Saturday, May 16, 2020

101. CONEY ISLAND CYCLE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


No photos available.

"In Lieu of Reviews"

Reviews of live theatre being impossible during these days of the pandemic, THEATRE'S LEITER SIDE is pleased to provide instead accounts of previous theatre seasons--encompassing the years 1970-1975-for theatre-hungry readers. If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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 entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

CONEY ISLAND CYCLE [Comedy-Dramas/One-Acts] A/D: Peter Schumann; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Public Theater/Martinson Hall (OB); 9/7/72-9/17/72 (14)
“Revenge of the Law” [Politics/Prison]; “Harvey McCleod” [Crime/Race]; “Hallelujah, or St. George and the Dragon or Laos” [Politics/War]

Peter Schumann’s “poor theatre” style, exemplified in the artless, childlike, yet subtly sophisticated plays he wrote, directed, performed, and designed for his Bread and Puppet Theatre troupe, was here given a showing under more conventional circumstances than those associated with his work. Normally, the itinerant, internationally recognized company performed, unadvertised, in the streets, in lofts, in churches, in fields, and elsewhere.

Their productions employed unusual masks, puppets of widely differing sizes (some of them huge) and types, cartoon-like scenic environments or backgrounds, and costumes and musical instruments that looked as though they had been carefully selected from the tired castoffs of the non-affluent. Their plays relied more on striking imagery and sounds than on verbal discourse. A basic sense of Christian love and compassion ran through them, usually underscored by reference to man’s horrid experiences with war, hunger, and other forms of suffering. Political implications were clearly stated by puppets and masks allegorically suggestive of both benign and destructive forces in contemporary life.

This program of three one-acts included “Revenge of the Law,” which was concerned with the Attica prison uprisings. Its fatuous central figure, a puppet maker called The Governor, was clearly meant as a critical response to Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s excessive handling of the crisis, in which many men died.

“Harvey McCleod” dealt with the social forces that drive black people into violent crime.

The above plays were somber and cheerless, but “Hallelujah” was infused with life and humor, despite its being “antiwar and pro-ecology,” according to Mel Gussow. Here, in true agitprop tradition, highly symbolic actions and characters were displayed, the chief figure being a giant representation of Uncle Sam.

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
Brief Lives
Brother Gorski
Bullshot Crummond
The Burnt Flower Bed
Button, Button
Buy Bonds, Buster

The Cage
Candide (1)
Candide (2)
The Candyapple
Captain Brassbound’s Conversion
The Caretaker
La Carpa de los Raquichis
The Carpenters
The Castro Complex
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Changing Room
Charles Abbott and Son
Charley’s Aunt
Charlie Was Here and Now He’s Gone
Chemin de Fer
The Cherry Orchard
The Chickencoop Chinaman
The Children
Children! Children!
Children in the Rain
Children of the Wind
The Children’s Mass
A Chorus Line
The Chronicle of Henry VI: Part 1, Part II,
The Circle
Clarence Darrow
Cold Feet
Conditions of Agreement