Unseen Hemingway play finally staged in NY

Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:53am EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The first professional U.S. production of Ernest Hemingway's Spanish Civil War play "The Fifth Column" has opened in New York, 70 years after it was written, begging the question, "What took so long?"

Director Jonathan Bank says people should not assume the delay was because the play is no good.

"That's the prejudice. That's the huge hurdle that you have to get over," said Bank, artistic director of the Mint Theater Company, which specializes in reviving long-forgotten or newly discovered plays at its 100-seat, Off-Broadway theater.

"Having done a couple of dozen very good plays that people have forgotten about over the years, I've realized there just doesn't have to be a good reason a play falls out of sight," he said in an interview.

Hemingway, who died in 1961, was best known for works such as "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea." He wrote "The Fifth Column" in Madrid in 1937, when the city was under siege and he was staying in the Hotel Florida as a foreign correspondent.

The play is the story of foreign correspondent Philip Rawlings, who is working as a secret agent for the leftist Republican side, and a glamorous writer named Dorothy Bridges, inspired by legendary journalist Martha Gellhorn, whom Hemingway had an affair with in Madrid and later married.

Thursday's opening night was attended by some of Hemingway's relatives, including his son Patrick. He said he enjoyed the play but his father admitted he was not much of a playwright.

"You can't expect that Hemingway could sort of descend from the clouds and write a masterful play like 'Richard III' or something," Patrick Hemingway told Reuters.   Continued...