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Eugene O’Neill in Ireland: An Update


BY Edward L. Shaughnessy
FROM The Eugene O’Neill Review, Suffolk University, 1998

I.  Was He Irish Enough?

Some years ago, when I set out to write a history of O'Neill productions in Ireland, I found a useful research model in the work of the late Horst Frenz. Professor Frenz, a distinguished scholar and a founding officer of the Eugene O'Neill Society, had traced a five-decade history of O'Neill stagings in Europe, as well as the playwright's important showing in the Far East.  My aims, of course, were far less global. Even so, when Eugene O'Neill in Ireland  was published in 1988, I felt I had accounted for all professional productions of O'Neill in both the Irish Republic and the North over a span of sixty-five years.  The record had begun with an offering of Diff'rent by the Dublin Drama League in 1922; it closed with a 1987 mounting of A Touch of the Poet at the Druid Theatre in Galway City.

But I had wondered:  Did this history indicate that O'Neill had earned a place of honor in his ancestral homeland?  The issue seemed important, for it was Ireland, after all, whence his father had been driven by the potato famine of the 1840's.  His mother's Tipperary roots, moreover, surely sealed beyond doubt any question concerning Eugene's Celtic origins.  One could understand, then, why O'Neill had once complained to his son and namesake that ". . . the critics have missed the most important thing about me and my work—the fact that I am Irish" (Bowen,  p. ix).

Yet we can imagine how the prickly Irish might respond to that claim.  May they not have had good reason to wonder why, if O'Neill had wished to honor his heritage, he had never placed his foot on Irish soil?  "Most important?"  Perhaps uneasiness on both sides accounted for a hesitation of the one unreservedly to embrace the other.  No doubt production and performance statistics tell us something about O'Neill's Irish reception.  But the raw data alone do not explain everything.  A more reliable index was to be found in the accumulated critical record, both academic and journalistic. And one other factor should be entered into the equation:  the men and women behind the curtain.  Most Irish theater professionals are enthusiastic about their American cousin.  Indeed, Eugene O'Neill has a strong, living relationship with the theater of Ireland. Where academicians tend to be somewhat measured in their assessments, Irish actors and directors seek opportunities to bring O'Neill onto the boards.  My 1988 findings have only been confirmed in the nineties.

Six major Irish productions of O'Neill were mounted in the years 1989-1998, bunched three each at the beginning and end of that decade.  A brief appendix to this study offers the vital information on these half dozen productions:  dates and places of staging; cast lists; and names of directors and designers.  (If your library should own a copy of O'Neill in Ireland, this addendum would bring the record up to date; the production history would cover from 1922 through the millennial year of 2000.)

II.  Fin de Siècle


One wonders how many fine productions of O'Neill plays sparkle in small venues throughout the world every year.  Hughie, for example, is mounted fairly often because its short duration and small cast make it a manageable undertaking:  45 minutes in duration, two performers, a compact thematic unit in itself.  Of course, not many presentations can expect to achieve the brilliant effects and win the stunning reviews of a Jason Robards, Ben Gazzara, or Al Pacino as each rendered Erie Smith.  Even so, surprisingly good effects are frequently realized with lesser celebrities:  e.g., this Abbey production given in the Peacock studio in 1989, which starred Gerard McSorley as the "Erie" Smith, "a teller of tales," and theatre veteran O. Z. Whitehead, as the hotel night porter.

This short-run production (Tuesday through Saturday, July 18-21) was notable on several counts.  In the first place it made up, perhaps, for Ireland's odd failure to observe the O'Neill centenary in 1988.  Equally interesting is that Judy Friel, the bold and talented daughter of playwright Brian Friel, directed.  In her enthusiasm Ms. Friel had asked for and received from José Quintero a program note, in which the eminent director observed that "O'Neill once again states in his most economical, but not less passionate way(,) our struggle to survive, trapped in the seedy foyer of this transient hotel called life."  This endorsement gave Ms. Friel "a head start . . . , since Quintero had directed her father's play Faith Healer, back in 1980, and was deeply moved by the experience," according to Paddy Woodworth (Irish Times).

A production's success may often be attributed to the director's eye for detail and for locating the play's spine.  The most cogent remark on the play's adherence to the tone of O'Neill's inveterate themes was made by an unnamed reporter in the Sunday Tribune :  "Pipe-dreams are never dismissed in Eugene O'Neill's work . . . , and the rag-and-bone mess which defines a life is granted validity, just as Erie is granted redemption when his companion spontaneously colludes a bizarre, conversational pas-de-deux in which talking at cross-purposes about gambling is established as the fragile, luck-laden weapon with which to counter despair" (Woodworth).

