Gene by Monty Brown


This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


Five actors- three men, two women - play all the parts.

GENE (Eugene O'Neill) the playwright aged 60-65. He is often sickly,
so appears to be older. The same actor also plays his own father,
James O'Neill, a famously successful actor. The scenes featuring the
father, wheelchair bound, are Gene's memories, and parallel his
autobiographical play, "Long Day's Journey into Night."

JAMIE (James O'Neill, Jr.) Gene's brother, aged 40. This character
appears in flashback and in rehearsal for "A Moon For the
Misbegotten" as the actor playing Jamie. In Act 2 the same actor
plays Eugene O'Neill, JUNIOR, who is Gene's elder son.

YOUNG GENE, aged 30. This is ACTOR, a narrator and utility player who
appears in a variety of roles - Gene in flashback, in prologue, and
in auditions and rehearsal for "Moon." In Act 2 he plays Gene's
son SHANE, Junior's half-brother.

CARLOTTA, Gene's wife, same age as her husband. They have a
complicated relationship, sometimes bitterly confrontational. The same
actress plays ELLA, Gene's mother in the flashbacks.

MARY WELCH, an actress in her mid-20's. She tells the story of her
role in "A Moon For the Misbegotten," the last of O'Neill's
plays premiered in his lifetime. Her pivotal role shines a light on
Gene's relationships with his wife and children. The real Mary Welch
died during childbirth in the late '50's.

The five actors could be the cast of "Long Day's Journey,"
though Mary's role would be very small: a maid. Eugene Jr. could be
differentiated by sporting a VanDyke beard. Young Gene could have a
sailor's cap. The Old Man has a wheelchair. It's important that
different characters be clear. This is a "theatrical biography"
and should be played larger than life. As one of my directors most
memorably put it: "Make sure they can hear you in the back row!"


[An ACTOR, slender, handsome, thirty-ish, wearing a sailor's cap,
takes stage center and addresses the audience, sets the scene. The
stage is set for Monte Cristo Cottage with JAMIE &ELLA in their

ACTOR: The play was called "Long Day's Journey into Night." Set
in the year 1912. Five characters, and four of them were family
members: myself, my elder brother Jamie, my father, also James, and my
mother, Ella. The fifth character is Cathleen, whom I described as a
buxom Irish peasant. She's known as the "second girl." The
"first girl" would be the cook, though we never see her. [Beat]
We'll get Mary to play the "second girl," [turns to side and
raises his voice] if that's alright, Mary?

MARY: [bustles in, affecting a caricature Irish maid] What's that

ACTOR: I was telling them about Cathleen. No point in hiring an
additional actress just for that part, really.

MARY: No point, sir. No point at all.

ACTOR: So, you wouldn't mind. . .

MARY: I'm already onto it. [pause] Would you like a drop of whiskey,

ACTOR: Go on with you. Go and do the scene.

[She scuttles back stage. The ACTOR turns back to the audience and
indicates the scene. Sounds fade in and out during this prologue:
seagulls, foghorn. The Irish tenor John MacCormack singing "When
Irish Eyes Are Smiling" on a Victrola. When it ends there is the
sound of the needle on the record as the turntable revolves.]

ACTOR: The living room of my father's house in New London,
Connecticut. It was called 'Monte Cristo Cottage' because he felt
"The Count of Monte Cristo" was his triumph. At the same time he
acknowledged it was his failure. He wished with all his being that he
could have named it "Othello Cottage," or even "Coriolanus
Cottage," something wholly substantial. Not Monte Cristo, which was,
after all, a second-rate melodrama, and he, a rather bombastic ham.
But it paid him well - didn't it By God? - and he was able to
live prosperously and securely, knowing he would never again need to
face the stench of the poorhouse. [pause] It's the summer of 1920.
I'm having a little success with a play called "Beyond the
Horizon." My brother and my mother, I'm very happy to say, have
grown ever closer since my father's health problems began.

Act I Scene 1

[JAMIE gets up &crosses to the Victrola. He begins to wind it up.]

ELLA: Don't wind it up again, Jamie. Let's just talk a bit.
JAMIE: Alright, Mother. [He carefully removes the needle from the
and places it in its saddle. Then he stands for a moment, listening.]

