Perhaps most surprising is the general clarity -- and hopelessness, presented here with humor -- that remains even in drastically abridged versions of O'Neill. The seven plays range from 1913 to 1917, covering everything from what appears to be a low-class gangster drama ("The Web") to the last shreds of humanity found on a shark-surrounded lifeboat ("Thirst") and the secret affairs of the upper-class ("Servitude"). These changes of pace are much appreciated, since the majority of the show is presented in Our Town minimalism, with the performance space blocked off in white tape so as to leave the wings (and idle actors) onstage, their entrances now as much a part of the show as in, say, those from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. And yet, it's the uniform nature of the show, of the wardrobe -- grays, browns, suspenders -- that allows the uniquely flawed, peccably perfect language to stand out. Consider the half-whisper -- "Whis...," calls one actor -- or a "sigh . . . that is kind of like a moan." If there's an imbalance, it is a slight one, noticed only occasionally in the difference between the way a veteran Neo-Futurist like Cara Francis or Erica Livingston "throws herself into a chair" and the way Danny Burnam, Brendan Donaldson, and Connor Kalista do. [Update: As noted in the comments below, Kalista is actually one of the more senior Neo-Futurists; the error is mine, although I maintain that there's a difference in abandon between the men and women of this cast, one that in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the show.]
The text may be Eugene O'Neill's, but Christopher Loar has boldly liberated these "directions," like so much found art: chiseled out of one era and cast anew. And while the final five minutes are particularly clever, in the way in which they elevates both a simple stage effect and an absurd punchline, you could just as easily say that of any part of the show -- the chaos of an accordion in "Bound East for Cardiff" or the triplicate effect Loar uses to echo the very basic elements of "Before Breakfast." So with that in mind, here are your stage directions: take the F train to Second Avenue, walk to Fourth Street, and check out The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill.