A young woman in a small town is graduating high school--and starring in the senior play. She dreams of being an actress--of glitter and reknown.
She writes to her mother--who ran away years earlier. Her mother is now a great stage actress--or so she believes from ther mother's infrequent letters.
The mother arrives for the event in the most Great Actress high style, but there are small clues that it's an act, that she's struggled terribly, and is putting on a show for her daughter's sake.
She rekindles old animosities with her one-time husband and tries to win the love of the children she abandoned.
The actress wins everyone's esteem by performing scenes from her greatest role--Shaw's Pygmalion.
The daughter's play is a success, and the daughter wants to leave the mother to travel.
The mother must confess--but we guessed all along--that she is not a great success, is a third-rate failure. She hurts and alienates her daughter terribly.
Probably the daughter will try to become an actress anyway, despite her mother's failure. The mother has tried to save her daughter much sorrow. But you can't protect people from themselves--or from life--no matter how hard you try.
Finally, though, her daughter may take her off a pedestal and begin to grow up.
The actress leaves town, still playing the role of the grand dame for the public, though her family now knows the truth.
She arrives home to a great mansion filled with servants, hanger's on, and memorabilia of her long career. The whole trip was an act--her greatest role.
Within all the glitter, we can see that she is still terribly terribly lonely.
--E. R. O'Neill
(a rewrite of All I Desire)