Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
The Psychodramas of Philip Barry

Eight years younger than O'Neill, Philip Barry was second only to O'Neill in the contribution which he made to the modern psychological drama. Like O'Neill, he had the benefit of George Pierce Baker's instruction in playwriting at the Harvard '47 Workshop; but Barry took much more seriously than did O'Neill his roots in the Catholic faith, and the resulting emotional conflicts over such questions as divorce furnished him with poignant dramatic themes.

We know that Barry's interest in psychoanalysis dates from his earliest playwriting venture. Rejected by the army in World War I, Barry went into the State Department and served in England doing code work at the American embassy. It was while he was in London that he wrote his first three-act play, No Thoroughfare, which dealt with psychoanalysis. On his return, he submitted the play to Elsie Ferguson, but it was rejected and has never been acted or published. Its significance lies in the direction to which it pointed. Although much has been written about Barry as a master of frothy high comedy of manners, he has not been adequately evaluated as a serious, Freudian-minded dramatist. It is clear that Barry's major work cannot be fully understood without reference to psychoanalysis.

Barry's first New York production, You and I ( 1923), tentatively

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