The part of the night porter was given to the American, O. Z. Whitehead, then 78 years old, who had played the same part in the 1966 Irish  premiere.  In that production at the Eblana Theatre he had been awarded best supporting actor in that year's Dublin Theatre Festival.  In the 1989 production he played opposite Gerard McSorley, another well regarded stage-and-screen veteran.  Together Friel, Whitehead, and McSorley produced what Con Houilihan (Evening Press) called "a little  masterpiece" whose title character predates Beckett's Godot and whom "we (also) do not meet."

O. Z. Whitehead's participation added an interesting sidelight to this production.  The actor had come to Ireland to advance the Bah'ai faith. His view of life, then, was essentially optimistic and always somewhat at odds with O'Neill's dark vision.  "I like some of his writing," he told Deirdre Falvey of the Evening Press (17 July).  "But I don't believe in Eugene O'Neill's philosophy.  (O'Neill) felt that people could only live if they had illusions.  As a Bah'ai I believe that we should look at truth" . . . .

(H)e came into contact with the Bah'ais, joined them in 1950, and moved to Ireland in 1963 to help establish a community here. "I wouldn't have stayed more than two years if I hadn't liked it, and I've been here 26 years now.  We thought it would be a very difficult place to teach the Bah'ai faith.  It was then, but now it is very well thought of in Ireland."  He estimates that there are about 350 Bah'ais in Ireland.

John Finegan (Evening Herald), dean of Dublin theatre critics, called it a "lunchtime gem" in the tiny studio.  Finegan paid homage to "O'Neill's mastery of naturalistic writing."  He seemed to agree, as noted above, that this Hughie constituted the Abbey's delayed tribute to the 1988 O'Neill centenary.

The Iceman Cometh (Belfast, 1990)

Whether for director, actors or audience, this play is no adventure for the faint of heart.  Accorded masterpiece status by the world's critics, The Iceman has been produced far less often than O'Neill's other late period titan, Long Day's Journey Into Night.  Following its 1946 Broadway premiere, Iceman was produced two years later in, but not by, the Dublin Gate Theatre, often a venue for avant-garde fare.  Of course, the play calls for combustible ensemble chemistry.  In 1948 its cast, directed by P. J. O'Connor (who later gained fame at the Abbey), were a wholly amateur group.  Although the production marked the British Isles premiere of The Iceman, the undertaking was apparently ill advised:  "Mr. O'Connor's company, with few exceptions, were unable to meet (the play's) demands" (Irish Times 8 June 1948: 3).  In 1972 the Abbey Theatre mounted a fully professional production.  This time a stellar company, featuring Vincent Dowling as Hickey and Philip O'Flynn as Larry Slade, were directed by the gifted Sean Cotter.  Yet not even these veterans were fully successful:  the reviews were very uneven.  But in the early nineties The Iceman would be given twice on the island:  one time in the North, the other in Dublin.

In spite of the turmoil set abroad in Northern Ireland since 1969, the splendid Lyric Theatre of Belfast has managed to continue an uninterrupted run of major productions.  Begun as an experimental enterprise, the Lyric has offered many of the greatest modernist plays, including Yeats's sometimes esoteric short dramas.  And O'Neill, although less frequently than Yeats, has been a staple in their history.  (At least eight of his plays were given in the Lyric between 1947-1976.)  In the very difficult winter of 1990 this theatre produced The Iceman Cometh under the directorship of Roland Jacquerello, who later signed on with the Belfast arm of the BBC.  (It is interesting that O'Neill's decision to withhold The Iceman  in wartime did not discourage the company from presenting it to people equally demoralized by hostilities and occupation.)

This Iceman was given wide press coverage in both the Republic and the North.  A mixture of praise and doubt that will surprise few O'Neillians was registered by David Nowlan of the Irish Times.  When it comes to O'Neill, Nowlan often takes away with one hand, even as he gives with the other.

Eugene O'Neill's sprawling, naive, and repetitiously self-indulgent masterpiece, The Iceman Cometh, is for all its structural contrivances and dramatic flaws, one of this century's great plays, and Roland Jacquerello's new production at the Lyric brings out most of the best in it. . . .  (It is) beautifully staged and meticulously grouped. . . . (He) has recorded the surreality of the piece for all its apparently seamy surface reality (31 January).

