Saturday, April 18, 2020

36. BARBARY SHORE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Estelle Parsons, Lenny Baker.

"In Lieu of Reviews"

For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and revival between 1920 and 1950), please check the prefaces to any of the earlier entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

BARBARY SHORE [Drama/Mystery/Politics] A: Jack Gelber; SC: Norman Mailer’s novel, Barbary Shore; DS: David Mitchell; L: Roger Morgan; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Public Theater/Florence S. Anspacher Theater (OB); 12/18/73-1/27/74 (48)

Based on Norman Mailer’s second novel, this drama--performed by a topnotch cast--is set in a Brooklyn boarding house and concerns a group of people living there. Mike Lovett (Lenny Baker) is a young writer. McLeod (Rip Torn) and Hollingsworth (Lane Smith) are men with secret pasts. The former was a revolutionary who kept a mysterious, valuable, but unspecified object when he left the “movement.” There is also a sexy, blowsy, middle-aged landlady (Estelle Parsons).

The action deals largely with the intense efforts of Hollingsworth to interrogate McLeod, thus evoking an air of mystery which makes the play akin to a thriller. However, the talk very frequently concerns dialectical arguments on Marxism, making the atmosphere more political than suspenseful.

Gelber’s adaptation seemed too “weighted down with ideological ballast” to suit Mel Gussow, and failed to maintain interest in either its ideas or persons. The play was entirely too “vague” for Walter Kerr, and the characters more “abstractions than people.” Of the pretentious language, Kerr said, “there is scarcely a sentence that wouldn’t dissolve into a mist at the flick of a fingernail.”

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
The Au Pair Man

Baba Goya [Nourish the Beast]
The Ballad of Johnny Pot