Friday, April 10, 2020

18. AMPHITRYON. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975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 informat

AMPHITRYON [Comedy/Fantasy/Foreign Language/Sex] A: Heinrich von Kleist; D: Dieter Munck; S: Christian Bussmann; P: Goethe Institute of Munich and Gert von Gontard; T: Barbizon-Plaza Theatre (OB); 11/17/70-11/22/70 (8)

One of three productions done in repertory by the touring Munich troupe Die Brücke (The Bridge) in their third trip to New York. Amphitryon was a Kleist comedy of 1807 based on Molière’s play of that name. This version seems never to have been produced professionally in New York before.

John Simon attacked the “mess” of a production made of this “great comedy” about Jupiter’s seduction of a mortal woman by transforming himself into the likeness of her husband. Simon disliked the acting, direction, and design, all of which misrepresented Kleist’s comic style by playing it as slapstick farce. On the other hand, Howard Thompson declared this “a perfectly elegant, 
earthbound” presentation.

The other plays presented by this company were Tankred Dorst's Die Kurve (The Curve) and Bertolt Brecht's Die Kleinbürger-Hochzeit (The Wedding Feast).

Previous entries: 

Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement/
All My Sons
All Over
All Over Town
All the Girls Came Out to Play
Alpha Beta
L’Amante Anglais         
American Gothics
An American Millionaire