The greater number of Ulster critics were less anguished by such  ambivalences.  Grania McFadden of the Belfast Telegraph, after a clever opening, focused on the individual performers.  "When the cast of the Lyric's new production applauded the audience at last night's opening, it was no more than we deserved.

"For O'Neill's epic play The Iceman Cometh had kept us in our seats for almost five hours.  Despite the 7:30pm start, the curtain did not fall until 12:20am."  Ms. McFadden continued:

This complex and multi-layered play, with its recurring theme of death, elicits some delicate performances from the cast.

Peter Marinker's smooth talking Hickey is a joy to watch at work. . . . Eric Loren (as Rocky Pioggi), Conleth Hill (Willie Oban), Anthony Finigan (Cecil Lewis) and Maurice Blake (Ed Mosher)  bring depth to their characters, as do Ray Callaghan (Harry Hope), Deirdre Harrison (Pearl)  and Rebecca Bartlett (Cora).

Less convincing is Gerard O'Hare as Don Parritt, whose dilemma echoes that of Hickey's.  His deadpan expression robs his role of any passion. . . . (But) Paddy Scully's exaggerated cameo as Hugo Kalmar was particularly well received  (26 February 1990).

Most commentators remarked on the extraordinarily large number of parts: nineteen.  The Ulster Tatler called O'Neill "one of the finest playwrights of this century" and the play itself "a passionate rendering of man's spirit, in all its naked fury and inexorable illusions."      In the main, however, most encomia were given for the courageous and canny director, Roland Jacquerello, who understood well the difficult task he was essaying.  Charles Fitzgerald, in the Newsletter, interviewed Mr. Jacquerello at length.

It's a huge play, one of the biggest of our time, and I admit we are taking a tremendous risk in staging it.

(But) that's really what a major drama house is about—we're not staging plays for people with three-minute attention spans.

The theatre is about sustained and evolving drama, capturing and holding the audience interest and giving them something that they can really keep with and follow through  (11 January).

John Finegan, a critic generally sympathetic to O'Neill, made the trek up the coast.  "In Belfast, at the renowned and progressive Lyric, there is currently being staged a superb production of The Iceman Cometh, one of Eugene O'Neill's two soul-searching masterpieces. . . .  The acting is spell-binding, as it should be to rivet an audience for 270 minutes"  (Evening Herald).

The Iceman Cometh (Dublin, 1992)

Let us turn now to an even greater production of The Iceman Cometh,  greater by far than that given by any of its three Irish forerunners.  Indeed in the entire production history of this play I have heard of only two stagings that have possibly eclipsed this 1992 mounting by the Abbey.  That, of course, was the celebrated run of 565 consecutive performances at Circle in the Square in 1956.  So stunning was its triumph, as I learned from reading reviews, that I sought out the director, who sat patiently for a two-hour interview.

I refer, secondly, to the Chicago Goodman Theatre Iceman Cometh whose concept, director and star would be transplanted to the Abbey Theatre. After she had seen director Robert Falls and actor Brian Dennehy work together, Garry Hynes, artistic director of the Abbey, invited Mr. Falls to bring his Chicago Iceman to Dublin. There, some of the cast would be Irish, and Dennehy as Hickey would be expected to mesh with them.  At the outset the somewhat patriarchal and hidebound Abbey board was cool to the idea.  But in the end Ms. Hynes had her way.

Mr. Falls was both witty and brilliant in his recollections of the rehearsal period and the smash hit derived therefrom.  Of course, the 100% American Iceman that he had directed in Chicago had been its own triumph, praised by the New York Times as well as the regional press.  Dennehy, who later teamed with Falls in A Touch of the Poet  (1996) and Death of a Salesman  (1998), gave full proof of his star credentials.  (He won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Willy Loman when Salesman was moved to Broadway in 1999.)   Mr. Falls, like Arvin Brown and José Quintero, is successful with O'Neill, I believe, because he sees what many directors (and critics) do not.  "O'Neill never became cynical, as many moderns have.  Most playwrights and their audiences have become cynical.  Thus the cognoscenti often dismiss O'Neill, who was himself vulnerable and his characters confused, bewildered, and ambivalent:  take the line, 'I love you more than I hate you, kid.'  O'Neill was a superb writer of compassionate insight into the human condition" (interview, 1998).

