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Drama by O'Neill Slated in Sweden

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.


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