Friday, September 4, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Jeffrey Duncan-Jones, Dale Soules.

LOTTA [Play with Music/Fantasy/Youth] A/M/LY: Robert Montgomery; D: David Chambers; MS: Dennis Nahat; S: Tom H. John; C: Nancy Adzima, Richard Graziano; L: Roger Morgan; ADD. M: Mel Marvin; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; P: Public Theater/Florence S. Anspacher Theater (OB); 10/18/73-12/2/73 (54) a

Lotta, a play with music by Joseph Papp protégé Robert Montgomery, was a disappointment to many because its author had shown such promise with Subject to Fits a few years earlier. Lotta, concerned with propagating the simplistic moral that “Good is stimulating, bad is boring,” was too much of the latter and not enough of the former. Still, John Simon did manage to find it, warts and all, “one of the most carefree cruises to nowhere” he had ever taken. “[T]hough the boat may rock, it does so mostly with laughter.” He was not joined by many on his voyage, most of his colleagues thinking of the work as a meaningless, surrealistic hodgepodge.

Lotta centers on a supergirl, Lotta (Dale Soules), born of a conception between her mother and a thunderbolt. She is able to cure illness, fly, and even look into the future. The vague, abstract plot has to do with Lotta’s inquiry into the meaning of life. Lotta, described by the subtitle as “The Best Thing Evolution’s Ever Come Up With,” is helped in her quest by a three-man group, The Unholy Trinity (Ronald Silver, R.S. Thompson, and John Long), whose leader acts like a godfather. As their name suggests, they have holy implications. There is also a scientist (Jeffrey Duncan-Jones, later just Jeffrey Jones) to assist Lotta.

In the end, she gives her life to see what the afterlife is like. It is apparently quite blissful, but she reports that people should stay alive since there is no correspondence between one’s life on earth and one’s chances of getting into heaven.

One or two critics had fun at Lotta, but most thought it sophomoric, pretentious, enigmatic, and silly. Walter Kerr dismissed it as “juvenilia,” Clive Barnes called it “feeble and fake,” Douglas Watt judged it “exceedingly trying,” and Martin Gottfried trashed it as “quite terrible.” The rock music that accompanied much of the play was “instantly unmemorable,” wrote Barnes. Some kind words were spoken about David Chambers’s direction, the dances, acting, and décor, but none of these could resolve the otherwise moribund drama. 

In the cast were noteworthy players such as Irene Cara, Jill Eikenberry, and Bette Heinritze.