As to the Dublin production, Falls observed that some Irish actors refused to audition for the following reasons.  They were suspicious of O'Neill.  They'd say, "He really isn't an Irishman, you know."  Secondly, many said they would never consider any play that lasted more than two hours, since the pubs close at 11:00.  (Mr. Falls knew but did not fret over the risk of stereotype carried by his remark; rather, he exploited the memory, knowing that his audience of the moment would appreciate his glee.)  This production began at 6:00 p.m. and adjourned at 11:15, snacks were served during the three intervals.  But the company of Irish supporting actors (and Donald Moffat, who is from England) performed brilliantly. "You know," he said, "some experience with alcoholism may be essential to give an actor his read on a character in The Iceman.  "When we were finally assembled,” Mr. Falls went on, "at least half the cast were recovering alcoholics. (Count five.)  The rest were active."

Mr. Falls does not take the theatre lightly, of course.  Nor did he undervalue the international fame of Abbey-style acting.  Indeed, he committed himself absolutely to making his production of Iceman an occasion Ireland would long remember, as the unnamed reviewer in the (Dublin) Financial Times observed.

Robert Falls has so successfully welded together Irish, English and American actors that it is impossible to tell the difference. . . .

If any doubts remain about the judgment of the Abbey's artistic director, Garry Hynes, this memorable production should kill them dead.  It is a theatre festival in itself, reminding us of what theatre is—or should be—all about.

How did Irish audiences take to the endurance test of Iceman?  Let the following excerpts from a single review represent a score of other rave commentaries.  In her "Dialogue Like Molten Gold" in the Sunday Independent, Emer O'Kelly offered perhaps the most celebrative review ever of an American play enacted on an Irish stage.

A standing ovation for serious theatre in Dublin is a rarity; and when the audience is on its feet, electrified and cheering after almost five hours . . . , their collective energy still unimpaired, you know you've witnessed something quite extraordinary.

From the moment Donald Moffatt as Larry Slade begins the scene-setting that is in itself a peroration for his own death wish, play and players attack the audience, grasping them in a giant hand of aggressively raw emotion. . . .

Robert Falls' direction and his cast must make this a definitive version. . . . (T)hese performances are so intense it's easy to see through the years and the broken veins and bodies to the young  men and women they once were.

(Brian) Dennehy is electrifying, riveting, brutish, insane, gentle, dangerous, passionate, indifferent.  He is amazing; and as Hickey's soul cries for forgiveness, his body shuffles, twitches, sidesteps; and his arms beat a pattern of half-gestures against his massive chest.  It's a final parody of the salesman's patter.

The iceman has finally come, and this performance makes one hope that the creation did give some degree of peace, finally, to Eugene O'Neill's tormented muse (18 October 1992).

Mr. Falls intends to do more O'Neill—Strange Interlude, Mourning Becomes Electra—and, at some point, to team again with Brian Dennehy when the latter feels ready to play James Tyrone. 

III.  Three Plays of 1998

A Moon for the Misbegotten

DubbelJoint Productions of Belfast came into being in 1991 and immediately set for itself two noble but exceedingly difficult objectives.  First, the company would offer plays "of interest throughout the whole island of Ireland."  To do this, of course, meant that the company must tour the provinces.  Undaunted, they did that and more.  Second, DubbelJoint would strive to make difficult works accessible to a wide range of viewers:  as stated in the program note, "works (that are) extremely entertaining while remaining very poignant and thought-provoking" (programme note, p. 1).  Many a fledgling organization has floundered in attempts to achieve far less challenging goals.

From the start the DubbelJoint company has been headed by two dynamic women, Pam Brighton, artistic director, and Marie Jones, associate director and in-house playwright.  Of some dozen plays produced through 1998, Ms. Jones had been directly involved in the writing of seven.  That full plate includes the aforementioned large portions of touring, an itinerary that has included London, Glasgow, and New York.

A Moon for the Misbegotten is possibly O'Neill's greatest challenge to actors.  It demands both grit and tact as well as the full register of comedic and sombre tonalities.  As Coleen Dewhurst once put it, "O'Neill gives you no safety net."  Grania McFadden in the Telegraph called it the playwright's "noble masterpiece of betrayal and redemption" (16 March).  Nevertheless, DubbelJoint director Simon Magill orchestrated a surprisingly well received tour. After its usual opening at the Beechmount Leisure Center in Belfast, the production moved on to Coleraine, Derry, Armagh and other Northern sites.  In the Republic the company visited Athlone, Strabane, Donaghmore, Cork, and Dublin. Veteran actors John Hewitt and Billie Traynor carried off the parts of Phil and Josie Hogan in what the Sunday Times  described as an "exuberantly played scatological comedy reminiscent of JM Synge or Martin McDonagh."  Sean Campion's Jim Tyrone was called "fecklessly charming" by Jane Coyle in the Irish Times.  Ms. Coyle vigorously applauded the directing and fine acting by the three principals.  After the humor of the first act, Coyle wrote, "the laughter slowly subsides and the audience becomes drawn, with total absorption, into the terrible, tenderly crafted, booze-induced stories which bring Josie and Jim together and force them apart" (14 March).

