Saturday, September 12, 2020

341. THE MASTER BUILDER. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975


Paul Sparer, Jill O'Hara.

THE MASTER BUILDER [Dramatic Revival] A: Henrik Ibsen; TR: Michael Meyer; D: Gene Feist; S: Holmes Easley; C: Mimi Maxmen; L: Robert Murphy; M: Philip Campanella; P: Roundabout Theatre Company; T: Roundabout Theatre (OB); 10/17/71-12/19/71 (64)

Critic Harold Clurman was a great admirer of Ibsen’s modern classic of 1892, but thought Gene Feist’s Off-Broadway staging of it “moribund and infuriating,” filled with “ineptitudes.” Martin Gottfried, on the other hand, believed Ibsen’s plays to be “graceless and unsubtle,” yet he found in this showing “enough fidelity and care to make [it] satisfying in the nicest way that only theatre can be.” Then again, Clurman considered the new translation “lively,” while Gottfried disdained it as “ungainly.” Michael Feingold termed it “a dull, mean-spirited production.”

There were similarly mixed reactions to the chief performances. Clurman said Jill O’Hara (the musical comedy actress who created the role of Fran Kubelik in Promises, Promises) was miscast as Hilde Wangel, lacking the experience needed for the role. Jerry Tallmer, however, found her “a totally fetching young woman,” though “too clean, too fresh.” Paul Sparer was “Barrymoresque” as Solness, thought Tallmer, an opinion buttressed by his appearance in the above photo. Nevertheless, he was “very good indeed in the shadings and asides that set off all the virtuous moments.” Clurman, though, claimed there was no “excuse for Paul Sparer’s empty, Svengali-tinged Solness.”

Elizabeth Owens was Aline Solnes, Fred Stuthman was Knut Brovik, Gene Galusha was Ragnar Brovik, and Erin Oxker, who played Kaja Fosli, took over for Jill O'Hara as Hilde in midrun.