Saturday, May 16, 2020

102. THE CONSTANT WIFE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Ingrid Bergman.
"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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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.

Ingrid Bergman, Brenda Forbes.
THE CONSTANT WIFE [Dramatic Revival] A: W. Somerset Maugham; D: John Gielgud; S: Alan Tagg; C: Beatrice Dawson; L: H.R. Poindexter; P: Arthur Cantor b/a/w H.M. Tennent, Ltd.; T: Shubert Theatre; 4/14/75-5/10/75 (32)

Somerset Maugham’s stylish 1926 British upper-class drawing-room comedy is about 36-year-old Constance Middleton (Ingrid Bergman), who appears (at least for the first two acts) to take with perfect equanimity the philandering of her surgeon husband (Jack Gwillim) with Marie-Louise Durham (Carolyn Lagerfelt). It provided the Swedish-born star with an acceptable, if dull and dated, opportunity to once more bring her effulgent personality to Broadway.

Ingrid Bergman, Donald Silber, Carolyn Lagerfelt
John Simon said of the once-shocking comedy that it was “now not much more than a pleasant civilized charade with intermittently funny situations and an occasional well-turned line.” Martin Gottfried noted certain of its structural deficiencies, and some dubbed the work a dusty, old “museum piece,” as Douglas Watt put it. The play was recognized as a popular star vehicle for glamorous actresses, usually those, like the 60-year-old Bergman, who had long since seen the age attributed to her character.

Jack Gwillim, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Harding.
There was nothing exceptional about Sir John Gielgud’s glossy direction, which was viewed as competent, although Jack Kroll called this “a sarcophagus of a production.” The supporting cast was uneven (an exception was Brenda Forbes as Mrs. Culver), and, like Bergman, few seemed young enough for their roles. Some critics, like Gottfried, gushed over Bergman’s presence, her radiance, and her projection of “brains, charm and devastating sexuality.” Her role, said John Beaufort, was played as “a woman of wisdom, tolerance, and humor. She is ironic without being mean, independent without being aggressive, and . . . infuriatingly logical.” But Clive Barnes thought her unnatural and “ill at ease,” with her Swedish accent interfering with the authenticity of her British characterization.

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
Coney Island Cycle