Sunday, October 25, 2020

361. NOT NOW, DARLING. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Norman Wisdom, Roni Dengel, Rex Garner, Joan Bassie.

NOT NOW, DARLING [Comedy/British/Sex] A: Ray Cooney and John Chapman; D: George Abbott; DS: Lloyd Burlingame; P: James Nederlander and George M. Steinbrenner III b/a/w Michael Codron; T: Brooks Atkinson Theatre; 10/29/70-11/15/70 (21)

Roni Dengel, Norman Wisdom.

If you’ve ever wondered what kinds of plays George Steinbrenner, who bought the New York Yankees in 1973, dabbled in during his days as Broadway producer, look no further than Not Now, Darling, a mindless British farce filled with endless running around (especially by half-clothed young women), hiding in closets, and doing the expected madcap things with ferocious energy. 

M'el Dowd, Rex Garner, Norman Wisdom.

The plot is about a furrier shop run by two men, one of whom, Arnold Crouch (Norman Wisdom), hopes to seduce a woman by allowing her to pay only 500 pounds for a mink, rather than 5,000. The complications arising from this premise constitute the essence of a puerile comedy that ran in London for 699 performances but couldn’t make it through two weeks in New York, even though helmed by Broadway’s master farce director, George Abbott, then 87.Three years later a similar fate would befall another sex farce that Londoners also loved, No Sex Please, We're British, described here a couple of days ago.

Ardyth Kaiser, Ed Zimmerman.

Not Now, Darling suffered the kinds of critical slings and arrows reserved for only the most egregious clunkers. Richard Watts was being polite when he wrote that “it seemed flat, lugubrious, and lacking in humor.” It was “a maggotry sepulcher of a farce,” sniped Brendan Gill, who also said “the play is terrible, the set is terrible, the acting is terrible, and the direction is terrible.” John Simon put in his snarkily clever two cents with this classic dig: “about its unappetizing star all I can say is that if this is Norman Wisdom, I’ll take Saxon folly.”

The 11-member company included Joan Bassie, Ardyth Kaiser, Ed Zimmerman, Roni Dengel, Rex Garner, and M’el Dowd.