Wednesday, April 8, 2020

13. ALPHA BETA. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

The following precedes each entry,

"In Lieu of Reviews"

Around 40 years ago, I began a major project that eventuated in the publication of my multivolume series, The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage, each volume covering a decade. For some reason now lost to the sands of time, I chose to start with the 1970s. After writing all the entries through 1975 and producing a typed manuscript of 1,038 pages my publisher (Greenwood) and I decided it would be best to commence with the 1920s. So the 1970-1975 material was put aside as I produced volumes for 1920-1930, 1930-1940, and 1940-1950. With those concluded, Greenwood decided it was all too expensive and not sufficiently profitable, so the remaining volumes were cancelled, leaving my 1970s entries in limbo.

To compensate, I used the research I’d done on the 1970s to write a book for Greenwood called Ten Seasons: New York Theatre in the Seventies, which described all aspects of that era’s theatre, onstage and off. Many years later, in 2012, I began a postretirement “career” as a theatre reviewer, which led to my creating this blog as an outlet for my reviews. Over the past eight years or so I’ve posted nearly 1,600 reviews, a substantial number having first appeared on other websites: Theater Pizzazz, The Broadway Blog, and Theater Life.

Now, however, with the New York theatre in suspension, and my reviewing completely halted, is probably the perfect time to post as many as possible of the entries I prepared for the never-published 1970-1975 book. The entries that follow are in alphabetical order. Each entry has a heading listing the subject categories of the work described: the author (A), the director (D), additional staging (ADD ST), when credited; the producer (P), the set designer (S), the costume designer (C), the lighting designer (L), the source (SC), the theatre (T), the dates of the run, and, in parentheses, the length of the run. The original entries also contained the names of all the actors but I’ve omitted those here.

I will try to post at least one entry daily. When time allows, I’ll provide more. The manuscript exists on fading, fragile paper and, because no digital files exist, must be retyped. Hopefully, the tragic health situation we’re all enduring will abate before I get too far into posting these entries but, for the time being, devoted theatre lovers may find reading these materials informative.

Kathryn Walker, Laurence Luckinbill.

ALPHA BETA [Drama/British/Marriage/Two Characters] A: E.A. Whitehead; D: John Berry; S: David Chapman; L: David F.Segal; P: Max Brown and Robert Victor b/a/w the Royal Court Theatre; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB): 5/3/73-5/13/73 (14)

A two-character, Strindbergian examination of the hell that marriage can be whena couple is as mismatched as the one depicted here.

Over the course of a nine-year, two-child marriage, Frank (Laurence Luckinbill) and Norma Elliott (Kathryn Walker) of Liverpool move ever more gratingly close to the point where their separaton is inevitable. The thick-witted Norma is pitted against the egotistic, adulterous Frank in a cage-like relationship that his Roman Catholicism prevents from ending in divorce.

Crammed with invective, and with searing and emotionally disturbing dialogue, the drama was successful in its London production starring Rachel Roberts and Albert Finney but could not find critical approval in New York. Clive Barnes blamed its failure on the “slack” direction, “drab” d├ęcor, and the charmless acting, with its inauthentic Liverpudlian accents. John Simon also noted the poor accents but still found Luckinbill “very impressive” and Walker “worth watching.”

Both Luckinbill and Walker married famous show business celebrities, his wife being Lucie Arnaz, her husband (from 185-1985) being singer James Taylor.

Previous entries:

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement
Aesop’s Fables
Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death
Alice in Wonderland
All God’s Chillun Got Wings
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play