THE THEATRE WE WORKED FOR: The Letters of Eugene O'Neill to Kenneth Macgowan by Jackson R.--Ed. Bryer

THE THEATRE WE WORKED FOR: The Letters of Eugene O'Neill to Kenneth Macgowan

Email this review


Most of the important letters in this collection--which includes all the surviving O'Neill/Macgowan correspondence, plus a few related letters from others--are quoted in the standard O'Neill biographies; so casual students of O'Neill will find little of compelling interest here. Still, those with a special interest in some of the plays or in the history of the Provincetown Playhouse/Experimental Theatre will want to consult these letters, telegrams, etc.--along with the clear, helpful introductory essays by Travis Bogard. The correspondence begins in 1920, with Macgowan merely an admirer. But soon O'Neill, ever eager for a ""caretaker,"" is sending progress reports on Gold, The Hairy Ape (""I was so full of it it just oozed out of every pore""), Welded (""Little subconscious mind, say I each night, bring home the bacon!""). And within a year or so plans are being made for an O'Neill/Macgowan/Robert Edmond Jones triumvirate to take over Greenwich Village's Provincetown Playhouse. The knotty problems that arose in that enterprise often dominate these pages--with the special turmoil involved in Macgowan's settling-in to the then-undefined role of ""producer."" (""And now a Galsworthy second-rater! What the hell are we anyway?"" writes O'Neill angrily.) But comments on plays-in-progress continue zestfully (Marco Millions, Lazarus Laughed), often with details on staging ideas, masks, etc. And only after the triumvirate collapses and O'Neill leaves his wife for Carlotta does the interest level drop drastically: the letters from the '30s and '40s (many from Carlotta) generally deal with material that's more vividly written about elsewhere. A valuable resource for digging scholars, then--but of marginal appeal to a more general audience.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press