Monday, April 27, 2020


Mary Woronov, Madeline Kahn.
 "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For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage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.

Peter Bartlett, Madeline Kahn.
BOOM BOOM ROOM (see below for IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM) [Drama/Homosexuality/Nightclub/Sex/Show Business] A: David Rabe; D: Joseph Papp; S: Santo Loquasto; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; L: Martin Aronstein; P: New York Shakespeare Festival Lincoln Center; T: Vivian Beaumont Theatre; 11/8/73-12/9/73 (37)

This was the first production staged by Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival after it succeeded Jules Irving’s troubled artistic leadership at Lincoln Center. Papp’s policy—which would be equally problematic—began by fostering new, as opposed to classical, works at the Beaumont but soon underwent a change. His first season included several notable works, among them this controversial drama about a Philadelphia go-go girl named Chrissy (Madeline Kahn). Papp relieved Julie Bovasso of the directorial reins shortly before the opening but the generally unkind criticism that resulted revealed that not much had been done to salvage the work. A revised version would appear under a slightly different title a year later.

Charlotte Rae, Charles Durning, Madeline Kahn.
Boom Boom Room is the sad story of the clumsy, neurotic Chrissy, her bisexual misadventures, her unhappy upbringing, her yearning for love, her ineffectual relationships, and the rather rancid conditions of her lifestyle. It was presented in a three-hour drama that had little narrative push, showed barely any development for its central character, and was unfocused and without a clear
-cut goal.

Rabe’s first play not related to the Vietnam War ran into hostility from critics who found Chrissy simply too shallow to live with for so long a drama. Clive Barnes called the jokes “corny” and the writing “empty and poorly crafted.” Walter Kerr found it all a disconnected “series of set pieces,” and its “psychologizing . . . simplistic, the daring old-hat, the humor ranging from tittery to strained.” There was too much “woolgathering and maundering” in this “drawn-out identity crisis” to please John Simon.

Many felt that the production, which utilized a number of distracting, floating, go-go girl dance cages, only made matters worse. Brendan Gill said the show’s inability to find either an appropriately realistic or non-illusionistic style hurt the “simple and touching” tale. But Rabe’s ability to express how the world’s little people can still cling to “natural human desire and aspiration,” despite their being ground down by or modern world, greatly moved Harold Clurman, ho faulted the production for not fully realizing the author’s intent.

Madeline Kahn’s Chrissy received mixed reviews. T Barnes she was a failure but to Gill she was “superb.” And Charles Durning, Robert Loggia, and Mary Woronov as, respectively, Chrissy’s father, truck driver boyfriend, and lesbian dance captain, were considered the strongest of a strong cast, which also included Charlotte Rae, among others.

Despite its critical rattling, Boom Boom Room received a Tony nomination as Best Play, Kahn got one for Best Actress, Play, and also landed a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance, while Martin Aronstein was nominated as Best Lighting Designer. Woronov got a Theatre World Award.

IN THE BOOM BOOM ROOM. D: Robert Hedley; S: David Mitchell; C: Milo Morrow; L: Martin Aronstein; CH: Baayork Lee; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Public Theater/Florence Anspacher Theater (OB); 11/20/74-12/15/74 (31)

Ellen Green, Helen Hanft, Tom Quinn.
Producer Joseph Papp, thinking the work deserved another chance, brought it back a year later under a slightly different title, offering it his Greenwich Village institution with a new director, set and costume designers, and cast, led by Ellen Greene as Chrissy.

Clive Barnes thought the writing, of which about 25 percent had been redone, was improved. He also believed the direction and design were improvements over the Lincoln Center version. Rabe’s new script had a clearer focus on Chrissy but the original problem of making her an interesting character had not been solved. The result was “a good production of a moderately bad play.” Edith Oliver, however, censured the pervasive realism of the new staging for bringing the play “down to earth.” “It has hit with a bump, and the bump hurts.” She, too, thought Chrissy not a character “that can hold our attention for long.” Her views were supported by John Simon, who denigrated the work because of “Robert Hedley’s indecisive and clumsy direction which stays resolutely below minimal professionalism.”

The only performer who appeared an improvement over the original’s casting was Ellen Greene as Chrissy, although Simon said she “needs only more experience and better direction.” Among the more significant names in the cast were Christopher Lloyd and Helen Hanft.

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
Barbary Shore
The Bar that Never Closes
The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel
The Beauty Part
The Beggar’s Opera
Behold! Cometh the Vanderkellens
Be Kind to People Week
Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill
Bette Midler’s Clams on a Half-Shell Revue
Black Girl
Black Light Theatre of Prague
Black Picture Show
Black Sunlight
The Black Terror
Black Visions
Les Blancs
Blasts and Bravos: An Evening with H,L. Mencken
Blue Boys
Bob and Ray—The Two and Only
Boesman and Lena