Thursday, May 14, 2020

98. CLARENCE DARROW. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


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 If you'd like to know the background on how this previously unpublished series came to be and what its relationship is to my three The Encyclopedia of the New York Stage volumes (covering every New York play, musical, revue, and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

Henry Fonda.
CLARENCE DARROW [Drama/Biographical/Law/Period/Solo] A: David W. Rintels; SC: Irving Stone’s biography, Clarence Darrow for the Defense; D: John Houseman; S/L: H.R. Poindexter; P: Mike Merrick and Don Gregory; T: Helen Hayes Theatre; 3/26/74-4/23/74 (22); Return engagement: 3/3/75-3/22/75 (18)

David Rintel’s one-man play about the great American trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow, was a resounding success in this unavoidably limited engagement production starring film icon Henry Fonda. Working in H.R. Poindexter’s law book-filled set of ramps and platforms suggesting courtroom, home, and office, Fonda journeyed through the attorney’s fascinating life, from youth and school (only a year of college and another of law school) to the beginnings of his practice as a defender of radical causes.

Henry Fonda.
Many of Darrow’s famous trials were touched on, including the Scopes “monkey” trial and the Leopold and Loeb murder case. The acting and direction skillfully conjured up all the nonvisible participants with barely any awkwardness apparent.

Rintel’s drama was a fine vehicle for the tour de force artistry of Fonda, a performance that mesmerized by the honesty, depth, and insight it brought to the depiction of a still-remembered legal hero. “The performance is perfect,” was Walter Kerr’s assessment of the actor, who captured Darrow's look with a flap of hair plastered to his forehead, suspenders, shirtsleeves, and wire-rimmed glasses. Clive Barnes urged “everyone, man, woman and child interested in justice and America to see this play.”

The production was cut short by Fonda’s illness but he returned a year later for more performances. Rintels won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Playwright and Fonda was nominated for a Best Actor in a Play Tony.

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
Children of the Wind
The Children’s Mass
A Chorus Line
The Chronicle of Henry VI: Part 1, Part II,
The Circle