Sunday, January 31, 2021

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Michael Beirne,, Claire Wilbur, Lynn Swann, Sylvester E. Stallone.
SCORE [Comedy/Homosexuality/Marriage/Sex] A/D: Jerry Douglas; S: T.E. Mason; L: Candace King; P: Michael Harvey; T: Martinique Theatre (OB); 10/28/70-11/15/70 (23)

Sylvester Stallone was still in the starving actor stage of his career (he was billed as Sylvester E. Stallone) when he appeared in the secondary role of Mike, a lusty phone repairman, in this comic embarrassment about sex-swapping. The New York Times’s review was headlined: “Nude Sex Play Opens at the Martinique.” Set in Queens, Score tells of a bisexual couple, Jack (Michael Beirne), a cheesecake photographer, and wife, Elvira (Claire Wilbur), a concert pianist, who keep a competitive score of how many friends they can seduce within preset time limits.

An orgy transpires with Betsy (Lynn Swann, no, not the great football player), a Catholic lesbian inspired to say her first “God damn!” after enjoying the experience, and Eddie (Ben Wilson), an accountant who enjoys bowling. This product of the theatre’s so-called sexual liberation in the early 70s offered nudity and pot-smoking aplenty, with a good deal of simulated love making.

The show was forced by an Off-Broadway actors’ strike to close early, but its reviews offered little promise of continued interest. Mel Gussow concluded his review by saying, “Superficially there is a certain professionalism in this production. The lights work. The acting is not all bad. And there is even a tinny laugh or two. But beneath the pseudo-sophisticated surface, the play is not very different from a pornographic paperback. Except that the price of tickets runs as high as $10.”

In 1974, the play was made into a pornographic movie, described in this Wikipedia article, which also throws some light on the play.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

456. THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Brian Bedford, Joan Van Ark.
THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES [Dramatic Revival] A: Molière; TR: Richard Wilbur; D: Stephen Porter; S/L: James Tilton; C: Nancy Potts; M: Conrad Susa; P: Phoenix Theatre; T: Lyceum Theatre; 2/16/71-5/29/71 (120)

Never before produced on Broadway in English, Molière’s L’École des Femmes was provided with an outstanding production under Stephen Porter’s clever directorial guidance. Brian Bedford received accolades for his inimitable performance as Arnolphe, an aging and jealous gentleman married to Agnes (Joan Van Ark). She is the sweet young thing he wishes to protect from younger suitors by shielding her from their gaze.

David Dukes, Brian Bedford, Peggy Pope, James Greene, Joan Van Ark.

The complications that ensue when his friend, the dashing young Horace (David Dukes) falls in love with and tries to woo Agnes, without knowing her relationship to Arnolphe, offer the basis for this comedy of cuckoldry.

Translator Richard Wilbur’s sprightly rhymed couplets, said the delighted Richard Watts, roll “off the tongue with such idiomatic ease that is [sic] sounds for all the world like an English classic.” Most observers thought the humor and charm were on a par with the best Broadway entertainment, considering the company mettlesome, and the direction warm, zestful, and human. A rare detractor was Brendan Gill, who deemed this a “conscientious” but essentially joyless revival. Despite valiant efforts, he observed, “the play has slipped through their over-careful fingers.” Commenting on the title, he stated that it should be translated without the definite article.

James Greene, Brian Bedford, Peggy Pope.

Bedford, an admired English actor who often starred on Broadway in British plays (especially the classics), was, to many, the show’s best feature. Douglas Watt felt he gave “a smashing comedy performance” in which he “seizes the part and plays it as the young Charles Laughton might have done, but in his own special style. His rages are heartfelt and passionately presented. . . . It is a sweeping, majestic comic performance that often succeeds in arousing our sympathy for this superior fellow whose ill luck it is to be confounded by ninnies.” To T.E. Kalem Bedford was “a comic marvel. His face is an ever-changing panorama of unholy glee, bottomless despair, and a sour-pickle sneer.” Among the few sourly sneering responses, however, was that of Stanley Kauffmann, who found Bedford mannered and unconvincing.

George Pentecost, Brian Bedford.

Barnes added, "The two other leading actors, the flourishing Horace of David Dukes and the radiantly innocent Agnes of Joan van [sic] Ark, show just the right panache, also giving the play the verve and sparkle it demands."

Bedford walked off with the Tony for Best Actor, Play, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance. Van Ark received a Tony nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Play, and a Theatre World Award.


Friday, January 29, 2021


David Ogden Stiers, Patti LuPone.
THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL [Dramatic Revival] A: Richard Brinsley Sheridan; D: Gerald Freedman; S: Douglas W. Schmidt; C: John David Ridge; L: Joe Pacitti; M: Robert Waldman; P: City Center Acting Company; T: Good Shepherd-Faith Church (OB); 9/27/72-10/28/72 (12) 

The School for Scandal was revived in repertory with five other plays by the youthful Acting Company in their first professional season. The overall quality of their work bore a fragrance of talented amateurism, but the troupe, not long after being trained at Juilliard, succeeded in offering considerable promise, which many company members fulfilled. 