Yet certain critics felt that the sheer difficulty of the challenge was too great for the ambitious but inexperienced DubbelJoint company.  Liam Halligan observed drily that DubbelJoint had allowed only two weeks for rehearsal: "and it really, really showed" (letter to author).

Long Day's Journey into Night

Certain O'Neill plays have been particularly well received in Ireland.  The record of the Gate Theatre may be most impressive in offering most titles from the canon, including Anna Christie four times and Mourning Becomes Electra twice.  But this fine organiza-tion, founded by the late Hilton Edwards and Michéal MacLiammoir in 1928, had never undertaken Long Day's Journey Into Night until this production. The Abbey, on the other hand, had offered the autobiographical tragedy in Dublin and toured the provinces with it in 1959, 1962, 1967, and 1985.

What was it in the play that so mesmerized Irish audiences, even in remote outposts far from the sophistication of the capital city?  Vincent Dowling, veteran actor who had toured with the Abbey's 1967 production, has spoken to this question precisely.

This production opened in Galway and played provincial cities, towns and even a tiny village, Monaseed in Wexford.  A population of some 300 persons in Carrickmore in Northern Ireland produced an audience for us of 3,600!  This period was the most fulfilling of my long acting life.  Audiences driving, walking, busing, cycling long winter distancers, sat mostly on wooden chairs in parish halls and lived the lives of the haunted Tyrones because it was so often their own.  They wanted to touch us, talk to us, stay with us.  They truly loved us (not adoring fans) because of (the play's) truth and compassion. . . . Through the distilled life of Eugene O'Neill and his tortured, loving characters, we were making sense of their lives.  (Shaughnessy, 104)

There is another element in the play, one too often simplified in driveling stereotypes of the Irish.  Yes, it is common enough but, as Anthony Clare, M.D. (Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Trinity College, Dublin) remarks in the program note, "The Past Is the Present," these emotions are harbored in deep and secret places in the Irish psyche.

In the Tyrone family, as in so many Irish families to this day, alcohol permits people to say what otherwise remains unsayable and unsaid; it facilitates the indulgence of foolish fantasies and self-deluding dreams.  Things that can be said in drink can be denied in sobriety—particularly when they are true.  Again and again, O'Neill reminds us that what is most personal is universal, that today's cycles of destruction relentlessly mirror yesterday's and that unless we can come to terms with the past, exorcise its terrors and accept its errors we are doomed to relive and repeat the entire miserable process.  And then there are the truly awesome twin issues of guilt and blame, the gothic horrors stalking the Tyrones' New England summer house as they stalk many an Irish family to this day, turning a crucible of love into a maelstrom of destruction.

The Gate Theatre opened its splendid Long Day's Journey Into Night on March 26, 1998, in a season devoted exclusively to American plays.  The Gate, which Edwards and MacLiammoir modeled on the European avante-garde theatres, has generally offered much more international fare than the Abbey, Ireland's National Theatre.  That the latter's typical season is weighted in favor of scripts by Irish playwrights is, therefore, not sur-prising.  In any event this production of Long Day's Journey, directed by Karel Reisz, starred Donald Moffat and Rosaleen Linehan as the elder Tyrones. Bruce Arnold, Joyce scholar-cum-drama critic of the Irish Independent, identifies the play's spine.  After a hopeful beginning, he says, the "darkness descend(s), the mood becoming blacker and more hopeless as the threads which bind (the family) together fall asunder" (1 April 1998)  Moreover, this reviewer pays the one tribute O'Neill would no doubt most wanted to hear. Long Day's Journey, Arnold says, "should be seen as a great Irish-American play" (April 1).  He is seconded by  the Sunday Independent's Emer O'Kelly, who is surely among the most enthusiastic of an entire cadre of Irish critics sympathetic to Eugene O'Neill.

                                    *                                  *                                  *

Let them think twice who complain that "nothing happens" in the four-hour Journey.  As Gerry Colgan wrote in the Irish Times, "The ebb-and-flow tensions between father and sons are almost tangible, always close to crisis point.  These tensions exist in the eye of a more furious storm; the mother's drug addiction.  She has been, in the primitive parlance of the time, a dope fiend since the birth of Edmund. . . .” (2 April).

