Monday, September 7, 2020

331. THE LOWER DEPTHS. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Leah Chandler, Sam Tsoutsouvas.

THE LOWER DEPTHS [Dramatic Revival] A: Maxim Gorky; TR: Alex Szogy; D: Boris Tumarin; S: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: John David Ridge; L: Joe Pacetti; P: City Center Acting Company; T: Good Shepherd-Faith Church (OB); 10/23-72-10/28/72 (6)

The tremendously ambitious young troupe of recent Juilliard School of Drama graduates, then known as the City Center Acting Company, tackled Gorky’s early 20th-century Russian masterpiece, The Lower Depths, as one of six plays it produced in repertory during its first New York season. The still unpolished, incompletely professional troupe went from the high style of Sheridan’s School for Scandal to the gritty naturalism of this gloomy drama, not necessarily with total ease, but with an eagerness and sense of dedication that spoke well of their future.

Gorky’s 1902 depiction of a cross-section of humanity in a provincial flop house offered the cast excellent material for a score of interesting characterizations. “Outstanding performances,” wrote Mel Gussow, were turned in by Kevin Kline as Pepel, Mary Joan Negro as Nastya, and Sam Tsoutsouvas as Satin. Alex Szogy’s translation was appreciated, “swift and lucid,” as Gussow noted. And Douglas Schmidt’s fine setting worked well in the untheatrical confines of he show’s church venue.

Cast members included Leah Chandler, Sam Tsoutsouvas, Cynthia Herman, Patti LuPone, Benjamin Hendrickson, Mary Joan Negro, Dakin Matthews, Norman Snow, and David Schram.