The great American playwright, a winner of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, Eugene O’Neill, not only exerted much influence on American drama, but also inspired parodies. As I’m going through my bookshelves, I’ve found a collection of parodies on, and by, English and American authors. The text below, written by Frank Sullivan, makes a mockery of his great fellow countryman.
Frank Sullivan. Life is full of Eugene O’Neills
My next dramatic work will be a sextilogy, so called because it will consist of six plays all filled with sex. The acting of it will require fifteen hours. There will be twenty-four different kinds of sex in it, an all-time record. Of these, seven are completely new and have never before appeared in any dramatic work not written by Earl Carroll. Of the seven, six were discovered last spring (in the love season) by the Sullivan-National Geographic Society Expedition to the summit of Haverlock Ellis. The seventh is a new, rustproof, non-collapsible kind of sex, invented by myself after years of research during my odd moments; moments which grew odder and odder as my investigations progressed. This new variety of sex is made from goldenrod, and I call it Tooralooraluminum.
The sextilogy will concern the goings-on of a family named Baddun. The family consists of a Confederate Baddun, who is hated by his wife, Alla Baddun, who in turn is loved by their son, Earle Baddun, and hated by their daughter, Alice Baddun, who is in love with her father and her brother.
As the sextilogy opens, the Badduns are discovered having a snack of breakfast consisting of creamed henbane, toadstools, sous-cloche, and Paris-green pudding with strychnine sauce. A percolator of Prussic acid bubbles cozily on the range. The favors are special suicide revolvers which, by simply pulling the trigger, can also be used for murdering one’s next of kin.
The Badduns sit there glowering at each other. Earle is staring at Alice. Alice shudders, and buries her face in a remote part of her hand, where she thinks Earle will never find it.
EARLE – Nice weather we’re having.
ALICE (sternly) – Earle!
EARLE – What?
ALICE – Why do you say that? You know it’s not nice weather we’re having. It may be nice weather for others, but it can never be nice weather for us Badduns. Why do you look at me like that, Earle, with desire in your elms? For God’s sake, stop looking at me like that, Earle! Don’t touch me, Earle!
EARLE – All right, I won’t – if you incest.
ALLA – Life is just a bowl of cherries.
EARLE – Mother, may I be excused from table?
ALLA – Why, my son?
EARLE – I want to shoot myself. I’ll only be gone a minute.
ALLA – But why do you want to shoot yourself, my boy?
EARLE – It’s all so horrible, Mother.
ALLA – What’s horrible, dear?
EARLE – Life, Mother, Life. When I was in the army, every mother I shot seemed to look like every other mother I shot, and every mother looked like you, Mother. And then every other mother began to look like me, Mother, and I felt that every time I killed somebody’s mother I was committing suicide and every time I committed suicide I felt I looked like every other Eugene O’Neill.
ALLA – Life is just a bowl of Eugene O’Neills.
EARLE – Oh, never leave me, Mother! You and I will go away together, away from all this, far away. I know an island in the Pacific –
GENERAL BADDUN (eagerly) – Say, is it a little short island about seventeen miles in circumference, with palm trees all over it?
EARLE – Yes, and a cliff at the southern extremity.
GENERAL – That’s the one! I know that island.
EARLE – You do!
GENERAL – I’ll say I do! Boy, if it could talk, the stories that island could tell about me!
EARLE – It’s certainly a small world.
ALICE (shuddering) – It’s a horrible world… Mother!
ALLA – What?
ALICE – Stop looking at father like that. Father!
GENERAL – What?
ALICE – Stop looking at mother like that. Earle!
EARLE – What?
ALICE – Stop looking at me like that.
EARLE – Alice!
ALICE – What?
EARLE – Stop looking at father like that. And, Dr. Joseph Collins, you stop looking at Love and Life like that.
ALLA – Life is a bowl of Dr. Joseph Collinses.
GENERAL – May I have another cup of Prussic acid, Alla? Two lumps please… Thanks. My, I always say there’s nothing like a cup of good strong, black prussic acid to wake you up in the morning and clear the brain of cobwebs. Alla, are you will being unfaithful to me with that ship captain?
ALLA – Which one, dear?
GENERAL – You know – the one that’s my step-cousin or something.
ALLA – I thi-ink so, but I’m not sure. You know my memory. What’s his name?
GENERAL – Brump. Captain Adam Brump.
(ALLA takes an address book from her crinoline and consults it.)
ALLA – Let me see-ee – Bradge, Braim, Brattigan, Brelk, Briffel, Broskowitz – yes, here he is, Brump. Captain Adam Brump. But why do you ask about him, dear? Anything wrong with him?
GENERAL – No, no! Fine fellow. Go right ahead. Have a good time. You’re only young once.
ALICE (gloomily) – It’s not so. We Badduns are always Jung.
ALLA – Life gets Adler and Adler.
EARLE – Oh, Mother dear, I’m afreud, I’m so afreud. Let us go to my island in the Pacific.
ALLA – General, I wish you’d speak to Alice about this constant shuddering. She’ll have the plaster shuddered off half the rooms in the house if she doesn’t quit.
(Enter NORN, a maid.)
NORN – The coffin man is here, sir.
GENERAL – Tell him we don’t want any today.
EARLE – Oh, we don’t, don’t we!
(EARLE draws a revolver and shoots his father).
NORN (shouting downstairs to the coffin man) – One on the coffin, Joe.
(From below, like an echo of the voice of the tragic and relentless Fate that pursues the Badduns, floats the answering voice of the coffin man: “O.K.”)
EARLE – I’m not sorry I shot Father. He looked like a Philadelphia postman.
ALLA – Life is a Philadelphia postman – slow, gray, inexorable.
ALICE – Life is a bag of mail. And death – death is a canceled stamp.
EARLE – Birth is a special delivery.
ALICE – Better we Badduns had never been born. Here, Earle. Here is a cigar.
EARLE – Why do you give me a cigar, Alice?
ALICE – For scoring a bulls-eye on Father, Earle. Does anybody else wish to take a chance? Step right up, folks…
EARLE – Cigars. When I was in the army, every cigar I smoked looked like every other cigar. Every time I smoked a cigar I felt I was committing suicide.
ALICE – I shall go mad.
ALLA – You will go mad.
EARLE – She will go mad.
AUDIENCE – We shall go mad.
EARLE – You will go mad.
EUGENE O’NEILL – They will go mad.
EARLE (turning quickly to O’Neill) – Are you Eugene O’Neill, the playwright?
GENE – To put it mildly, Son.
ALLA – Give him the works, Earle.
ALICE – Yes, give it to him, Earle. See how he likes being bumped off.
EARLE – Mr O’Neill, on behalf of those members of the casts of your recent plays who have not died like flies from overwork, it gives me great pleasure to plug you with this thirty-eight calibre –
GENE – But –
ALLA – What is life, Gene, but one great big But?
(EARLE shoots GENE.)
ALICE – Now, come on. Let’s boil this thing down to three acts.
ALLA – One act, or I won’t commit suicide.
ALICE – All right, one it is. Get up, Father. Snap out of that coffin.