The acting occasionally fell short of earlier Abbey standards.  Ms. O'Kelly called the play "an American masterpiece" and paid high compliments to the "magnificent director."  But she faulted Ms. Linehan's portrayal of Mary Tyrone:  " . . . the desperate frailty of retreat into morphine-induced nightmares is never fully realised.  Further, she invokes a comic-strip baby voice in the final scene which is little short of embarrassing"  (5 April).

All in all the press coverage was immense:  some thirty-five separate reviews, articles, and features were printed by the press of the Republic over the play's month-long run, late March through April 25th.

Anna Christie

In the spring of 1998 the Focus Theatre of Dublin presented the play O'Neill nearly disowned.  But the record shows that Anna Christie has been a favorite among the Irish; it had been given once in Belfast and four times by the Gate: 1929, 1943, and twice in 1953 (the last starring the late Siobhán McKenna).

The director of the Focus Anna Christie, Liam Halligan, addressed everything I wanted to know.  What were his own feelings about O'Neill?  Did Mat Burke's Irishness seem bogus or did it connect with the audience?  What was Halligan's slant on Anna?  Was she tough but vulnerable, tough and angry at all men, or wounded but capable of healing?  Could the suggestion of a sea play be managed in the Focus confines, where only sixty patrons can be seated and the actors nearly trampling them?  (We know, of course, that Jig Cook and company had managed this verisimilitude in 1916 in Provincetown, but with the help of the sea itself.  Still, they had never undertaken a four-acter in their tiny Wharf Theare.)  Liam answered all of this and more (letter to the author).  I should like to paraphrase and quote directly from his written account.

Halligan himself, an actor trained in the Focus Stanislavski Studio, had suggested an O'Neill season:  Anna Christie, The Hairy Ape, and Long Day's Journey Into Night.  But the theatre management decided to do only the Anna, but they gave him six weeks to cast the play and work it through.  The play's "language is deceptively difficult," he said, "and I knew we would need that time. . . .   I love the play because it is optimistic, and because it gives working class characters great dignity"  (shades of O'Casey here, perhaps).  As to Anna herself,  "I took a big risk in casting a very inexperienced young actress . . . Aoibhinn (pronounced Avéen) Gilroy, who has a natural sense of truth, has a lot of anger in her (Anna was an abused child, after all) and can maintain a very convincing American accent."

Liam felt Mat's "naturalistic Irish speech" was stagey but found a "tough working class Dubliner (Ger(ard Carey)) with a lot of sensuality."  He sees Mat as a man from the West of Ireland, "a rural lad, but . . .  Ger made the language completely his own and we didn't change one syllable in the end."  His Chris, Anna's father, was played by Sean Treacy, who "took an instant dislike to Aveen because she physically went against O'Neill's description of Anna.  Aoibhinn is very thin and flat chested."  But Liam made a strong effort to convince Treacy:  "I wanted Anna to look thin and worn(;) she is after all 'tired to death' and just out of hospital."  Halligan was disappointed with his Marthy (Margaret Toomey), who he thought failed to suggest both the character's strength and (her) vulnerability. "Marthy's story," he maintains, is almost a prologue to the entire play and is a completely independent woman for her time.  Anna may become just like her."  His remarks on the set are somewhat technical.  He called getting it right a battle, because "the sea had to be present and I wanted the acting area to be surrounded by empty space to suggest distance and danger."

In the end Halligan felt the Focus had fared well in its competition with the two other (and more highly regarded) O'Neill plays on the Dublin boards at the same time.  He hoped it might be revived for the fall Theatre Festival, but it wasn't.

IV.  For the Record

One learns to guard against waxing enthusiastic about O'Neill's Irish reception.  As noted earlier, statistics alone can be misleading.  In any event they are certain to be challenged by other data which seem to throw the record into a shadow.  One discovers, moreover, that his citations can seem capricious as he draws from voluminous reviews.  It is also true, of course, that O'Neill, from the late twenties onward, made heavy demands on both producing company and audience:  marathon endurance, large casts, soul-numbing themes that discourage those who seek from the theatre little more than shallow diversion.  The Irish, however, perhaps more tolerant of  melancholy messengers, tend to hold up relatively well under  O'Neill's dark vision.

