Bitter, haunted, meticulous, courageous, inscrutable, contrarian.
These words were used by cast members of Eugene O'Neill's early one-act plays when asked by Eugene O'Neill Foundation board member Teresa Morley to sum up their characters in a single word and explain how that word informs their performances.
The foundation is presenting the playwright's three "Lost Plays" starting next week at 5 p.m. on three Saturdays. "The Web" opens Oct 3; "Recklessness," Oct. 10; and "Abortion," Oct. 17.
They will debut online at www.eugeneoneill.org, then also be available on the O'Neill Foundation YouTube Channel, after being filmed in the Old Barn theater at Tao House in Danville.
"I have not found Zoom theater offerings particularly compelling so I looked for and found another approach," artistic director Eric Fraisher Hayes said.
He edited the scripts so actors would not have to come into contact with each other, and put together an ensemble of nine actors to cover all the roles. They met three times to discuss the script, as well as costuming, and run through the play. Shooting took place the third meeting, when the action was captured from various points of focus.
Hayes noted that approaching the plays in this manner did not impede the spirit of what O'Neill wrote.
"Web" finds a woman trapped in a brutal relationship with her "boyfriend," who forces her into streetwalking in order to support his drug habit. "Recklessness" concerns a wife trapped in a loveless marriage and looking to escape with the family chauffeur. In "Abortion," O'Neill explores the dire decisions at the intersection of social class and women's reproductive rights.
"O'Neill may have been writing these plays more than 100 years ago, but he chose challenging subjects that our society is still struggling with," Hayes said.
The cast includes Emily Keyishian, Ryan Hayes, Kyle Goldman, Cynthia Lagodzinski, John Tessmer, Will Long, John Hale, Charles Woodson Parker and Bonnie Dechant. Videos of the actors explaining how they connected to their characters can be found at www.eugeneoneill.org.
No tickets are necessary but viewers are asked to donate to the Eugene O'Neill Foundation to support production costs as well as work to enliven the playwright's legacy.