content itself with revivals and musical versions
of the published plays.