Thursday, April 16, 2020

30. AUGUSTA. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Jeffrey DeMunn, Faith Catlin, Kenneth Harvey,

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.

In addition to the shows chronicled here, the New York professional theatre produced hundreds of others, largely in the form of showcases receiving brief runs of a dozen or less performances, most of them unreviewed. Their credits and other significant data can be found in sources such as the annual series called Theatre World and The Theater Yearbook: The Best Plays of . . .

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.

AUGUSTA [Drama/Marriage/Sex/Southern] A: Larry Ketron; D: David Black; S: Barry F. Williams; C: Jennifer von Mayrhauser; L: Daniel Flannery; P: Gerald Seiff and Geoffrey Winters; T: Theatre de Lys (OB); 4/20/75-4/27/75 (9)

The action of this poorly received drama takes place in a rural cabin not far from Augusta, GA, where Champion, an ex-boxer, lives. The play is concerned with his longtime relationship with 21-year-old Betty (Faith Catlin), 30 years his junior, whom he has known closely since her childhood, and sexually since she was 14.

His wife (Elizabeth Franz) spotted the pair making love in the field and thereupon walked out on him. After four years at college, Betty has come to Champion’s house with her fiancĂ©, Boyd (Jeffrey DeMunn) in tow. Champion’s wife also returns in the course of the play, at the end of which the provocative Betty “has got her comeuppance from both,” according to Edith Oliver.

Larry Ketron’s attempt at a steamy, sexy, Southern-accented melodrama was uninvolving in script and performance, despite such talents as Franz, Harvey, Catlin, and DeMunn, all of whom were already or became respected actors. “It wasn’t good enough,” judged Oliver; ‘the tension is minimal,” noted Dick Brukenfeld, who also said, “the acting has a soap-opera competence.” Clive Barnes seconded this view, calling the performances “very poor indeed.”

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
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little       
And They Put Handcuffs on the Flowers
And Whose Little Boy Are You?
Anna K.
Anne of Green Gables
Any Resemblance to Persons Living or Dead
As You Like It