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O’Neill’s ‘Hughie’ to Make U.S. Bow

BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, January 25, 1960

Play Will Be Half of Double Bill With ‘Emperor Jones’ – March 15 Premiere

The American premiere of Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie,” the one-act play written in 1941 and published here last spring, will take place on Broadway on March 15.

Theodore Mann, Leigh Connell and José Quintero will present it as part of a twin bill that will include a revival of O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones,” with Mr. Quintero directing both plays. The offering will follow their production of Jean Gent’s “The Balcony,” set to open at the Circle in the Square on Feb. 20.

Myron McCormick, whose last major Broadway role was in “No Time for Sergeants” four years ago, is the leading candidate for the starring role in “Hughie.” The producers also are looking for an actor to play the title role in “The Emperor Jones,” the long and difficult part created in 1920 by Charles Gilpin and later revived by Paul Robeson, to whom it brought stardom.

Same Producing Trio

The twin-bill will bring together on Broadway Messrs. Mann, Connell and Quintero for the first time since they presented O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 1956. Also associated with them again will be David Hayes, and Tharon Musser, who designed the set and lighting for “Long Day’s Journey.”

According to the producers, “Hughie” and “The Emperor Jones” are being done as companion pieces because they are both studies of men who appear cocky and confident in their worlds but who can gradually be seen to crumble as their true selves are revealed.

“Hughie,” like “The Emperor Jones,” is virtually a monologue. Although it is a two-character play, most of the lines fall to Eerie Smith, a small-time gambler down on his luck, who harangues the colorless night clerk of a seedy, West Side hotel. Hughie, himself, is not a character in the play; he is referred to as the recently deceased predecessor of the incumbent night clerk.

Staged in Stockholm

Successfully staged in Stockholm in 1958, “Hughie” was written as part of a series of eight one-act plays, collectively entitled “By Way of Obit.” It was the only one of the series O’Neill completed, and he did not intend it to be given a conventional stage production; a good deal of the play’s writing went into describing the unvoiced thoughts of the night clerk. In discussing the play, O’Neill declined to be specific about what he had in mind, saying only that it would require “tremendous imagination” to put the play on.

“The Emperor Jones,” written in eight scenes, is a monologue on the part of Jones throughout six of them. When it opened at the tiny Provincetown Playhouse in 1920 (having cost just over $500 to put on), it stood critics and audiences on their heads.

Alexander Woollcott, then writing for The New York Times, said that the play “reinforces the impression that for strength and originality” O’Neill “has no rival among the American writers for the stage.”

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