Tuesday, October 27, 2020

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Sydney Walker, Maxine Herman, Robert Brink, Roy R. Scheider.
THE NUNS [Comedy-Drama/Crime/Cuban/Haiti/Period/Politics/Transvestitism] A: Eduard Manet; AD: Don Parker and Paul Verdier; D: Paul Verdier; S: Peter Harvey; C: Rita Riggs; L: F. Mitchell Dana; P: Don Parker i/a/w Stanley J. Hatoff in a Westgate Production; T: Cherry Lane Theatre (OB); 6/1/70 (1)

Written in French by a Cuban living in Paris, The Nuns proved a single performance embarrassment for all concerned. A parable play with symbolic overtones, it concerns a trio of male fugitives (Sydney Walker, Roy R. Scheider [as he was billed], Robert Brink), hiding out in a convent cellar, disguised as nuns, during a 1791 revolutionary uprising in Haiti. The juxtaposition of nuns’ habits and coarse male behavior provides much of whatever amusement the play has to offer.

In the course of the action, the men dupe a wealthy woman (Maxine Herman), who wishes to flee the revolution, into bringing them her jewels. They then rob, rape, and murder her. One of the men is killed by the Mother Superior, and the others are discovered by the revolutionaries.

Harold Clurman was generally kind to what he believed a “competent” production, though admitting that “Manet is no Genet.” But Clive Barnes disposed of the play as a piece of “sheer ineptitude.” It was a “very bad play,” he insisted. “It wore its banality with a kind of poignant distinction.”

Of the actors marooned here, one was Sydney Walker, a veteran character who came into his own as part of the Lincoln Center Repertory Company in its earliest years. Another would abandon his middle initial when he became a Hollywood star known simply as Roy Scheider.