Wednesday, April 8, 2020

14. L'AMANTE ANGLAIS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975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. 

Michael Lonsdale, Madeleine Renaud, Claude Dauphin.

AMANTE ANGLAIS, L’ [Drama/Crime/Foreign Language/French/Mystery] A: Marguerite Duras; D: Claude Régy; P: Le Treteau de Paris; T: Barbizon-Plaza Theatre (OB); 4/14/71-4/24/71 (16)

Le Treteau de Paris, a touring French-language company, presented this Duras drama about a bizarre murder during the same season as its English version (A Place without Doors) was done locally. The latter starred Mildred Dunnock—who won a Drama Desk Award for her acting—in the role played here by the great actress Madeleine Renaud, wife of one of France’s foremost actor-directors, Jean-Louis Barrault. The present cast, in fact, included all the actors from the original production, among them another great French star, Claude Dauphin.

The plot of L’Amante Anglais (lit., The English Lover)—inspired by an actual 1966 murder—concerns Claire Lannes (Renaud), a middle-aged, small-town woman, who has confessed without pressure to the horrible murder of her deaf-mute housekeeper-cousin, whose body she chopped into many small pieces. Under the intense questioning of a man (Michael Lonsdale) whose function as a reporter or psychiatrist is never fully explained, the audience comes to understand the explosive rage that boiled up in this woman as a result of her dreary life in her boring town. Her husband of two decades (Dauphin) realizes that only chance has saved him from the fate meted out to his housekeeper.

The play's American version, A Place without Door, which opened earlier in the season, with Mildred Dunnock, Richard A. Dysart (as the husband), and Alvin Epstein (as the Questioner).
The production provided Clive Barnes with “a marvelous evening of theatre.” John Simon, however, remarked that “Mlle. Duras’ play is just as pseudo-philosophic, parapoetic, militantly anti-theatrical and dizzyingly vacuous in French as it was in English.” He appreciated the fine performances, especially Mme. Renaud’s, who made the role the murderess “into a creation all her own,” “so beautiful, touching and human that you feel, as it were, that a reading from the telephone book is turning into Hamlet.” Her role required her to sit throughout while answering questions but, wrote Simon, she managed to give “an imperiling performance, [one that] makes almost every other acting this season look like a halfhearted charade.”

Previous entries:

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement
Aesop’s Fables; T
Alice in Wonderland
All God’s Chillun Got Wings
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play
Alpha Beta