|Roger Morden, Martha Greenhouse.|
“Three Thousand Ants,” “The Allegation,” and “The Victims of Amnesia,” by well-known beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who died at 102 on February 22 of this year), appalled the critics by their dull, excessively symbolic, and heavily philosophical tone. To Clive Barnes, for example, they were “windy allegories set on some far horizon of poetic sensibility.” John Simon called them “one viscous mass enlivened by two intermissions.” He did note, however, that they read better than they played. One reason he offered was because the author’s elaborately written stage directions were beyond the ability of the producer to express onstage; another is because the director ignored the poet’s requirements.
In “Three Thousand Ants,” considered the best play, an unhappily married man and woman are in bed when he looks out a window and sees a yacht sinking and its passengers saved by an airplane. In the next play, “The Allegation,” a woman keeps an alligator as a pet, but the reptile wants its freedom, and an Indian thinks it should have it. But his advocacy goes nowhere as the alligator and its mistress are unable to break their psychological shackles. In the third, and weakest piece, “The Victims of Amnesia,” a woman chats with a hotel reception clerk, a former train conductor, who soon conducts her to her room, where she gives unassisted birth to three babies. Downstairs, at his desk, the clerk threatens the audience as images of feet and carnage are projected on a wall.
The trapped actors were Roger Morden, Martha Greenhouse, and Charles Gregory, “who,” said Barnes, “showed no embarrassment whatsoever.”
Next up: The Three Sisters.