Saturday, April 11, 2020


Estelle Parsons, Julie Harris, Nancy Marchand.
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
Julie Harris, Nancy Marchand, Bill Macy, Rae Allen.
AND MISS REARDON DRINKS A LITTLE [Comedy-Drama/Alcoholism/Family/Mental Illness/Women] A: Paul Zindel; D: Melvin Bernhardt; S: Fred Voelpel; C: Sara Brook; L: Martin Aronstein; P: James B. McKenzie, Spofford J. Beadle Seth L. Schapiro, Kenneth Waissman, and Maxine Fox; T: Morosco Theatre; 2/25/71-5/29/71 (108)

To most, this play was undramatic, verbose, had unnecessary and excessive profanity, inconsistent characters, and a vaguely defined purpose. Richard Watts thought it “a serious disappointment," and Brendan Gill asserted it put author Paul Zindel’s “professional life in jeopardy,” given the success of his previous (and first) play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

Like most of Zindel’s subsequent plays, Miss Reardon offered juicy roles for charismatic female stars. Estelle Parsons, Julie Harris, and Nancy Marchand had a fine time chewing the scenery as the Irish-American sisters, Catherine Reardon (Parsons), Anna Reardon (Julie Harris), and Ceil Adams (Marchand), the only married one.

Sharing an apartment on Staten Island, shortly after their ailing mother died, are Anna and Catherine. Anna is a hypochondriac vegetarian who’s had a nervous breakdown, and teaches chemistry at a junior high. The cynical, foulmouthed, booze-guzzling Catherine is assistant principal at the same school. Ceil—who stole (and married) Catherine’s boyfriend—is the uptight, authoritarian, local school superintendent. The play depicts a family dinner that also introduces a pushy guidance counselor named Fleur Stein (Rae Allen), seeking a raise, and her husband, Bog (Bill Macy).

Julie Harris, Nancy Marchand.
Anna is on a forced break after having done something inappropriate with a student. The straitlaced Ceil, who wishes to have her sister suspended, is up against the selfish Catherine, who eventually agrees to commit Anna to a home for the mentally disturbed. In the process, each of the sisters comes to appear unbalanced to some degree.

There were kind words from Douglas Watt, Jack Kroll, and Martin Gottfried, but, as noted above, the general response was negative. The acting of the leads was the main attraction although Rae Allen, as a neighbor, received a Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. Of the sisters, Parsons, who landed a Tony nomination for  Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a play (the winner was Maureen Stapleton in The Gingerbread Lady), was the most warmly applauded. Gottfried wrote: “Miss Parsons picks up the role and runs with it like a thoroughbred, dropping wisecracks here and candor there.” [Note: thanks to Jay Kindervater for pointing out an earlier posting's mistakes in who won and who was nominated for the Tonys.]
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