Who can know how many attempts have been made by Irish amateur groups to produce the plays of Eugene O'Neill?  Nor has this study inventoried professional undertakings in other major cities:  Cork, Derry, Limerick.  But we do know that the professional companies of Dublin, Belfast, and Galway have produced O'Neill more than fifty times over the past quarter century.  Such organizations  from both Northern Ireland and the Republic have toured widely with their wares, exchanging visits to the remoter towns and villages of each other's countries.  And O'Neill has been presented often in first-rate professional productions by RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann).  Overall, then, the number of live O'Neill presentations has been quite respectable, if not a record to rival Shaw, Yeats, Synge, O'Casey, or Brian Friel.  He has been imported with impressive regularity.

Gerry Colgan, in closing his review of the Gate's Long Day's Journey Into Night,  grants everything that the Irish actor's son might have hoped for: "O'Neill's reputation as the father of modern American theatre is here vindicated again" (2 April 1998).


This unit constitutes a continuation of the appendix published in Eugene O'Neill  in Ireland: The Critical Reception  (Greenwood Press, 1988)

Produced at the Peacock ( the Abbey Theatre Studio), Dublin, 18-21 July , 1989

"Erie" Smith - Gerard McSorley Design - Jan Bee Brown
Night Porter - O. Z. Whitehead Lighting - Tony Wakefield
Director - Judy Friel  

The Iceman Cometh
Produced at the Lyric Theatre (Belfast), January - February, 1990

Larry Slade - Liam O'Callaghan Ed Mosher - Maurice Blake
Theodore Hickman (Hickey) - Peter Marinker James Cameron - John Hewitt
Rocky Pioggi - Eric Loren Margie - Eileen McCloskey
Hugo Kalmar - Paddy Scully Pearl - Deirdre Harrison
Willie Oban - Conleth Hill Cora - Rebecca Bartlett
Harry Hope - Ray Callaghan Chuck Morello - Noel McGee
Joe Mott - Eugene Scott Moran - Brian MacGabhian
Don Parritt - Gerard O'Hare Lieb - Fintan Brady
Cecil Lewis - Anthony Finegan Director - Roland Jacquerello
Piet Wetjoen - Dan Foley Set Design - Alison Bockh
Pat McGloin - Martin Dempsey Lighting - Roger Simonsz

The Iceman Cometh
Produced at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, October-November, 1992

Harry Hope - Eamon Morrissey Don Parritt - Aidan McArdle
Ed Mosher - Pat Laffan Pearl - Bronagh Gallagher
Rocky Pioggi - Sean McGinley Margie - Lorraine Pilkington
Chuck Morello - Gerard Carey Cora - Barbara Brennan
Piet Wetjoen - Clive Geraghty Theodore Hickman (Hickey) - Brian Dennehy
Cecil Lewis - Shaun Curry Moran - Niall O'Brien
James Cameron - Birdy Sweeney Lieb - Luke Hayden
Joe Mott - Ernest Perry, Jr. Director - Robert Falls
Larry Slade - Donald Moffat Lighting - Michael Philippi
Hugo Kalmar - Peadar Lamb Set Design - John Conklin
Willie Oban - Garrett Keogh  

A Moon for the Misbegotten
Belfast, Northern Ireland, March-April, 1998, on tour in the Republic, Produced by DubbelJoint Productions, Belfast

Phil Hogan - John Hewitt T. Stedman Harder - Noel McGee
Josie Hogan - Billie Traynor Director - Simon Magill
Mike Hogan - Steve Brown Set Design - Chisato Yoshimi
James Tyrone, Jr. - Sean Campion Lighting - John Riddell

Long Day's Journey Into Night
Produced at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, March 26-April 25, 1998

James Tyrone - Donald Moffat Cathleen - Sonya Kelly
Mary Tyrone - Rosaleen Linehan Director - Karel Reisz
James Tyrone, Jr. - David Herlihy Set Design - Robin Don
Edmund Tyrone - Andrew Scott Lighting - Peter Mumford

Anna Christie
Produced at the Focus Theatre (Dublin), May 4-12, 1998

Anna Christopherson - Aoibhinn Gilroy Jonson - Tony McCormack
Mat Burke - Ger Carey Director - Liam Halligan
Chris Christopherson - Sean Treacy Set Design - Robert Lane
Marthy Owen - Margaret Toomey Lighting - Marcus Costello
Larry - David Johnston  

Works Cited and Consulted

Arnold, Bruce.  Rev. of Anna Christie, "Rugged Playboy Fall for Anna's Heart of Gold, " Irish Independent, 8 May 1998.

Arnold, Bruce.  Rev. of Long Day's Journey Into Night, "Souls Stripped Bare in O'Neill's Masterpiece," Irish Independent, 1 April 1998.

