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When Welded premiered on St. Patrick's Day 1924, the critics raved: "[A] dull, uneventful and garrulous play." Percy Hammond, New York Tribune; "Mr. O'Neill is putting the undoubted ability of which he is possessed to strange and unprofitable uses." J. Ranken Towse, New York Evening Post; "The fact that Eugene O'Neill could write a play as dull as 'Welded' is very comforting to those of us who occasionally wax dull ourselves." Robert C. Benchley, Life; "All one gets in O'Neill's play is prodigious and deafening pounding." George Jean Nathan, The American Mercury.
A 1981 revival of Welded provoked this critique from Mel Gussow of The New York Times: "[An] unwarranted exhumation of Eugene O'Neill's 1924 'Welded' at the Horace Mann Theater at Columbia University succeeds in proving that this is one of O'Neill's most dreadful plays." He added that under the "heavy-handed direction, the actors deliver their lines in dead earnest, which occasionally provokes unintentional laughter from the audience."
Meet the married couple Michael and Eleanor Cape. He's a successful playwright and she's a successful actress who stars in many of her husband's plays. They love each other passionately, but both have strong egos and hair-trigger tempers. Michael and Eleanor argue a lot, apparently over trivial matters.
Ah, but there is more! Michael and Eleanor have a lot to live up to. They have vowed to live their lives together according to a "Grand Ideal." As Michael proclaims: "Not for us the ordinary family rite, you'll remember! We swore to have a true sacrament - or nothing! Our marriage must be a consummation demanding and combining the best in us! Hard, difficult, guarded from the commonplace, kept sacred as the outward form of our inner harmony!"
Wow. That's quite a standard for a marriage! Unfortunately, being mere mortals, Michael and Eleanor sometimes fall short. After a particularly heated argument one night, Eleanor goes to visit her ex-boyfriend (who happens to be producing Michael's plays) for a tryst, while Michael gets drunk and procures the services of a prostitute. But, because Eleanor and Michael realize they love each other so much, neither can go through with their nefarious plans for the night.
When each of them returns home, they find themselves once again passionately attracted to each other - yes, "Welded." This is illustrated by Michael's joyous exclamation: "And, we'll torture and tear, and clutch for each other's souls! [F]ight - fail and hate again . . . but! - fail with pride - with joy!"
Is Welded really all that bad? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and since this is an O'Neill play, there is always something compelling to be found. Indeed, not all critics disliked Welded. Walter Winchell declared the play "heartwarming" (just kidding).
In any event, who cares what the critics say? Does it really matter that O'Neill himself said that Welded was one of four plays he wished he had destroyed? What does matter is what you say! Let's discuss the ins and outs of Welded on Thursday, May 20th at 7:00 EDT. Who knows what we may discover?
Please join us for what is sure to be a lively discussion of Welded. I, for one, can't wait!
Text of the play is here: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400101h.html