ELLA: It's a beautiful enough evening without the phonograph.
[Pause]. People don't talk any more since they invented those

JAMIE: Give us a tune on the piano. Perhaps we could gather round and
sing "Ireland Must Be Heaven for My Mother Came from There."

ELLA: Is that a real song?

JAMIE: Would I invent such a thing?

ELLA: You're capable of it.

JAMIE: I didn't know you had such faith in me.

ELLA: It's not faith, love.

JAMIE: No? What is it then, if not a recognition of my creativity?

ELLA: It's a recognition of your mischievousness. I know you.

JAMIE &ELLA: [In unison] As only a mother can.

O'NEILL: [Off. Loud grumble] What does a person have to do to get a
drink around here?

ELLA: Uh-oh. Your father's on the prowl.

JAMIE: [yelling] Come and pour it yourself you old codger.

ELLA: Jamie!

JAMIE: He doesn't want pity, mother.

O'NEILL: [off] I don't want your pity. [JAMIE rolls his eyes.] I
hope you haven't been watering down my good whisky, Jamie. [Enter
James O'Neill, the famous Actor, in a wheelchair. He's more of a
presence than an actual character. Larger than life, he emotes
whenever possible but he is semi covered by a blanket and some
headgear, possibly some vintage French revolution hat. He is wheeled
in by Cathleen as he makes his way towards his spot. She gets him
comfortable while the Actor explains]

ACTOR: My father had perfect health, never sick a day in his 65 years,
until a few weeks ago when he was hit by a car. Fittingly, it happened
on Broadway. It didn't finish him off, but subsequently he's been
diagnosed with cancer and he's now playing the role of invalid. The
Invalid of Monte Cristo, we call him.

O'NEILL: Your mother is asking for a little conversation, Jamie. Is
that so difficult to provide?

JAMIE: For us? The O'Neills? Och, nay, we were born with the gift of
the gab. Have we not kissed the Blarney Stone? [Beat ] Are we not
having a little conversation?

O'NEILL: Somebody's been watering this stuff down. This is a
quality libation; imported from Canada, and somebody has been watering
it down, I won't say who.

JAMIE: Then I will. It's likely your old acting buddy, Edwin Booth.
I hear he's moved in next door.

O'NEILL: [Almost thundering] Booth? Why he's been dead these 20
years. [Realizing] 30 years!

JAMIE: Perhaps his ghost returned to haunt you.

O'NEILL: What a lot of blether.

JAMIE: Didn't he play Hamlet's Ghost opposite your Horatio in

O'NEILL: It wasn't Cleveland.

JAMIE: Yes, it was Cleveland.

O'NEILL: I meant it was not "Hamlet."

JAMIE: You didn't play Hamlet in Cleveland?

O'NEILL: [frustrated] I never played Hamlet. With or without Booth.
It was "Othello."

JAMIE: In Cleveland?

ELLA: Jamie, lay off your father. You're sounding like a drunk.

JAMIE: I am a drunk, Mama.

ELLA: You're not anymore.

JAMIE: Once a drunk, always a drunk.

ELLA: You've given up the drink and I'm proud of you, love.
I know it wasn't easy.

O'NEILL: [his mind is leading him on a ramble] Booth could drink,
though. By God he could. But it didn't affect his acting. Not a
smidgen. He came on stage one evening - he was about to do "Lear"
- and he said - and I'll give it to him: he did the best "Lear"
of his generation -

JAMIE: I thought you said you did the best "Lear" -

O'NEILL: I did not. I said that he said - I didn't do "King
Lear" damn you. It was "Othello."

JAMIE: In Cleveland.

O'NEILL: In Cleveland. In Chicago. In Cincinnati - wherever we did it.

ELLA: You were telling us about Booth, James.

ACTOR: [Stepping out.] That's the way it was in our house. And this
was mild. We've mellowed in our old age. After Jamie quit drinking,
Momma got off heroin, Papa took to his deathbed. [pause] So far he's
only taken to his wheelchair, but that's a terrible blow to his
manhood. He was born in Ireland, my father, and the potato famine
drove his family to America. He never lost his fear of the poorhouse.
Never. [snaps to it] I'd better make my entrance before the
situation gets out of control.

ELLA: Eugene? Is that you? [as the young Gene enters]

ACTOR: It's me Mama, how is everyone? [he hugs Ella and acknowledges
his brother and father] Papa. Jamie. How are you Papa?

O'NEILL: How do I look, dammit? I'm weak and old and stupid. I
hate this damn wheelchair. I've never been sick a day in my life and
suddenly I'm a damn invalid. I hate doctors - they won't tell
you the truth. Don't get old and sick. That's all I can tell you.

ACTOR: You were telling us something about Edwin Booth, I think.

O'NEILL: Oh, you heard me [he seems pleased] It was an honor to work
with Booth. He came to the company in Chicago and played "Othello"
with us, alternating the roles of Othello and Iago with me. [he beams
with the memory] What a privilege for me, a young actor, to play
opposite Booth.

ELLA: You need not be modest, James. You held your own with Booth in
"Julius Caesar" too. [Aside] Oh, your father was so dashing in those days.

O'NEILL: [on his own cloud] He said, Booth, I mean, he told our
stage manager, "That young man is playing Othello better than I ever
could." That is word for word, he said [JAMIE joins in with his
father who doesn't seem to notice the amplification of his phrase]
"That young man is playing Othello better than I ever could."

JAMIE: What about Iago? Wasn't it Iago?

ACTOR: Shut up, Jamie. I want to hear the story about Booth. You said,
"He came on stage one evening. . ."

O'NEILL: I said that?

ACTOR: You were telling about Booth -

JAMIE: - and his drinking. I can tell you the story.

O'NEILL: You don't know the story. You weren't there, damn you.
Booth - [stops, tries to remember]

ACTOR: Came on stage one evening -

O"NEILL: Came on stage . . . [sulking] Alright, you tell the damn story.

JAMIE: . . . looks at the audience, says, "I'm drunk. But if
you'll bear with me, I'll give you the best Lear you've ever
seen." [beat] Where was that? Chicago? Cincinnati?

ELLA: Jamie, will you stop harassing your father. He's feeling

O'NEILL: [voice fading] I can take care of myself, Ella. I still
have my wits, even if I am a bloody invalid. I've wit enough to take
care of this idiot [pronounced eejut].

ACTOR: [talking to the audience as the scene fades] 1920. Quite a year
for me. My first hit "Beyond the Horizon" opened on Broadway in
February. The play won the Pulitzer Prize in June. My father died in
August. In November, my play "The Emperor Jones" opened at the
Provincetown Playhouse in the Village: a Negro, Charles Gilpin, in the
leading role. That was revolutionary.

[Mary Welch enters and Actor makes a sweeping gesture] Just whenever
you're ready Mary.

Scene 2.

[Mary Welch stands under a New York lamp post. She wears a belted
raincoat and beret, giving her a theatrical-bohemian look. She
brandishes a newspaper and addresses the audience]

MARY: It was Spring of '46, and this is what I read: "The Theater
Guild is desperately searching for a tall Irish girl to play the lead
in Eugene O'Neill's new play, 'A Moon for the Misbegotten.'
[pause while it sinks in] Eugene O'Neill! My hero, my muse, my
theatrical inspiration. Playing "Anna Christie" in a student
production, made me fall in love with the theater. I was inspired to
leave South Carolina, and come to New York. [She savors the sound]
"Eugene O'Neill's new play." It must be a decade since a new
play by O'Neill had been produced. Where had he been all this time?
He was like Ibsen, Strindberg and George Bernard Shaw, a theatrical
giant - and still alive! And having a new play produced, and,
"desperately looking for a tall Irish girl." [beat] Though I'm
not exactly tall. But I am Irish, dammit, and I only want to meet him.
Just meet him. [smiles] Well, I wouldn't mind getting the part. I
had a couple of lead roles under my belt, so I was feeling full of
myself. Next morning - there I was, at the Theater Guild, on Broadway
no less, applying for the gig. [The Actor re-enters, consults notes]

ACTOR: Are you Irish? Your name . . ."

MARY: Mary? Think Maura, Moira, Maureen, how much more . . .

ACTOR: I meant "Welch."

MARY: "Welch is Irish," says I.

