Mint Theatre streams forgotten Lillian Hellman play

The ever-generous Mint Theatre is now streaming another of their successful revivals, this time of Lillian Hellman’s largely-forgotten second play, DAYS TO COME.

DAYS TO COME is a family drama set against the backdrop of labour problems and workers’ unrest in a small Ohio town which threatens to tear apart both town and family. “It’s the story of innocent people on both sides who are drawn into conflict and events far beyond their comprehension,” Hellman said in an interview before DAYS TO COME opened in 1936. “It’s the saga of a man who started something he cannot stop…”

“It’s a gripping, lucid examination of the dangerous intersection of economic, social, and personal forces.” said The New Yorker

Andrew Rodman is running the family business and failing at it. The workers are out on strike and things are getting desperate. “Papa would have known what to do,” his sister Cora nags, “and without wasting time and money.” But it’s too late, Rodman is bringing in strikebreakers, naively failing to anticipate the disastrous impact that this will have on his family and their place in the community where they have lived for generations.

Audiences had no chance to appreciate DAYS TO COME when it premiered on Broadway in 1936; it closed after a week. Hellman blamed herself for the play’s failure. “I wanted to say too much,” she wrote in a preface to the published play in 1942—while admitting that her director was confused and her cast inadequate. “On the opening night the actors moved as figures in the dream of a frightened child. It was my fault, I suppose, that it happened.” Nevertheless, “I stand firmly on the side of Days to Come.” In 1942, Hellman could afford to take responsibility for the play’s failure; she had enjoyed much success in the days after DAYS TO COME (with both THE LITTLE FOXES and WATCH ON THE RHINE). But Hellman’s play is better than she would admit.

“Days to Come … turns out to be a gripping piece of storytelling, one whose failure and subsequent obscurity make no sense at all.” The Wall Street Journal

DAYS TO COME was revived only once in New York, in 1978, by the WPA Theatre. In reviewing that production for The Nation, Harold Clurman wrote that “our knowledge of what Hellman would subsequently write reveals that Days to Come is not mainly concerned with the industrial warfare which is the ‘stuff’ of her story for the first two acts.” Hellman’s real preoccupation is “the lack of genuine values of mind or spirit” of her principle characters, the factory-owning Rodmans.

Mint Theatre’s production, running 1 hour 50 minutes, can be seen online until April 2nd. Find it here


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