Tony-award winning legit helmer, Circle in the Square founder

Tony Award-winning theater director Jose Quintero, whose landmark productions of Eugene O’Neill dramas renewed interest in one of America’s greatest playwrights, died Friday of cancer at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He was 74.

Quintero directed more than a dozen major productions of works by O’Neill, who in the last decade of his life had been increasingly ignored by critics and audiences.

The director won two Tonys, for a production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and for directing “A Moon for the Misbegotten.”

Quintero was also a founder of Circle in the Square, a small Greenwich Village theater credited with energizing the Off Broadway movement following WWII.

Among the actors he worked with during his nearly 50 years in the theater were Jason Robards, Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott and Geraldine Page.

It was his 1952 revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke,” starring a luminous Page as spinster Alma Winemiller, that first brought him and Circle in the Square attention.

But it was as a director of O’Neill plays that Quintero won the most acclaim. In 1956 he directed the original Broadway production of “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” which starred Fredric March as the tyrannical James Tyrone and Florence Eldridge as his drug-addled wife. Robards and Bradford Dillman played their troubled sons. The autobiographical drama, produced three years after O’Neill’s death, is generally considered to be the playwright’s finest work.

Earlier that year, Quintero directed an Off Broadway revival of “The Iceman Cometh,” starring Robards as Hickey, the hale and hearty barfly. Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times proclaimed, ” ‘The Iceman Cometh’ is a mighty theater work. O’Neill is a giant, and Mr. Quintero is a remarkably gifted artist.”

Quintero, Robards and “Iceman” were reunited in 1985 for a second highly praised production, this time on Broadway.

The director and Robards joined forces on several other major O’Neill revivals on Broadway, including “Hughie” (1964); “A Moon for the Misbegotten” (1973); and “A Touch of the Poet” (1977). Robards and Dewhurst starred as the parents in a Quintero-directed Broadway revival of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 1988.

Quintero did not neglect the lesser-known O’Neill works either, directing “Strange Interlude” on Broadway in 1963 (with Page, Ben Gazzara and Jane Fonda), “Marco Millions” at Lincoln Center in 1964 and “More Stately Mansions” with Ingrid Bergman on Broadway in 1967.

He directed one film, “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone'” (1961), based on a Tennessee Williams novella. It starred Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty.

Quintero was born in Panama City, Panama and attended USC.

He is survived by a sister and his companion, Nick Tsacrios.

A memorial service will be announced later.

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