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January Revival for ‘Hairy Ape’

BY Arthur Gelb
FROM The New York Times, May 9, 1960

Play Due Off Broadway – Yale Publishes O’Neill’s Inscriptions to His Wife

Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape” will be revived off Broadway next January by Paul Shyre and Sara Arlen. One of O’Neill’s early successes—it followed within two years “The Emperor Jones” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Anna Christie”—the play has not been seen professionally in New York since its original production in 1922,

Produced in March of that year by the Provincetown Players in Greenwich Village, with Louis Wolheim portraying the title role, it was moved uptown the next month to the Plymouth Theatre, where it had a substantial run (for those days) of two and a half months. A film version of the play, starring William Bendix, was released in 1944.

Mr. Shyre, who will direct as well as co-produce, will begin his search for an actor to play the long, taxing role of Yank, the fierce and ugly coal stoker, when he returns from a two-month European trip on July 15. He will leave Wednesday to consult with Sean O’Casey at Devon, England. Mr. Shyre’s production of “The Hairy Ape” will follow his adaptation of Mr. O’Casey’s autobiographical segment, “Drums Under the Windows.”

“I intend to do ‘The Hairy Ape’ as O’Neill originally conceived the production, using his own notes as a guide,” said Mr. Shyre yesterday. “O’Neill is one of the few authors whose staging instructions must always be trusted and carried out by actors and directors, because his theatre sense was infallible.”

Mr. Shyre signed a contract with Mrs. Carlotta Monterey O‘Neill on Saturday, at which time she recalled that it was during rehearsals for the Broadway run of “The Hairy Ape” that she first met her husband. She had replaced, for the uptown transfer of the play, the actress who had created the role of Mildred Douglas, the haughty young society woman who faints at her first sight of Yank.

Miss Monterey and O’Neill, who disliked each other on sight, exchanged only the briefest formalities at that time, and they did not meet again until four years later, when each took a closer, and rather more favorable, look. After their marriage, O’Neill was fond of teasing his wife, when he fancied she was putting on airs, by calling her “Mildew Douglas”

Sense of Apartness

Before they were married, O’Neill presented Miss Monterey with a published copy of “The Hairy Ape,” inscribing it with a fragment of Yank’s final speech, expressing his (and O’Neill’s) sense of apartness and unbelonging.

This inscription, together with several dozen others covering the twenty-four years of their marriage, has just been published as a book, it was disclosed yesterday by the Yale University Library. Conceived as a collector’s item, the handsome volume, of which only 500 copies were printed, soon will be privately distributed by the library, which houses the O’Neill collection. The title is “Inscriptions: Eugene O’Neill to Carlotta Monterey O’Neill.”

The book also contains reproductions of O’Neill’s original, handwritten inscriptions to his wife, excerpts from love letters and several photographs. It was designed by Alvin Eisenman and George S. Chappell 3d of Yale and edited by Donald Gallup, curator of Yale’s Collection of American Literature.

“Inscriptions”  ends with O’Neill’s handwritten dedication, dated July 22, 1952, in the published text of “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” It reads, in part:

“To darling Carlotta, my wife, who for twenty-three years has endured with love and understanding my rotten nerves, my lack of stability, my cussedness in general.”

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