- Eugene O'Neill's only major drama of the 1920s not given a Broadway production, Lazarus Laughed premiered instead at California's Pasadena Playhouse, where it opened for a limited run on 9 April 1928. In this epic, Biblically inspired work, O'Neill continued his experimentation with masks, a device he had first employed in The Great God Brown (1926). In this case, the entire cast wore masks with the exception of Lazarus, who lives fearlessly because he is not afraid of death. When a jealous woman, Pompeia, kills Lazarus's wife, he forgives her and when the insane Caligula condemns Lazarus to be burned at the stake, the repentant Pompeia throws herself on the fire. Lazarus only laughs as he is engulfed by the flames, calling out "Fear not, Caligula! There is no death," as the horrified Caligula begs forgiveness. California critics applauded the lavish production, featuring Irving Pichel as Lazarus and Victor Jory* as Caligula, but were muted in their response to the play, which was similarly disliked by reviewers when it was published in book form.
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.
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