Monday, April 6, 2020

9. ALL MY SONS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

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.

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. 
Janet Sarno, Kenneth Kimmins, Catherine Byers, Tom Keena, Hugh Marlowe, Beatrice Straight.
ALL MY SONS [Dramatic Revival] A: Arthur Miller; D: Gene Feist; S: Holmes Easley; C: Susan Benson; L: Clarke Dunham; M: Philip Campanella; P: Roundabout Theatre Company; T: Roundabout Theatre (OB); 9/27/74-11/17/74 (60) 

The first production at the Roundabout’s new home in the spacious, reconstructed RKO Cinema on W. 23rd Street was All My Sons, Arthur Miller’s first Broadway success, produced in 1947 and given that season’s Drama Critics Circle Award. Although it’s remained a frequently revived standard, it seemed in this production to have faded considerably in impact over the 27 years since its premiere and seemed “almost stiff with morality and didacticism,” with its smug “air of self-righteousness,” according to Clive Barnes.

Drew Snyder, Beatrice Straight, Catherine Byers, Hugh Marlowe.
This drama, about how a businessman who profited from the sale of faulty airplane parts to the armed forces in World War II learns to accept responsibility for his actions, still possessed the power to entertain, however, despite its dated flavor, Barnes admitted. This “well-done revival” had a good deal to do with the play’s effect. Barnes liked the way Gene Feist’s direction emphasized the play’s melodrama. The acting, he said, had “a kind of Warner Brothers conviction to it.” On the other hand, Edith Oliver, who agreed with Barnes about the play’s flaws, thought them exacerbated by what she called Feist’s “clumpy high-school production” and the feeling that the actors had never met before.

The best-known player was Beatrice Straight, as Mrs. Keller, but to Oliver even she could “not raise the general level to professionalism.” The only others likely to have some name recognition today were Hugh Marlowe, who played Joe Keller, and Drew Snyder, who portrayed Chris Keller.

Previous entries:
Abelard and Heloise
Absurd Person Singular
“Acrobats” and “Line”
The Advertisement
Aesop’s Fables
Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death
Alice in Wonderland
All God’s Chillun Got Wings