Sunday, May 17, 2020

104. THE CONTRAST. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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

THE CONTRAST [Musical/Homosexuality/Period/Romance] B/D: Anthony Stimac; M: Don Pippin; LY: Steve Brown; SC: Royall Tyler’s play, The Contrast; CH: Bull Guske; S: David Chapman; C: Robert Pusilo; L: C. Murawski; P: Peter Cookson; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB); 11/28/72-12/12/72 (24)

Royall Tyler’s The Contrast is known as America’s first native-written, produced comedy, having been done in 1787. In Anthony Stimac’s adaptation, it resurfaced as an Off-Broadway musical of considerable appeal although it was a commercial flop. Tyler’s plot and style were influenced by Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, although its context was America, not England. His play concerns the contrast between those New Yorkers who profess the superiority of polished European manners and those who opt for frank, homespun American behavior. One of his characters, Jonathan, was the forerunner of the long line of “stage Yankees” who populated American plays into the 20th century.

Stimac’s adaptation and direction had a humorously campy affect. Homosexual innuendoes and mannerisms were abundantly in evidence in the script and performances. Clive Barnes found that the old play ‘emerges with surprising spirit,” but felt that the songs were unnecessary and the production heavy-handed. Harold Clurman incorrectly assumed the show would be a hit; he was much taken with it but he, too, could have done without the songs. To John Simon, The Contrast “pirouettes, stumbles, leaps and sashays into your heart,” and was “the season’s best musical.” Some demurred, however, as, for example, Edith Oliver, who was turned off by the show’s “arch, self-conscious” manner. Despite glimmers of quality, she concluded that it was “absolutely awful.”

Cast members included, among others, Connie Danese as Charlotte, Elaine Kerr as Letitia, Gene Kelton as Van Rough and Frank, Ty McConnell as Dimple, Grady Clarkson as Jessamy, and Philip MacKenzie as Jonathan.

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
The Constant Wife
The Contractor