Tuesday, May 5, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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

John Korkes, Alice Drummond, Vincent Gardenia.
THE CARPENTERS [Drama/Family] A: Steven Tesich; D: Eugene Lesser; S: Kert Lundell; C: Jeanne Button; L: William Mintzer; P: American Place Theatre; T: St. Clements Church (OB); 12/10/70-1/16/71 (49)

Yugoslavian-born Steven Tesich, one of the more active new playwrights of the 1970s, whose work was usually produced by the American Place Theatre, made his professional debut with The Carpenters. The reviews, while not strongly favorable, were nevertheless encouraging.

A symbolic, allegorical drama, The Carpenters tells of a seemingly normal American family whose patriarch, Father (Vincent Gardenia), is a carpenter. There are also the incessantly cooking Mother (Alice Drummond), two brothers—one mentally disabled (John Korkes), the other a college dropout (Glen Walken)—and a sister, Laura Esterman, another dropout. They live in an odd, ramshackle house that appears ready to fall apart.

A struggle emerges between the younger and older generations, centered on the plot of one of the brothers to blow up his father with a bomb planted in the basement. Ultimately, the father kills this son, but then mourns his loss.

In a fine production, led by Gardenia’s exemplary performance, The Carpenters elicited Harold Clurman’s opinion that that it was “simplistically symbolic” but nonetheless interesting. “The message is clear, the dialogue is direct, the effect for all the unpredictable nature of the telling is not without force.” Edith Oliver agreed, stating that for a first play “it is exceptionally well-written—controlled, sometimes funny, [and] occasionally poignant.” The Carpenters may have been “too pat and . . . immature,” she noted, but it showed “an original imagination.” And Clive Barnes welcomed it as “a decent play of some interest—not dazzling, but calm and clean, and in most respects, well-crafted.”

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