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It and its sequel, More Stately Mansions, were intended to be part of a nine-play cycle entitled A Tale of Possessors Self-Dispossessed. Set in the dining room of Melody's Tavern, located in a village a few miles from Boston, it centers on Major Cornelius ("Con") Melody, a braggart, social climber, and victim of the American class system in 1828 Massachusetts.
The play has been produced on Broadway four times. The original production, directed by Harold Clurman, opened on October 2, 1958, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it ran for 284 performances. The cast included Helen Hayes, Eric Portman, Betty Field, and Kim Stanley. Both the play and Stanley earned Tony Award nominations.
Ten years later, the second revival, directed by José Quintero, opened on December 28, 1977, again at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it ran for 141 performances. The cast included Geraldine Fitzgerald, Milo O'Shea, Kathryn Walker, and Jason Robards, who was Tony-nominated for Best Actor in Play.
Richard Eder of The New York Times wrote after seeing the 1977 revival that A Touch of the Poet "is not one of [O'Neill's] greatest plays but it has greatness in it. It is a difficult greatness to pry out fully in performance. This play about the tearing‐away of a tavern Ic_ieper's [sic] monstrous illusion about himself has pain, humor and even grandeur. Much of this comes from the language, which has rarely run so clear and uncluttered in O'Neill, even if there is too much of it. It is the dramatic structure that is sometime, cluttered, unsure, even absent‐minded."