David Ogden Stiers represented the evening’s strongest work in the role of Joseph Surface, and there were good notices for what T.E. Kalem called Patti LuPone’s performance as Lady Teazle, the “interesting,” Lady Sneerwell of Mary Lou Rosato, as John Simon put it, and, in Clive Barnes’s words, the “bluffly likable" Charles of Kevin Kline. (Rosato was commended by the Drama Desk as Most Promising Performer.)The church-theatre venue was uncomfortable, though, and the thrust stage served little purpose when no seats were able to surround it. 

Gerald Freedman’s staging of the heavily cut 1777 comedy of manners was spirited, but needed more eye-catching movement patterns. On the whole, the actors were still far from commanding the sense of period demanded, and the result for many, as for Walter Kerr, smacked too strongly of “a graduation exercise.”



Thursday, January 28, 2021


Priscilla Pointer (center), and clockwise: Lee Lawson, Robert Symonds; Elizabeth Huddle, Christopher Walken, Herbert Foster, James Broderick, Martha Henry. Photo: Martha Swope.
SCENES FROM AN AMERICAN LIFE [Comedy-Drama/Family/Period/Politics] A: A.R. Gurney, Jr.; D: Dan Sullivan; S/L: John Scheffler; C: James Berton Harris; P: Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center; T: Forum Theatre (OB): 3/25/71-4/18/71 (30)

A panorama, in over 30 sketches, of four decades of American life, from the Depression to  the 1970s, offering an unsettling glimpse into the future as well as a nostalgic look at the past. The cast of eight each played many roles in this satiric, but cynical, examination of the hypocrisy (sexual, religious, and social) of our society as seen through the microcosm of the lives of certain well-established families in Buffalo, New York. A piano medley of pop and classical music accompanied the action.

A considerable number of reviewers thought highly of the play, considering it among the best things ever seen at Lincoln Center's Forum. Harold Clurman called it “well-written,” and Martin Gottfried found it “mostly a lovely entertainment,” although the futurescape scenes were “trite and irrelevant,” not suited to the rest of the work. Douglas Watt termed it “as telling an entertainment as the season has produced,” and he and others touched on the author’s ability to tell his tale with generous quantities of wit. Clive Barnes opined that this “splintered view of a splintered society is effective and chilling,” but thought there was insufficient exploration of the reasons behind the issues and people. “It is never clear what they do or don’t do to deserve the fate Mr. Gurney has in store for them.” Even more on the debit side was Dick Brukenfeld’s comment that Gurney makes the “potentially disturbing . . . toothless and acceptable.”   

All agreed that the performances and direction were first-rate, with young Christopher Walken collecting several distinguished accolades. Gottfried, for instance, remarked that he “was getting better every day” and gave a “dazzling” presentation. For others in the cast, check the caption for the accompanying photo. 

Gurney proved a worthy recipient of the Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

453. SCAPIN/SCAPINO (two productions). From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Cast of Scapin. Can you spot, say, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin Kline, and Patti LuPone?

SCAPIN [Dramatic Revival] A: Molière; D: Pierre Lefevre; LY: Sam Tsoutsouvas; C: John David Ridge; L: Martin Aronstein; P: City Center Acting Company; T: Billy Rose Theatre; 1/28/73 (1)

In January 1973, Broadway saw the rapid failure of a musical called Tricks (discussed later in this series), based on Molière’s 1671 farced, Les Fourberies de Scapin. Nonetheless, the following season of 1973-1974 hosted two straight revivals of the rarely seen play, the first being this hour-long children’s theatre version given only a single performance at a special matinee during the Acting Company’s 1973-1974 repertory season on Broadway. Jared Sakren’s spirited rendition of Scapin led a lively group of actors through this buoyant romp that Mel Gussow said even seven-year-olds could follow.

That group of actors included such yet-to-make-their-mark names as Sam Tsoutsouvas, Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Cynthia Herman, Leah Chandler, and David Ogden Stiers.


Jim Dale.



AD/D: Frank Dunlop; S/C: Carl Toms; L: David Watson; M: Jim Dale; P: National Theatre of Great Britain, presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music i/a/w Brooklyn College in the Young Vic Production; T: Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 3/12/74-3/31/74 (10); T: Circle in the Square Joseph E. Levine Theatre; 5/19/74-8/1/74 (121): total: 122

England’s Young Vic company brought its popular updating of Molière’s play, here called Scapino, to BAM for a short rep season with two other plays, and then moved the show to a Broadway mounting at the financially strapped Circle in the Square. That venue welcomed the chance to bring in a successful, fully staged, outside show and thus defray much of the cost of producing a new show from scratch.

Gavin Reed, Jim Dale.

