Saturday, May 9, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Fern Sloan, Bob Balaban, Kevin McCarthy, Terry Kiser.
"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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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.

THE CHILDREN [Drama/Art/Death/Family/Incest/Nudity/Rural] A: Michael McGuire; D: Paul Schneider; S: Marsha Eck; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; L: Arden Fingerhut; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Public Theater/Other Stage (OB); 11/28/72-1/21/73 (64)

A foggy exercise in abstruse, symbolic playmaking that received nay votes from the critics for its unfathomable manner, uninteresting characters, and inflated air of self-importance. Steaming with images of incest and painting (at one point a girl poses nude for her artist father), and with characters who may not be who they seem to be—is the daughter really her mother or the father not really the father?—the play’s dense, stream-of-consciousness dialogue drove the critics to distraction.

Set on a Midwestern farm, the story concerns the passing away of an offstage figure, a beautiful woman who is surrounded in her last moments by her husband (Kevin McCarthy), a former lover (Terry Kiser), and her son (Bob Balaban) and daughter (Fern Sloan).

Clive Barnes discerned glimpses of “real characters and situations” within the play’s dimly lit recesses but Walter Kerr asserted that it “sounded like a convocation of drugged parakeets.” John Simon called The Children “a pretentious, verbose, deliberately and vapidly arcane piece of megalomaniacal mystification.” Even a cast of leading New York actors could do little to rescue this play from oblivion.

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