Sunday, May 31, 2020

131. DON JUAN IN HELL. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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

DON JUAN IN HELL [Dramatic Revival] A: George Bernard Shaw; D: John Houseman; P: Lee Orgel and William J. Griffiths; T: Palace Theatre; 1/15/73-2/4/73 (24)

Act Three of Shaw’s Man and Superman, ever since its successful 1951 Broadway presentation as an independent play, has been a mildly popular concert drama for name actors to perform in formal dinner clothes on a bare stage against a neutral background, using lecterns and microphones. Present in this touring version was Agnes Moorehead, who resumed playing Dona Ana, former mistress of Don Juan (Ricardo Montalban), which she’d done in the 1951 original.

Dona Ana and Don Juan, along with Dona Ana’s father, the Commander (Paul Henreid), and the Devil (Edward Mulhare), are conjured up in a dream by John Tanner in the play surrounding Act Three. The quartet’s witty, philosophical debate on various subjects provides enough verbal meat for four top actors to chomp on zestfully, but the present company, for all their previous accomplishments, was not entirely suited to the task.

Several reviewers, including Clive Barnes and Martin Gottfried, attacked Shaw’s inflated writing, while others, like T.E. Kalem, considered the piece a “dazzlingly sustained discussion of ideas in dialogue.” Kalem singled out Montalban as being “superb, no libertine at all, but Shaw incarnate,” and John Simon and Richard Watts supported the view that Montalban’s was the finest performance. However, a good number of others believed him to be inadequate, Barnes, for one, calling his delivery “monotonous.”

Previous entries:

Abelard and Helo/ise
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
The Crucible
Crystal and Fox

Dames at Sea
The Dance of Death
Dance wi’Me/Dance with Me
A Day in the Life of Just about Everyone
Dear Nobody
Dear Oscar
The Desert Song
Diamond Studs
Different Times
The Dirtiest Show in Town
The Divorce of Judy and Jane
Do It Again!
Doctor Jazz
A Doll’s House (2)
Don Juan