ACTOR: She's got the malarkey, but she's too small for this part.

MARY: "Small?" says I, with just a hint of belligerence.

ACTOR: We're looking for a huge girl; at least another fifty pounds.

MARY: "So that's the way we're casting now," says I. "By the
pound, is it? [beat] Well I can gain weight."
"But you can't gain height," says he.
"Surely we can fake it," says I. "Theater is illusion."
"Come in next week." Says this one, and I yelped for joy.

ACTOR: Don't get your hopes up. You're not the giantess he's
looking for.

[During the next part of the monologue, she changes into something
green, which is padded to make her look chunkier. Then she rearranges
her heels and hair/beret]

MARY: I had everything going for me except height, so - [thinks,
brightens] I had a week to grow. You can't imagine what I went
through those next few days. I read everything by and about O'Neill
I could get my hands on. I dreamed the interview several times a day,
witnessing my curtain calls and reading the glowing reviews. I ate
like a sow that week - potatoes mostly, lots of potatoes - and gained
four pounds [stuffs in a little extra padding] I also gave Mother
Nature a little help. Then - at the appointed time, I waited for
hours, stuffed into a roomful of Amazons, until my name was finally
called, and I was ushered in to the great man's presence. He was
with one of the producers from the Theater Guild whose name I promptly

Scene 3.

[An office at the Theater Guild, New York. Mary, Gene &the Actor.]

ACTOR: [consulting his notes] This will be Miss Welch; Mary Welch.

GENE: Are you Irish, Miss Welch?

MARY: But of course, Mr. O'Neill.

GENE: With that pug nose?

MARY: Is there an Irish nose?

GENE: God knows. But your name is Welch.

MARY: And Welch is Irish.

GENE: Is it now?

MARY: Well, Gaelic, surely.[beat] My mother's maiden name was Irish.

GENE: And what was that?

MARY: Boyle. She was Brigid Boyle.

GENE: Not "O'Boyle"?

MARY: O no. No O.

GENE: I see you've done "Oedipus the King." Sophocles?

MARY: Yes. I noticed you have the Greek influence in some plays;
"Mourning Becomes Electra". . .

GENE: Yes, the form is based on the Aeschylus trilogy. It's the only
surviving trilogy in Greek drama, though my son tells me there were
many more, destroyed by time.

MARY: Your son?

GENE: Eugene O'Neill, Junior. He's the Classics expert. [proudly]
He writes books and articles. Teaches at Yale.

MARY: Greek Mythology?

GENE: And Greek theater. [consulting her resume] You played the Queen.

MARY: Yes, I love Greek tragedy.

GENE: Why?

MARY: It's so - over the top!

GENE: Good, keep the Queen in mind when you read for Josie. A feeling
for the Greeks is a definite plus.

MARY: [Happily stunned] You want me to read?

GENE: [confiding] I want as many people as possible connected with my
play to be Irish. The mystic quality of the three main characters, the
dry wit, the mercurial changes of mood - definitely Irish.

ACTOR: Gene. We've got to move along.

GENE: [ignoring Actor] What part of Ireland do your people hail from?

MARY: My people? County Louth. A little place called Carlingford.

GENE: On Carlingford Lough. [pron: lock]

MARY: Grandmother lived with us when I was a wee doll. She was a grand
Irish cook.

GENE: Praties.

MARY: Oh, aye, pots of praties. And cabbage and pungent yeasty breads.

GENE: Stews.

MARY: Stews. [beat] Tho' she warned me about stew. Said she liked to
know what she was eating and a stew was "a dish of mystery."

GENE: "A dish of mystery." Now that's Irish.[beat] I see you've been in one
of my plays.

MARY: "Anna Christie."

GENE: Not one of my favorites.

MARY: Really? I loved it. [Anticipating] And I'll tell you why:
"Anna" got me started in the theater. I've been a fan of yours
ever since. [beat] What don't you like about it?

GENE: The last act, mostly. It's too neat and tidy.

MARY: But it gives her a little hope.

GENE: Yes. There is no hope.

MARY: [ignoring the negative tone] Now, Anna is a large girl, and
she's the major female role in the play. She's a lot in common
with Josie.

[End of Extract]


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