Review: The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays

The Neo-Futurists take the great Eugene O'Neill at his word.

  • Photograph: Mark Barton

    The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays at Kraine Theater

  • Photograph: Mark Barton

    The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays at Kraine Theater

  • Photograph: Mark Barton

    The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays at Kraine Theater

  • Photograph: Mark Barton

    The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays at Kraine Theater

Photograph: Mark Barton

The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays at Kraine Theater

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

To quote Eugene O'Neill, "Lucy is an intelligent, healthy American girl suffering from an overdose of undigested reading, and has mistaken herself for the heroine of a Russian novel." No character says that in any of his plays; that description comes from the stage directions of Now I Ask You, an early melodrama. But, as the impish New York Neo-Futurists demonstrate in their irreverent yet insightful The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays, the Nobel laureate's italicized, parenthetical asides—which actors and directors often ignore and audiences never hear—aren't just elaborate and excessive, they're remarkably rich as well.

And they don't just enhance the drama. They tell a complete story, with the aid of a seven-person ensemble consisting of a reader (Jacquelyn Landgraf) and six performers (Brendan Donaldson, Connor Kalista and Erica Livingston stand out) who boldly enact whatever is called for in the seven plays presented. (The lineup includes such O'Neill rarities as A Wife for a Life, Servitude and Bound East for Cardiff.) How do you physicalize a line like "In the eyes of all three, the light of a dawning madness is shining"? Pupils bulge, faces contort, bodies are prone to sudden fervent outbursts. The production, adapted and directed by Christopher Loar, carries the looseness of improv and the sense that you've stumbled into a stoner convention for scholars. That's an asset and a liability, as antics shift from inspired to groan-inducing. Watching over it all is a picture of a wary-eyed O'Neill. By the time it's over, you'll swear there's a smile forming.

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Kraine Theater. By Eugene O'Neill. Adapted and directed by Christopher Loar. With ensemble cast. 1hr 20 mins. No intermission. See complete event information