November 25, 1938
I have just finished reading Robert Newman play "Ghost Town." The verse has depth, intelligence and beauty. Individual lines often have a haunting quality but unfortunately they don't always forward the plot or develop the characters. They reveal the characters, which is different. The main weakness, however, is in the structure of the story. Even after thinking it over I cannot be sure on which side one's sympathies are meant to be enlisted. Mr. Newman has presented two brothers, equally attractive and equally interesting, and a man, Kerry, who seems to occupy the middle ground. Which one is the protagonist? Perhaps he was showing both sides and playing for the middle, but somehow I don't think this is so. He must have had a definite point of view and therefore every aspect of the play should have furthered this point of view. An audience, though more intelligent than we commonly believe, must nevertheless be led very slowly and carefully from one step to the next, following the author by the nose, as it were, so that even when the audience does not agree with the author, it is carried along by his inexorable logic. In conventional form this is achieved by the device of the hero. But in this play I cannot decide who is the hero. I couldn't possibly offer any structural suggestions without being sure on this one important point.
I feel, too, that the characters are not clearly defined. Though Mac and Don stand for different points of view which are clearly enough stated, I do not understand them as persons either singly or in relation to each other. The drama must be between people and not between ideas. What is it between these two brothers that separates them and brings about their antipathies? Somehow they have no flesh to cover their minds. The same is true of the girl who is only a symbol in the minds of the men and therefore a symbol in the author's mind also. Or perhaps I should have turned that about.
You know all this, of course, and I am not writing an essay on playwriting for your benefit. I am assuming that you intend to pass this on to Mr. Newman and am really writing it for him.