The Willow Cabin Theatre Company, which last season put on three Thornton Wilder one-acts, has gone further back in search of viable American short plays. They have in fact gone to the very root of American theater in their production, at the Harold Clurman Theatre, of Eugene O’Neill’s S.S. Glencairn: Four Plays of the Sea. The four sketches deal with the lives of merchant seamen working a British tramp steamer. O’Neill wrote them in the years 1914–1917, when he was in his late twenties, and they reflect his own experiences at sea and his own grim views of life.

The plays are presented in what amounts to a narrative sequence, although they were not written in that or any other order. First is “The Moon of the Caribees,” taking place before World War I on the main deck of the Glencairn as she lies at anchor under a full moon off an island in the West Indies. “A...

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