Anna Christie is a play in four acts by Eugene O'Neill. It tells the story of a former prostitute who falls in love, but runs into difficulty in turning her life around. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1922.
Act I takes place in the bar, owned by Johnny the Priest and tended by Larry. Old Chris, a coal barge captain, receives a letter from his daughter, a young woman whom he has not seen since she was a baby. They meet at the bar and she agrees to go on the coal barge with him. The rest of the play takes place on the barge.
In Act II, the barge crew rescues Mat Burke and four other men, who were in an open boat after a shipwreck. After not getting along at first, Mat and Anna fall in love.
Act III is a confrontation between Anna, Chris and Mat. Mat wants to marry Anna, Chris does not want them to get married because he doesn't want her to marry a sailor, and Anna is upset with both of them for trying to be in charge of her. Anna tells them the truth about her life, that she was raped while living with her mother's relatives on a Minnesota farm, and then became a prostitute after her time as a nurse's aide. Mat gets very angry, and Mat and Chris both leave.
In Act IV, Mat and Chris return. Anna forgives Chris for not being part of her childhood, and after a dramatic confrontation, Mat forgives Anna for being a prostitute after she promises never to be one again, and Chris agrees to them getting married. It turns out that Chris and Mat have both signed up for the same ship going to South Africa, and they are about to leave the next day, but promise to come home to Anna after the voyage. The play ends there, with a rather unresolved ending.
O'Neill's first version of the play, begun in January 1919, was entitled Chris Christopherson
(but performed as Chris
). It had out-of-town tryouts but was deemed inadequate for Broadway. O’Neill revised it radically, changing the barge captain’s daughter Anna from a pure woman needing to be protected into a prostitute who finds reformation and love from life on the sea. The new play, now entitled Anna Christie
received its premiere on Broadway
at the Vanderbilt Theatre on 2 November
, in a production staged by Arthur Hopkins
and starring Pauline Lord
. It ran for 177 performances.
Alexander Woollcott in the New York Times called it "a singularly engrossing play", and advised that "all grown-up playgoers should jot down in their notebooks the name of Anna Christie as that of a play they really ought to see.
The play was revived at the Lyceum Theatre
on 23 January
in a production staged by Michael Gordon
and designed by Emeline C. Roche
with Celeste Holm
as Anna, Kevin McCarthy
and Arthur O'Connell
. It ran for only 8 performances.
The play was revived at the Imperial Theatre
on 14 April
in a production directed by José Quintero
and designed by Ben Edwards. It starred Liv Ullmann
as Anna, Robert Donley
, John Lithgow
and Mary McCarty
. It received Tony nominations for Liv Ullman as Best Actress and for Mary McCarty as Best Featured Actress. It ran for 124 performances.
The play was most recently revived on Broadway on 14 January
in a production by The Roundabout Theatre Company
at the Criterion Center Stage Right. It was directed by David Leveaux
and designed by John Lee Beatty
. It starred Natasha Richardson
, Liam Neeson
, Anne Meara
, and Rip Torn
. It received Tony
nominations for Best Actress (Natasha Richardson), Best Actor (Liam Neeson), Best Featured Actress (Anne Meara), Best Direction (David Leveaux) and won the award for Best Revival. The production also received the Theatre World Award for Neeson and Richardson and won the Drama Desk Award
for Outstanding Revival of a Play and for Outstanding Actress in a Play (Richardson). It ran for 54 performances.
The original London
production was staged at the Strand Theatre
(now the Novello) in 1923. This was the first time an O'Neill play was seen in the West End
. The play starred Pauline Lord, who had been the original Anna Christie on Broadway.
The play had a great reception. TIME Magazine wrote, "In London, the first night of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, with Pauline Lord in the title role, received a tremendous ovation. After the first act the curtain was rung up a dozen times during the applause.. The Daily Telegraph's critic wrote:
Every now and then in a theatrical season, sandwiched in between the first nights of plays that are, generally speaking, either ordinarily good or extraordinarily bad, there comes a production which strikes you as being of outstanding importance and interest, such an event occurred last night at the Strand Theatre...
In 1936, a revival at the Westminster Theatre starred Flora Robson
with Mark Dignam
, Alexander Knox
, Anthony Howard
, Edward Rigby, Philip King and Niall MacGinnis
also in the cast. The play was directed by Michael MacOwen.
In 1979, the Royal Shakespeare Company
(RSC), under the direction of Jonathan Lynn
, mounted a new production in Stratford
and London. The title role was played by Susan Tracy
and others in the cast included Gareth Thomas
, Fulton MacKay
, Ian McNeice
and Lila Kaye
In 1992, the Young Vic
mounted a revival with Natasha Richardson in the title role with John Woodvine
. This won Richardson the London Drama Critics Poll for Best Actress and was instrumental in the 1993 Broadway revival.
Notable productions internationally
The 1923 production at Helsingborg City Theatre
, directed by Gerda Lundequist
- “Johnny the Priest”
- Two longshoremen
- A postman
- Larry - bartender
- Chris C. Christopherson - captain of the barge “Simeon Winthrop”
- Marthy Owen
- Anna Christopherson - Chris’s daughter
- Mat Burke - a stoker
- Johnson - deckhand on barge