Brooklyn Daily News, May 16, 1924
All God's Chillun
By ARTHUR POLLOCK
O’Neill’s “All God’s Chillun Got Wings,” which has had
almost as much publicity as a murder, finally made its way to the
stage of the Provincetown Playhouse last night, where instead of
causing a riot, it was greeted with cheers and loud whistlings.
Possibly if it had not been made so notorious this welcome
would have been calmer. It
is not a play to arouse great enthusiasm.
there had been no enthusiasm for it at the Mayor’s office during
the day, for the directors of the theater had applied for a permit
to use a group of children in the first scene and the permit had
been refused, no explanation being offered.
The Gerry Society had approved, but not the higher
authorities. No doubt
it was expected that the refusal of the permit would prevent the
play being performed, but the difficulty was easily sidestepped.
James Light, who staged the play, merely read the first scene
and the drama proceeded thereafter as if nothing had happened.
is a play, as every one now knows, in which a negro marries a white
girl and is unhappy. Mr.
O’Neill has taken a theme and illustrated it with seven scenes
depicting as many stages in the progress of the miscegenetic
romance. “All God’s
Chillun” is exposition rather than drama most of the time.
It has its dramatic moments in the second act, but O’Neill
can be heard explaining the expounding throughout the evening.
It is sharp and pertinent analysis of the question of
intermarriage between whites and blacks, its psychology is good, if
palpable; it is more didactic than this dramatist has ever before
attempted to be. Didacticism
in O’Neill is not an improvement.
and white children play on the streets in the first scene, and there
is no race prejudice to be discovered in their attitudes toward each
other. Two of them are
seen growing up in the following scenes, a colored boy and a white
girl, and prejudice grows along with a sharp consciousness of it in
the minds of the twp. The
girl is a worthless girl, the boy an ambitious youth.
She is cast aside by a prize-fighter and, being alone in the
world, is grateful to the negro for his adoration and marries him in
order to have some one to love her sincerely.
But she is white and he black, and neither they nor those
they live among can forget it.
Furthermore, she cannot blind herself to the fact that, save
for her color, which gives her a sense of superiority, she is
inferior to him. So all
his ambitions to grow into a man of importance are thorns to her and
she thwarts them as best she can.
He tries to pass (an} examination that will admit him to the
Bar and she gloats when he fails. By this time she has lost her
sanity and, little, shallow, good-for-nothing that she is, she
brings the play to a close by shrieking at him the word
“Nigger.” That, to
her mind, sums up her feeling toward him, despite the fact that she
loves him and is grateful.
Robeson and Mary Blair, black and white, as advertised, play the
leading roles. Mr.
Robeson to us was a sad disappointment.
He is an earnest, hard-working amateur and nothing more,
apparently. During the first act he is merely a big awkward boy; in the
second he loses part of his self-consciousness under the
circumstances, and lets himself go and gives a good performance.
Mary Blair is an actress who never proves quite adequate but
is always improving. There
are nice performances by Dora Cole and Lillian Green as the
negro’s sister and mother, an articulate piece of acting by a
negro named Frank Wilson in the second and third scenes, and
competent work by James Martin and Charles Ellis.
Affectation still persists in the productions of Provincetown Players, and O’Neill is hardly free from it himself in this instance.
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