Monday, May 11, 2020

93. THE CHILDREN'S MASS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Courtney Burr, Donald Warfield.
"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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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’S MASS [Drama/Crime/Drugs/Homosexuality/Transvestitism] A: Frederick Combs; D: Richard Altman; S/C: Peter Harvey; L: Roger Morgan; P: Sal Mineo and Robin Archer i/a/w Serpentine Productions, Ltd. b/s/a/w Lucille Lortel Productions, Inc.; T: Theatre de Lys (OB); 5/16/73-5/20/73 (7)

New York’s Soho district was the locale for this tawdry drama about Dutchie (Courtney Burr), a pathetic drag queen, into the full panoply of heavy drugs, who lives in a loft with a bisexual hustler named Geoffrey (Gary Sandy) and a heterosexual writer named Jimmy (Kipp Osborne). In the apartment below are Geoffrey’s alcoholic wife, Millie (Elisabeth Farley), and their two young kids. The plotless, incident-filled, play culminates in the death of Dutchie when a junkie (Donald Warfield) he picks up injects them both with heroin and then carries out a ritualistic stabbing of the transvestite.

The play focuses on the chattering, friendly, campy Dutchie, who assumes the role of den mother to all the household’s assorted crazies. His death is meant to evoke great pathos for the loss of so troubled yet worthwhile an individual.

Clive Barnes found promise in the writing but questioned the unmotivated slaying and the untidy structure. He liked the documentary realism of the staging and praised Burr’s performance. Edith Oliver saw “much that is pretentious and . . . trashy” here but was held by the play because of its unusual milieu and touch of sympathy. John Simon had only contempt for its construction, meaning, and performances.

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