BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, May 14, 1962
Dr. Gierow Here for His Royal Dramatic
Discusses Autumn Production of 'More Stately Mansions'
Dr. Karl Ragnar Gierow, managing director of
Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre, arrived in New York yesterday, quietly
aglow over two major enterprises.
An unhistrionic man, Dr. Gierow was modestly
hopeful about Broadway's reception of his troupe's first visit here and
mutedly enthusiastic over the company's impending world première
of an Eugene O'Neill play in Stockholm.
The supreme arbiter of one of Europe's most
distinguished, state-subsidized theatres, Dr. Gierow fled into town to
prepare for tonight's opening at the Cort of a week's repertory
performances of Strindberg and O'Neill. The troupe has just
completed a two-week engagement at the Seattle World Fair.
Dr. Gierow, a poet, a playwright and a Nobel Prize
judge, spoke in somewhat halting but cultivated English about his
theatre's role as "a guardian of the cultural tradition" in Sweden.
He made a graceful reference to the fact that the United States had, in
O'Neill, provided his country with some of its most stimulating stage
productions. And he explained that his troupe now hoped to repay
this debt by performing both "your O'Neill and our Strindberg" before
American audiences in Swedish.
The company will open its engagement here with
Strindberg's "The Father," follow with O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey
Into Night," and give Strindberg's "Miss Julie" on Wednesday, after
which all three plays will be repeated.
Premiere in November
Dr. Gierow is a slender, hollow-cheeked man of 57
with unruly eyebrows, dark hair tinged with gray and a tracery of
wrinkles under pale, blue eyes. He chain-smoked several pungent
small cigars and gestured with restrained eloquence as he described his
recent labors, both anguished and exultant, over the final, unpublished
O'Neill manuscript, "More Stately Mansions."
He said that the play was now ready for production
in Stockholm, that Stig Torsslow, a prominent Swedish director, had been
chosen to stage it and that Inga Tidblad had just been cast for one of
the leading roles. The play will open in November after ten weeks
Having come across the long, unedited script in
Yale University's O'Neill Collection five years ago, Dr. Gierow was
granted permission by the dramatist's widow, Carlotta Monterey O'Neill,
to try to cut it down according to O'Neill's own detailed notes to
himself. If produced as O'Neill left it, it would have taken ten
hours to perform.
The four-act tragedy, one in a series of O'Neill's
unfinished eleven-play cycle entitled "A Tale of Possessors
Self-Dispossessed," follows chronologically "A Touch of the Poet," the
only cycle play O'Neill completed to his satisfaction. He
destroyed drafts or scenarios of the other nine before his death in
In Dr. Gierow's opinion, "More Stately Mansions,"
set near Boston between 1837 and 1846, was recognizably one of O'Neill's
masterpieces "even in its unedited state."
"I have managed, after working on it for more than
three years, to cut it down to about four and a half hours of playing
time," Dr. Gierow said.
Dr. Gierow said he had approached his job with
apprehensiveness and was many times on the point of abandoning it.
"I did not want to add or change a single word of
O'Neill's, and I have not done so," he said. "When a scene was
obviously in need or rewriting, I had the terrible decision to make of
whether to keep it in the play in its rough state or cut it altogether.
"But even with its unevenness, it is a play of
tremendous power -- even better than 'A Touch of the Poet.' " (Dr.
Gierow feels that "A Touch of the Poet" was, in a way, a digression from
the cycle's central theme of the soul-corrupting pursuit of
The three central characters of "More Stately
Mansions" are Deborah Harford, her son, Simon, and Sara Melody, whom
Simon marries. "The three of them destroy each other," Dr. Gierow
said, "in a characteristically O'Neillian love-hate struggle."
Dr. Gierow expressed his hope that this country
might one day have a state-subsidized theatre. "Such a theatre,"
he said, "can experiment with plays we know will not succeed
commercially. Without such theatres we probably would not have
Chekhov, Ibsen or Strindberg."
Smilingly, he went on: "Another function of such a
theatre is to take care of O'Neill when he is in danger of being
It was the Royal Dramatic Theatre that presented
the world première of O'Neill's
"Long Day's Journey Into Night" in 1956, when the dramatist's reputation
was at a low ebb in his own country. O'Neill has long been a
staple of the Swedish theatre's repertory.