Tuesday, November 3, 2020

370. OLDER PEOPLE. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Will Hare,, Bette Heinritze, Stefan Schnabel, Polly Rowles, Barnard Hughes, Madeleine Sherwood.
OLDER PEOPLE [Comedy/Homosexuality/Old Age/Sex] A/LY: John Ford Noonan; D: Mel Shapiro; S: Ming Cho Lee; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; L: Roger Morgan; M: Peter Link; P: New York Shakespeare Festival; T: Public Theater/Florence S. Anspacher Theater (OB); 5/14/72-6/25/72 (70)

The 70s saw a considerable number of plays dealing with the unique problems of senior citizens, although nothing like the rush of dementia/Alzheimer’s plays that would plague the stage in the 2010s. John Ford Noonan approached a wide assortment of such issues in this surrealistic series of 13 vignettes. The same characters appeared in a few sketches, but for the most part each sketch used new ones. This allowed the strong, six-member company of veteran actors to each play several roles. Among them: a pair of gay, geriatric lovers who write songs; a faded film star; a trio of desiccated virgins; and the sexually frustrated widow of a scientist. In the nameworthy cast were Will Hare, Bette Heinritze, Stefan Schnabel, Polly Rowles, Barnard Hughes, and Madeleine Sherwood.

Sex among the senescent was a principal theme of this tepidly received comedy. Its comic thrusts were dismissed as “superficial . . . , vacantly and aimlessly written in a way that not even a commercial hack would settle for,” as Martin Gottfried phrased it. A few critics were put off by what Douglas Watt called its “arty and self-conscious” style, while Jack Kroll damned the author’s “irritating blatherskate,” Edith Oliver blasted its lack of any true understanding of old people’s ideas and desires, and John Simon could only yawn, “you do not know what boredom is until you’ve sat through this one.”