Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Scott McKay, Robert Drivas, Ruth Ford.
"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For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage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.

A BREEZE FROM THE GULF [Drama/Alcoholism/Drugs/Family/Homosexuality/Mental Illness/Religion/Southern] A: Mart Crowley; D: John Going; S: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: Stanley Simmons; L: Ken Billington; P: Charles Hollerity, Jr., and Barnard S. Straus; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB); 10/15/73-11/25/73 (48)

Mart Crowley followed up his groundbreaking hit  about a group of gay male friends, The Boys in the Band, with this anguished, semi-autobiographical journey through 15 years Michael Connelly’s (Robert Drivas) love-hate relationship with his alcoholic father, Teddy (Scott McKay), and drug-addicted mother, Lorraine (Ruth Ford), as pictured in an Irish-Catholic family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Booze eventually kills the deeply religious father, once the proud proprietor of a saloon-pool hall, and the insane asylum claims the suffering mother. The latently homosexual young man comes to terms with his parents’ struggles as he ages in the play from 15 to 30. In the course of the drama, there are many acrimonious conflicts, fights that fiercely rage despite the love of the combatants for one another.

Crowley’s strongest features were his ability to write stingingly accurate dialogue and to provide fuel for white-hot performances. However, his play lacked conciseness, focus, and a sense of ever-increasing tension. Clive Barnes thought the work “diffuse” and in need of cutting, while Walter Kerr thought it had no “shape.” He wrote that it was burdened with “structural monotony.” The lack of necessary expository background about the forces driving the parents to drink and drugs was cited by John Simon, as was the scarcity of “soaring stage images” in the language. Still, Simon found himself caught up in the maelstrom of emotion.

A potent factor was the distinguished acting of the three-member cast, commended by most for its accurate, moving, and honest depiction of the tortured Connolly household. Ruth Ford, in particular, was exceptional. Simon thought her better than he had ever seen her: “often she sits upon the exact mid-point between lovableness and absurdity, between sick grotesquerie and humble common sense.”

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
The Boy Who Came to Leave