The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







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

By Andrew Ash

. . .. he continues with impressive slowness.
He rises from his chair and gets ready to crush her
with the weight of his eloquence.

--Narrator (dutifully conveying O'Neill's stage direction)
The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill
C. Francis, L. Sharpe, E. Livingston, B. Donaldson, D. Burnam, C. Kalista and Jacquelyn Landgraf
(Photo: Anton Nickeleight)
Anyone who reads the plays of Eugene O'Neill can't help but come across, or rather stumble over, his massive stage directions. They're lengthy, they're painfully thorough, and they often speak volumes about the inner emotional life of the characters onstage. Perhaps this is because O'Neill's plays were made to be read and not performed, which is what he himself claimed. Perhaps it's because he didn't trust actors and directors to "get it right." Whatever the reason, they exist today as little oddities of theatrical history, which most of us will only experience indirectly when we see one of his plays.

With a kind of perverse genius, Christopher Loar decided that it didn't have to be that way. In this production, he's adapted O'Neill's early plays by cutting out everything but the stage directions, which are read in their full, unabridged glory by an onstage narrator. A brave ensemble of actors throws itself at the absurd challenge of bringing them to life. Hilarity ensues.

It's a smart concept, and it works well. Although the primary tone of the show is slapstick, it occasionally veers off in surreal and dark directions that bring it closer to the realm of performance art. This variety is actually welcome as a counterpoint to the cheerful absurdity that surrounds it. It's an entertaining mash-up of O'Neill's gruesome social realism and innocent high camp.

The show does have a few rough edges, most of which are probably due to a fast rehearsal process. Actors occasionally fail to perform a stage direction, and noisy props seem to be perpetually crashing to the floor offstage. These flaws are minor, but they do detract from the performance, which is at its best when it is cleanest and most precise.

Overall, however, Complete and Condensed is a triumphant success. The actors tear into the meat of these stage directions with great relish, and they're clearly enjoying themselves. Connor Kalista is especially good at genuinely trying to achieve the impossible, even from his opening moment: "His hair is turning gray and his face is the face of one who has wandered far, lived hard, seen life in the rough and is a little weary of it all." The specificity of his body language, and his extraordinarily expressive face, are a small, joyful revelation. And there are three minutes, very close to the end, that are incredibly gutsy, and brilliantly comedic. I won't tell you what they are, so you'll have to see it for yourself. Because you should. It's a lot of fun.

The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays
Text by Eugene O'Neill
Adapted and directed by Christopher Loar
with Daniel Burnam, Brendan Donaldson, Cara Francis, Connor Kalista, Jacquelyn Landgraf, Erica Livingston and Lauren Sharpe
Set and Prop Design: Cara Francis
Lighting Design: Christine Cullen
Sound Design: Christopher Loar
Running Time: 1 hours, 35 minutes with no intermission
A production of New York Neo-Futurists
Kraine Theatre, 85 East 4th Street (2nd Av/Bowery) 866-811-4111
Opening September 12, 2011, closing October 1, 2011
Reviewed by Andrew Ash based on a 9/10/11 performance
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays
  • I disagree with the review of The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays
  • The review made me eager to see The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company

width="100" border=0>
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights


©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from