Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Richard DeFabees, Bruce Weitz, Steven Gilborn, Mark Metcalf, Philip Charles McKenzie.
"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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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.

CREEPS [Comedy-Drama/Canadian/Disability/Friendship] A: David E. Freeman; D: Louis W. Scheeder; DS: David Chapman; P: Orin Lehman i/a/w the Folger Theatre Group; T: Playhouse 2 (OB): 12/4/73-12/16/73 (15)

In this play, Canadian playwright David E. Freeman, himself a cerebral palsy victim, depicts with remarkable accuracy and sensitivity the emotional and physical world inhabited by sufferers of the disease. 

Set in the rude environment of a filthy men’s lavatory at a cerebral palsy victim’s workshop, Creeps pictures a group of four handicapped, spastics, social rejects because of their condition, who meet in this homely space to discuss their mutual problems and aspirations. Trapped by their disabilities and the restrictions of society, they are inspired when two of their number, a writer and a painter, consider breaking free of institutional restraints and making a life of their own.

What Harold Clurman called a “penetrating and poignant” play was considered by many to be, at least initially, painful to view, but it gradually took hold and kept audiences gripped by the rage, frustration, fantasies, humor, and ideals of its damaged characters. “Freeman has made the special and ‘obscene’ world of the spastics the symbol of a universal situation,” Clurman added. “I wish I could forget them,” commented Edith Oliver, “but I doubt I ever will.” T.E. Kalem declared, “The play is powerful, harrowing, grimly humorous and altogether absorbing.”

Freeman’s attempts at comic irony in the form of bits of theatrical action inserted into the plot were intrusive, thought Walter Kerr, who found a number of dramaturgical flaws. He, too, however, considered much of the work fascinating, especially the documentary verisimilitude with which the non-disabled cast (unlike much present-day practice) portrayed the spasms, falls, shaking, awkwardness, and vocal difficulties associated with this debilitating disease. Previously staged in Canada and Washington, D.C., Creeps may have dealt with too difficult a subject for the average New York theatregoer. In spite of good reviews, it was gone in two weeks.

Freeman received a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding New Playwright.

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
The Constant Wife
The Country Girl
Crazy Now
The Creation of the World and Other Business