Love, anger and agony | Daily News

Love, anger and agony

The translators of the original theatrical works have been lined up as an esteemed team of recreators. The original play of Eugene O'Neill rests on several humane layers of existence. On one hand, it is a calm and serene climate that paves the way for better human relations. In this context, it is a farmyard.

Out of the many dramatists known to the world at large, three or four major American playwrights are well known to the local theatregoers over four decades. Presumably, they are, to my best observation, are Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder and Eugene O'Neill. Most of these plays written by them have been adapted to suit either the local perceptive awareness or for the sake of a better rapport between the characters and the intended audiences.

The thematic awareness of most of these plays remains to be assessed as they take the change of audience from different cultural groups. When my friend, late Dhamma Jagoda adapted Street Car as Vesmuhunu to the local audience, there were startling controversies that sprang up. The same happened where the late Sugathapala de Silva adapted another play of the Williams as Hele Negga Dom Putha. Perhaps this embedded theme had not been fully well transformed.

But my basic notion is that the attempt enabled the audiences to grasp the differences in cultural groups and the reasons why those should be transformed into local theatrical creations.

Human conditions

Perhaps the play of Garcia Lorca that came to known to the world as Yerma has been adapted by Gunasena Galappatti as Muhudu Puttu, the veterans of the calibre of late Martin Wickramasinghe and Prof Ediriweera Sarachchandra were enraged. One of the reasons being the gross distortion of the salient human conditions laid in the original works. This perhaps paved the way for Professor Sarachchandra to translate Yerma in association with Professor Sunil Ariyaratne. The playscript was accredited with the honour of a State Literary Award.

I was for a moment reminded of all these nuances as I went on reading the translation of Eugene O’Neill’s celebrated play Desire Under the Elms by a well-known performer cum playwright Mahawedage Champa Pushpa Buddhispala. The Sinhala play script that has come out as a printed text is titled Elm Thuru Yata Snehaya as an author publication.

I sincerely felt that the attempt on the part of Buddhipala is perhaps a welcome variant to the availability of the classics around the world. This playscript of Eugene O’Neill (1888 – 1953) was written as far back as 1924. But it remains as I feel the pulse of it as a most modern expressionistic model for the local experimental dramatist as well as the intended performer.

I grip into the conceptual frame that demands more and more translated works in order to ascertain this value of the original creations. This view cannot be undermined in the theatrical activities as we need more and more examples to be drawn into the concept of teaching and learning cross-cultural communication patterns.

In this direction, the translators of the original theatrical works have been lined up as an esteemed team of recreators. The original play of Eugene O'Neill rests on several humane layers of existence. On one hand, it is a calm and serene climate that paves the way for better human relations. In this context, it is a farmyard.

Instances of agreements

Into the farmyard, a selected group of people come and go. They exchange views. They make merriments as there are instances of agreements and disagreement. These are human encounters all over the world. O’Neill in his narrative written in a mixed creative form selects more than ten characters. But he temps to focus attention on three humans: one a female and two males. The playscript is packed with human pathos that changes from moment to moment. For me, the entire play in the form of a creative work rests on the two forms, the narrative form fused in the dialogues, songs, dances and musical rhythms.

There is not a single moment of dullness in the reading process. This gives ways to feel that if the script is turned into a theatrical form as selected by a particular director, the result could be a yielding outcome of a meritorious series of performance. The two characters, Cagot and Eben are prominent in the subtle changes that take part in the entire human experiences that address issues of love, hatred, passion and desire. The entire gamut of the experience in the process of reading these lines and perceiving the inner layers or the subtext one may feel that the culmination of the actions ought to take various forms devoid of placing with an assassination of a baby born to the world as a gift.

This may be a point of debate when the play is performed. It had happened in the case of Yerma the Spanish play when it was performed in London on the pulsating womb theatre. I have not seen this particular play as performed on a more modern stage with all the theatrical facilities.

But I had the chance of seeing the play at Vanbarsh playhouse as an amateur production. But I sincerely feel that the element that has gone into the creative text needs a healthy discourse, transcending the cultural and racial barriers. Eugene O’Neill has written several plays that had gone into discussions.


One of his major plays titled The Hairy Ape is expressionistic and paves the way for several experimentations that deserve on the stagecraft. O'Neill continued, like Ibsen, the tradition of realism in varying patterns. The play titled Ann Christie that I saw in London is one such example as directed by Paul Davee. In this direction, the play of O’Neill titled Lon Day’s Journey into Night was seen as one of the most searching plays of the post-war era in the development of world theatrical patterns. The fairly long preface written to the translation of Buddhipala is a commendable effort that impacts various dimensions in the scriptwriting process of the original playwright Eugene O’Neill. The need for good translations is a lesson in itself.