Helen Hayes Theatre, (12/28/1977 - 4/30/1978)

First Preview: Dec 26, 1977
Opening Date: Dec 28, 1977
Closing Date: Apr 30, 1978
Total Previews: 8
Total Performances: 141

Category: Play, Drama, Revival, Broadway
Description: A play in four acts
Setting: The dining room of Melody's Tavern, in a village a few miles from Boston. July 27, 1828.

Opening Night Production Staff

The Helen Hayes Theatre is operated by The Regency Organization, Ltd. (Irwin Meyer; Stephen R. Friedman; Lester Osterman)

Produced by Elliot Martin; Produced by arrangement with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Written by Eugene O'Neill

Directed by José Quintero

Scenic Design by Ben Edwards; Costume Design by Jane Greenwood; Lighting Design by Ben Edwards

General Manager: Leonard A. Mulhern; Company Manager: Malcolm Allen

Production Stage Manager: Mitch Erickson; Stage Manager: John Handy

General Press Representative: Seymour Krawitz; Casting Consultant: Marjorie Martin; Press Representative: Louise Weiner Ment and Patricia McLean Krawitz; Advertising: Matthew Serino & Associates

Opening Night Cast

Geraldine FitzgeraldNora Melody
Milo O'SheaJamie Cregan
Jason RobardsCornelius Melody
Betty MillerDeborah
Mrs. Henry Harford
Kathryn WalkerSara Melody
George EdeNicholas Gadsby
Walter FlanaganDan Roche
Richard HamiltonPatch Riley
Dermot McNamaraPaddy O'Dowd
Barry SniderMickey Maloy

Standby: Walter Flanagan (Jamie Cregan), John Handy (Paddy O'Dowd), Louisa Horton (Deborah, Nora Melody), Linda Martin (Sara Melody), Dermot McNamara (Mickey Maloy), Milo O'Shea (Cornelius Melody) and Wally Peterson (Dan Roche, Nicholas Gadsby, Patch Riley)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 1978 Best Actor in Play [nominee] 

Jason Robards

 1978 Most Innovative Production of a Revival [nominee] 

Produced by Elliot Martin


New York Daily News: "Superb 'Touch of the Poet'"

Magnificence, always in short supply, returned to the theater Wednesday with a splendid revival of O'Neill's "A Touch of the Poet." This only remaining finished work in the author's contemplated cycle dealing in disenchanted terms with America's history does not provide quite the occasion the return of "A Moon for the Misbegotten" did a few seasons ago. It is a lesser work. But it is grand enough, and fascinating, and the same combination of Jason Robards in a leading role and Jose Quintero as director has once again exercised its magic.

If the play achieves magnificence mainly through its central character, Robards manages to maintain that magnificence throughout. He is simply towering as the perplexed, vain New England tavern keeper Cornelius (Con) Melody suppressing the deep memories of a mean Irish childhood by dwelling on his one period of glory as a brave major under Wellington in Spain. Playing the dandy while ignoring the drudgery of his wife and daughter trying to make ends meet in this backwater establishment, Robards fully realizes the mixture of hatefulness and sympathy in this man.

And though the transformation of the "gentleman" into the "mick" that finally promises peace for him seems abrupt and too good to last as written, Robards makes us believe in it. It is the most interesting performance of his career.

He is surrounded by superior players. Geraldine Fitzgerald is superb as Con's wife Nora, devoted to the man whatever image he may assume. And Kathryn Walker is lovely in a beautifully controlled performance, its every detail carefully considered, of the daughter Sara, who will wed the ailing young Yankee heir, Simon Harford, upstairs and unseen, and, in O'Neill's original scheme, go on to establish an American dynasty. The women's remarkable scene together, each talking to herself but finally communicating with the other, is wonderfully handled.

Milo O'Shea is first-rate as Jamie Cregan, Melody's onetime corporal and now his willing and not entirely selfish companion in daydreaming and drinking. Unlike the ragged group of other local Irish freeloaders, a contemptuous lot who humor Melody only to cadge drinks, Cregan is a man of goodwill. Betty Miller is amusing as the lofty, slightly dizzy woman of airs, mother of Simon, with whom Melody makes a fool of himself, and George Ede makes a convincing figure of the Harford attorney who comes to buy off Melody and his daughter.

Quintero has again staged O'Neill with heart and soul, handling it like quicksilver, but never uncertainly. The touch of the poet is as evident in his staging as it is in the would-be literary man Simon, recuperating upstairs, or in Melody and his fondness for spouting Byron as he preens himself in the pier glass.

Ben Edwards has again (he also designed the triumphant "Misbegotten") caught the exact mood with his dreary, spacious, functional dining room of crude wooden chairs and tables, a fireplace at one end and the entrance to the bar at the other, the whole hauntingly lit. The accurate costumes - which include, of course, Melody's splendid, gold-embroidered scarlet tunic and white breeches - are Jane Greenwood's designs.

While "A Touch of the Poet" falls short of O'Neill's greatest work, it is nevertheless a remarkable creation with a tremendously complex and engrossing leading character, and one always senses the unfinished grand design beyond it. There is also an unusual understanding of the complex forces at work in all its leading characters, and a commendable ease in the dialogue. It makes most of our other native theater, both on and off Broadway, appear mean and shabby by comparison.

New York Daily News

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