LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
1. DOING HUGHIE. From Harold Easton, Studio Theatre Productions, P.O. Box 519, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10003, December 8, 1984.
It was with great pleasure that I read your review of the Provincetown Playhouse production of Hughie. [See pp. 37-39 of the Summer-Fall 1984 issue. -Ed.] The failure of productions to follow O'Neill's direction for a silent but participating clerk is too common. The clerk is a responsive character, even though those responses are initially within himself.
A thought on the inner dialogue of the character. While it is a shame that we cannot hear the clerk's beautifully written thoughts, it was our opinion that one could certainly sense them with proper production concept and direction. The clerk is of the mind; Erie is of the spoken word. Productions which interrupt Erie's words by speaking the clerk's thoughts are in error; those that fail to include the sense of them are also in error. This would suggest that perhaps the section of your review beginning "Unless we hear..." might have the word hear replaced by the word sense, or the word understand, for the clerk to be more to the production than just a "blank." Can this non-verbal concept actually be executed and tested? In a word, YES, and without, as we learned in our Edinburgh performances, the use of projections. [For Vera Jiji's review of a New York performance of the STP production of Hughie, see the Spring 1982 issue, pp. 48-49. -Ed.] As usual, O'Neill knew that what he wrote could be played, even if, in the case of Hughie, he implied that he didn't know how.
Noting your comments on audience laughter: in our performances, about 50 in number between New York and Edinburgh, the audience did not laugh at the clerk's "impassioned outburst"--and they should not. Once the audience understands the lonely terror of the clerk, the potential comedy of each"...forced...response..." gives way to a quieter reaction by the audience, matched only by their similarly changing response to Erie as he reveals through his words his own lonely terror. This change in laughter, so linked to the clerk's and Erie's character portrayals, became our gauge of performance success or failure.
By the time these two characters come together, the audience should emotionally want them to communicate and become as one. If not, then they have not been properly shown both of the characters' needs. If not, then their sudden coming together grows out of the earlier comedic aspects of the play and cannot help but evoke out-of-place laughter. Our observations noted early a response of laughter; then, uncomfortable laughter or concerned silence; and finally, when the two characters had come together, a silent but emotional response before they began to enjoy the newly formed relationship. This gave us a clear indication that we had succeeded.
Some day, rights and money in place, we hope to remount our production. I hope that you can come this time. Hughie does work; it can be done with O'Neill's concepts intact. And, as you say, the key is presenting to the audience all three characters.
[Mr. Easton played the clerk in the STP production, which I do still hope to see. -Ed.]
2. O'NEILL IN DUBLIN, PAST AND PRESENT. From Micheal O hAodha, Member of the Board of Directors, Abbey Theatre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland, December 26, 1984.
I would like to tell you of my continuing interest in the Eugene O'Neill Newsletter.
Allow me to add one production to my friend John Finnegan's list of O'Neill productions in Dublin. [See Summer-Fall 1984 issue, p. 15. -Ed.] I attended a production of The Great God Brown by the New Theatre Group in an improvised theatre in Rutland Place, Dublin, in the late thirties. The New Theatre Group were an amateur group, with left-wing policies, who often staged interesting plays under often terrible conditions.
The main news is that the Abbey Theatre will revive Long Day's Journey Into Night in February, with Siobhan McKenna as Mary Tyrone and Godfrey Quigley as James. I hope this is the beginning of a new interest in O'Neill in Ireland. Certainly, the Abbey will do its utmost to mark the centenary in an appropriate manner.
[The Abbey revival of Long Day's Journey opened on February 14. Newsletter vets will recall Mr. O hAodha's article, "O'Neill and the Anatomy of the Stage Irishman," that appeared in the second issue of Volume I, September 1977, pp. 13-14.]
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