Monday, June 22, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Ellen Barber.
Note: This entry is out of alphabetical order.

FAME [Comedy-Drama/Biographical/Films/Hollywood] A/D: Anthony J. Ingrassia; S: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: Jeffrey B. Moss; L: Martin Aronstein; P: James J.C. Andrews and Tony Zanetta for Mainman; T: John Golden Theatre; 11/18/74 (1)

Ellen Barber did a good job in the leading role of this à clef play based on the life of movie star Marilyn Monroe. The piece itself was laughed off the stage, though, for its sheer ineptitude. Clive Barnes blasted it as “the worst play of the season,” saying that the intermission was the evening’s most interesting part. Martin Gottfried called it “an amateur night version of a Hollywood novel.” Not that it hadn’t been vetted, since it originated in an Off-Off Broadway production.

In Fame, the Monroe character is called Diane Cook, her athlete husband is a boxer instead of a baseball player, and her writer husband is a novelist, not a playwright. These and all the rest of the 33 clichéd characters (played by eight actors) were involved in a multi-scened biography that never seemed sure of how much it meant to take its subject seriously or to camp it up for laughs.

It began with a revelation of the star as a corpse surrounded by the news media, then showed her rising and reenacting her life in flashback, and ended with her suicide by a sleeping pill overdose. The show itself could not outlive its opening night.