The Tao House Plays
At Tao House, Eugene O'Neill finally wrote the plays he had been germinating for years, tapping painful memories and working them into compelling theatre. It meant reopening old wounds. Carlotta Monterey O'Neill remembered her husband emerging from his study red-eyed and gaunt after working on Long Day's Journey Into Night. His remark that "There are moments [in The Iceman Cometh]...that suddenly strip the secret soul of a man naked..." reflected his own need to forgive and ask forgiveness. The five plays that O'Neill wrote at Tao House include the life studies generally regarded as his finest achievement, works of profound compassion, elegies of pity and absolution. Yet, O'Neill never wrote again after leaving Tao House.
In none of the Tao House plays does a quest for a god enter the scheme of things. At the end of his life, O'Neill was concerned with man brought to a condition where survival was only to be found if, while groping in the dark, one person could find another to cling to.
When they were completed, the Tao House plays proved each in its own way to be a masterpiece. Hughie, part of a projected cycle of long one-act plays, is a lyric exploration of the attempt of a lost soul in the lobby of a cheap New York hotel to find some way to touch another human being - an inarticulate night clerk - so that he will not be alone on an isle of the dead. A Moon for the Misbegotten faces at last the death of his mother and the agony of his brother for failing her. As he had done with the protagonist of Hughie, O'Neill found a way to bring the character who represents Jamie to a kind of salvation in the arms of a giant Irish peasant woman on a moonlit night when, for a moment, they both can find peace.
O'Neill's Plays Written at Tao House
* Never finished by O'Neill. Discovered and produced after his death in 1953.