Thursday, August 13, 2020

244. HOUSE PARTY. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Earle Hyman, Rosanna Carter.

Note: Several entries beginning with the letter H were inadvertently overlooked when their turn came to be posted. They are now being posted, albeit belatedly and out of alphabetical and numerical order.

HOUSE PARTY [Revue/Race/Politics] B: Ed Bullins; M: Pat Patrick; D: Roscoe Orman; CH: Clay Stevenson; S: Kert Lundell; L: Roger Morgan; P: American Place Theatre; T: American Place Theatre (OB); 10/16/73-11/24/73 (42)

Subtitled “A Soulful Happening,” House Party was a musical, comic, and dramatic revue, including a series of acted, sung, and danced soliloquies, all of it set in a gaudy Harlem nightclub, with a runway into the auditorium. Locales necessary for the action were flashed on a round projection screen.

Some of the material came from an earlier Ed Bullins work, Street Sounds, seen Off-Off Broadway at La Mama. In its varied scenes, Bullins culled from the black American past and present diverse topics relating to subjects of black life. Slavery, race riots, black theatre critics, black politicians, revolution in the West Indies, black poetesses, street corner characters, and so on were depicted by the a company that counted Mary Alice, Rosanna Carter, and Earle Hyman among its nine members. The actors delivered their soliloquies accompanied by a musical background provided by a five-piece jazz combo. Some of the material was mildly satirical, some was more pointedly emotional.

The evening failed to ignite much critical fire because it often seemed facile and insufficiently developed to reach its full potential. “[D]ramatic incisiveness and vigor” were not its strong points, wrote Clive Barnes, nor, added Walter Kerr, was originality.