Saturday, May 2, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Randolph Dobbs, Rick Cluchey, Robert Poole, Ernie Allen.
"In Lieu of Reviews"

For background on how this previously unpublished series—introducing all mainstream New York shows between 1970 and 1975—came to be and its relationship to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage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 earlier entries beginning with the letter “A.” See the list at the end of the current entry.

THE CAGE [Drama/Crime/Homosexuality/Prison/Race] A: Rick Cluchey; D: Kenneth Kitch; S/L: Jonathan Stuart; P: David Carroll i/a/w the Barbwire Theatre Production; T: Playhouse Theatre (OB); 6/18/70-10/1/70 (126)

Author and leading actor Rick Cluchey, in and out of jail since the age of 16, had been sent to San Quentin for life at 22 after committing a kidnapping-robbery in which the victim was injured. In prison, he founded the San Quentin Drama Workshop. When he was 33, he was granted clemency when it became clear that he had been rehabilitated.

In The Cage, this life-parolee wrote a drama intended to reveal the horrors of prison life by telling the story of Jive IRandolph Dobbs), a white convict, jailed for murdering his girlfriend, who must share a cell with a vicious killer and a couple of black homosexuals (Robert Poole, Ernie Allen) who look on him as an outlet for their affections. All the actors were themselves ex-cons.

The Cage continued a tradition of such brutally realistic prison plays, represented in recent years by The Brig and Fortune and Men’s Eyes. It would eventually be overshadowed by the similar Short Eyes of Miguel Pinero. Didactic in intent, it nevertheless was extremely honest and did not sentimentalize its subject. Edith Oliver appreciated its inclusion of “humor as well as suffering,” while Clive Barnes thought it well done but vague and conventional. Walter Kerr scored its lack of dramatic development, and Arthur Sainer said it was too literary but nevertheless “remarkable.”

The evening began with a performance by a rock group made up of former Rikers Island inmates and concluded with a discussion between the cast and audience.

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