Saturday, September 12, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Kay Williams, Barry Corbin.

MASQUERADE [Drama/Biographical/Political/Romance] A: Gertrude Gayle; D: Don Toner; S/L: James T. Singelis; C: Domingo A. Rodriguez; P: The Masquerade Company; T: Theatre Four (OB); 11/28/71 (1)

Originally produced at the Theatre Center of Mississippi, in Jackson, this historical romance about the love of Queen Elizabeth I (Kay Williams) and the Earl of Oxford (C. David Colson), set between 1580 and 1603, arrived at a time when New York was besieged with plays, new and old, about the 16th-century monarch. Clive Barnes would have preferred this “ridiculous” example to have remained down South: “Civil wars have been started with hardly more provocation.”

In Masquerade, playwright Gayle made controversial revisionist points, such as that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays. I know, I know, many serious scholars accept this view, including one I personally know and respect for her other academic accomplishments. Regardless, the play was considered entirely negligible. It was so hard to sit through that Michael Feingold did the ethically unpardonable thing of leaving at intermission with another critic “to get plastered.” Presumably, others followed suit, since the show closed that same night.