Tuesday, May 19, 2020

107. THE COUNTRY GIRL. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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

Maureen Stapleton, Jason Robards.
THE COUNTRY GIRL [Dramatic Revival] A: Clifford Odets; D: John Houseman; S/L: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: Frank Thompson; P: Roger L. Stevens i/a/w Hugh O’Brian in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Production; T: Billy Rose Theatre; 3/15/72-5/6/72 (61)

This revival, brought to New York from Washington, D.C., offered slam-bang by its trio of stars, who took every opportunity afforded by Clifford Odets’s 1950 backstage story. The play itself came off as a somewhat dated, melodramatic piece of sentimental dynamite in its tale about Frank Elgin (Jason Robards), a talented but alcoholic actor, struggling to make a comeback. Aiding him are his valiant, long-suffering spouse, Georgie (Maureen Stapleton), who is subjected to the disapproval of her husband’s director, Bernie Dodd (George Grizzard).

George Grizzard, Maureen Stapleton.
The actors provided “a splendid no-holds barred performance,” turning Odets’s “gorgeous mediocrity” into an evening of “thrilling, undemanding theatre,” gushed Clive Barnes. His opinion was shared by many others. One was Walter Kerr, who thought this “a vigorous, flashy, emotionally satisfying revival.”

Stapleton, in the role that landed Grace Kelly a 1955 Oscar, received the most favorable notices. Representative was Harold Clurman’s, which said: “Maureen Stapleton is so moving because we perceive in her Georgie an extreme vulnerability that is transformed into great strength. What lends her strength is richness of feeling, always a source of power. Maureen Stapleton has enormous resources of sentience, the only treasure a person must possess to achieve truly human worth.” But John Simon, who panned the show, took the opportunity to severely denigrate the actress, calling her portrayal “the catastrophe of the evening,” and emphasizing the disparity between Georgie’s presumed youth and attractiveness and Stapleton’s lack of those attributes. Despite the adulation of the other critics, she was conspicuously absent from the season’s award winners.

Jason Robards, however, was nominated for a Best Actor Tony, and also led the Variety poll for “Male Lead.”

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
The Contrast
Cooler Near the Lake
The Corner