NICOL WILLIAMSON’S LATE SHOW [Literary Anthology/Solo] L: Jene Youtt; P: Norman Twain; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB); 6/26/73-7/28/73 (30)
Every night following his strenuous, acclaimed Broadway performance in the Circle in the Square’s revival of Uncle Vanya, British actor Nicol Williamson rushed over to Off Broadway’s Eastside Playhouse to begin, at 10:45 p.m. this one-man program of spoken and sung selections from the poetry, prose, and music of e.e. cummings, Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Parker, E.B. White, Spike Mulligan, Shakespeare, Hoagy Carmichael, Kurt Weill, and many others. He wore casual denim clothes and played on a stage set with a microphone, a staircase with books stacked on it, and a table.
The range of material, which varied somewhat at each performance of this self-directed solo show, was quite eclectic. Country and western songs mingled with Broadway show tunes, while modern literature competed with the classics. A six-piece combo backed the musical selections.
“[T]he actor’s readings are superlative,” beamed Mel Gussow, who marveled at the actor’s virtuosic powers and ability to evoke “harrowing” images as well as “antic . . . wit.” Williamson’s pop singing talents were also of notable quality, wrote Gussow. “He sings effortlessly and without a trace of an English accent.” Feeling quite differently was John Simon, for whom the actor’s poetry readings were distorted by acting “out . . . with febrile gestures, eyes popping . . . , Pinteresque pauses, and all kinds of vocal contortions. . . ." Nor could he resist noting, "As a pop singer, [h]e is bad.”