Wednesday, April 29, 2020

63. BRIEF LIVES. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

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For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage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

BRIEF LIVES [Drama/British/Biographical/Literature/Period/Solo] A/D: Patrick Garland; SC: Works of John Aubrey; S: Julia Trevelyan Oman; P: Paul Elliott, Ellen Brandt, David Lonn; T: Booth Theatre; 10/16/74-12/1/74 (53)

A return engagement of a 1967 one-man play starring British actor Roy Dotrice as the late 17th-century antiquarian John Aubrey. The piece was considered among the finest examples of the solo drama based on the writings of an historical figure, and Dotrice’s performance was recognized as an acting masterpiece.

It was done as if the aged, eccentric were waking up in his extremely cluttered lodgings at Mrs. Bryerly’s in Dirty Lane in 1697 on the last day of his life and then proceeding to go through all the trivial business of his daily existence he ruminated about his life and the people he had known.

His thoughts had been expertly culled by adapter-director Patrick Garland from Aubrey’s diverse writings in memoirs, letters, and other miscellaneous sources. The verisimilitude of the man’s behavior was brilliantly captured by the director and star so that “The spectator becomes totally caught up in the realistic make-believe,” wrote John Beaufort. Julia Trevelyan’s marvelously detailed set was a perfect background for the action.

Aubrey’s rambling reminiscences and frequently off-color gossipy chatter about figures ranging from Queen Elizabeth I to King William III were spoken directly to the audience as Dotrice wheezed, coughed, sniffled, and chuckled around his lodgings in the enfeebled manner of an ailing, fragile, old codger. Through the genius of makeup and impersonation, the actor brought Aubrey alive in a tour de force performance that awed the critics. John Simon said the show was “not to be missed on any account. . . . It gives the soliloquy, senility, and wry sotto-voce mutterings a better name, and the audience very possibly a better time, than they have enjoyed in the theatre for years.”

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
A Breeze from the Gulf