(Author unnamed.)  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, Irish Times, 8 June 1948: 3.

(Author unnamed.)  Rev. of Hughie.  Sunday Tribune, 23 July 1989.

(Author unnamed.)  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, Ulster Tatler,  (?) February 1990.

(Author unnamed.)  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Iceman Worth Waiting For," Financial Times, 21 October 1992.

Bowen Croswell (with Shane O'Neill).  The Curse of the Misbegotten:  A Tale of the House of O'Neill,, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1959.

Brennan, Patrick.  Rev. of Anna Christie, "Focus Production Puts O'Neill's Melodrama into a Far Softer Light," Cork Examiner,  11 May 1989.

Brennan, Patrick.  Rev.  of Long Day's Journey Into Night, "Day Trip to a Masterpiece," Cork Examiner, 18 April 1998.

Carr, Mary.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "The Iceman Turns on the Heat," Evening Herald, 15 October 1992.

Clare, Anthony Ward, M.D.  Programme Note, Gate Theatre, Long Day's Journey Into Night, March-April, 1998.

Colgan, Gerry.  Rev. of Anna Christie, Irish Times, 8 May 198.

Colgan, Gerry.  Rev. of Long Day's Journey Into Night, "Enduring Classic of American Theatre," Irish Times, 2 April 1998.

Coyle, Jane.  Rev. of A Moon for the Misbegotten, "Gripping Production of O'Neill's Last Play," Irish Times, 14 April 1998.

Cunningham, Francine.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, Sunday Business Post, 18 October 1992.

DoubleJoint Theatre,  Programme Note, March-April, 1998.

Dowling, Noeleen.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Towering Iceman Cast Performance," Evening Press, 15 October 1992.

Dowling, Vincent.  In Edward L. Shaughnessy, Eugene O'Neill in Ireland: The Critical Reception,  Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 1988.

Falls, Robert.  Interviewed by author.  Chicago, Illinois, 17 August 1998.

Falvey, Deirdre.  Rev. of Hughie, "Whitehead Revisited," Evening Press, 17 July 1989.

Finegan, John.  Rev. of Hughie, "A Lunchtime Gem," Evening Herald, 19 July 1989.

Finegan, John.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Iceman Cometh to Lyric," Evening Herald,  (?) January 1990.

Fitzgerald, Charles.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Top Actors Give the Ice Man a Warm Welcome," Belfast Newsletter, 11 January 1990.

Halligan, Liam.  Letter to author.  15 July 1998.

Hingerty, Kay.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "A Truly Great Iceman," Cork Examiner, 17 October 1992.

Houlihan, Con.  Rev. of Hughie, "Hughie a Minor Masterpiece," 19 July 1989.

Kingston, Jeremy.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Plenty of Life in the Many Characters on View," Irish Times, 30 January 1990.

McFadden, Grania.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Long Wait for Iceman but It's Worth It," Belfast Telegraph, 26 January 1990.

McFadden, Grania.  Rev. of A Moon for the Misbegotten, "A Masterpiece of Betrayal," Belfast Telegraph, 16 March 1998.

Nowlan, David.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "The Iceman Cometh at Lyric, Belfast," Irish Times, 31 January 1990.

Nowlan, David.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Powerful Drama of Despair," Irish Times, 15 October 1992.

O'Kelly, Emer.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Dialogue Like Molten Gold," Sunday Independent, 18 October 1992.

O'Kelly, Emer.  Rev. of Long Day's Journey Into Night, "The Torment of the Tyrones," Sunday Independent, 5 April 1998.

O'Toole, Fintan.  "The Founding Fathers (of the American Theatre)," Irish Times,  31 March 1998.

Programme Note, "A Moon for the Misbegotten," DubbelJoint Productions, Belfast, March-April, 1998.

Rushe, Desmond.  Rev. of Hughie, "Hughie Makes a Vivid Return," Irish Independent, 19 July 1989.

Rushe, Desmond.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "From Pipe Dream to Final Triumph," Irish Independent, 15 October 1992.

Walsh, Joe.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Iceman Cometh in a Blaze of Glory," Irish Press, 15 October 1992.

Woodworth, Paddy.  Rev. of Hughie, "O'Neill at the Peacock," Irish Times, 15 July 1989.

Wolf, Matt.  Rev. of The Iceman Cometh, "Robert Falls' Iceman Cometh Scores a Hit in Ireland," Chicago Tribune, 22  October 1992, sec. 5:3.


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