Frank Dunlop’s brilliantly unconventional approach mingled British music hall and commedia dell’arte techniques, with numerous references to familiar New York names and places, thereby creating a comic masterpiece that Clive Barnes considered “one of the funniest things in New York." Placed in a contemporary Naples excellently designed with pop art wit by Carl Toms, the show used every sort of zany slapstick device to provoke loud hilarity.

One choice example was a plate of spaghetti that could be tossed blithely through the air without a strand flying loose. There was continual audience interplay with lead actor Jim Dale addressing the spectators directly. Barnes said, “He chats to the audience as if they were personal friends.”

Jeremy James-Taylor, Jim Dale.

Dale was the centerpiece of the delightful ensemble. Clown, classical actor, acrobat, and musician (he wrote the score), he dazzled with his multi-skilled virtuosity in the roguish role of the comic servant. John Simon, who thought the BAM staging was better than the Broadway one, which had several cast changes, was forced to admit, “He is one of the funniest comedians I have ever seen, and if I should be granted a dying wish, it would be for a command performance by him—so I could die laughing.” Simon died last year, but I don't imagine he departed with a chuckle in his throat. Dale took away a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance, as well as a Tony nomination for Best Actor, Play. Dunlop got a Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Director, and a Tony nomination for Best Director, Play.

Scapino made a return engagement at Broadway’s Ambassador Theatre in a proscenium staging (the one at Circle in the Square was in the three-quarters round) for an additional 176 performances, beginning 9/27/74 and ending 3/2/75. This brought the total number to 298 performances, with Dale remaining as star despite a number of cast changes.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

452. SAY WHEN. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

SAY WHEN [Musical/Period] B/LY: Keith Winter; M: Arnold Goland; D/CH: Zoya Leporska; S: William Jame Wall; C: Lelia Larmon; L: Clarke W. Thornton; P: Walter Rosen Scholz; T: Plaza 9 Theatre (OB); 12/4/72-12/9/72 (7)

Note: No photos of this production appear to be available.

“[A] little monster” of a show about a 1970s New York magazine editor recalling the good old days of the 1920s. His memories are enacted in sketches, songs, and dances. Nothing about the work pleased Clive Barnes, who attacked the “derivative” book, lyrics, and music, the uninspired staging, the “cheap” visuals, and the company, to whom he offered “condolences.”

Richard Watts considered the show “strangely flat and disappointing,” and Douglas Watt claimed it dripped “charm like a leaky bottle of perfume.” The book writer and lyricist was a once well-respected novelist and playwright and his material here was said to be semi-autobiographical.


Monday, January 25, 2021

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

Tom Leopold, Stefan Hartman, Don Warfield, Richard Cox.

SAVED [Drama/British/Crime/Family/Romance] A: Edward Bond; D: Alan Schneider; S/C: Eugene Lee and Franne Newman; L: Roger Morgan; P: Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn; T: Chelsea Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 10/28/70-1/7/70 (29)

James Woods, Margaret Braidwood.

One of the grimmest works in years, this intense British drama—laced with enough humor to keep it from being completely depressing—was the first Edward Bond play done in New York. It offered an intimate look at the sordidness and vulgarity of life among a substratum of the working classes.

The feckless Len (James Woods) and Pam (Dorrie Kavanaugh) are young people whose love affair leads to their living together in the home of Pam’s parents—neither of whom has spoken to the other in 20 years. Pam betrays Len with the sexually more appealing Fred (Kevin Conway), by whom she has a baby that Len cares for as his own. In the shocking scene that caused the play to be banned by Britain’s Lord Chamberlain when it was produced by the Royal Court Theatre in 1965, the baby is stoned to death in its carriage by Fred and his pals.

The banning raised such an outcry among artists and intellectuals that it eventually led to abolition of the official British censor, a position dating back hundreds of years. In New York, where no official censor existed, Saved stirred up a great deal of critical approval, both for its powerful substance and its illuminating production. It opened locally after two planned productions elsewhere were cancelled.

Despite its being overlong, and having an anticlimactic resolution following the stoning scene, the play disturbed few critics. Walter Kerr looked askance at it as an example of the condescension of the outsider playwright viewing with contempt the lives of those beneath him, thereby making the characters seem “subhuman.” And Harold Clurman, recognizing Bond’s gifts, asserted, “We have passed the need for this sort of realism. . . . [B]ond’s play commands more respectful assent than artistic enthusiasm.”

More widespread were encomiums such as John Lahr’s, that Saved is “distinguished . . . for the profound, riveting compassion [Bond] finds for the barren, loveless embers of humanity who are his characters.” Clive Barnes raved about this “incandescent first work,” and Martin Gottfried called it “unusually powerful.”

Alan Schneider’s direction scored only a partial triumph, the critics splitting down the middle on its effectiveness. Kevin Conway’s Fred, James Woods’s Len, and Margaret Braidwood’s Pam were exceptional within an otherwise adequate company. Braidwood landed an OBIE for Distinguished Performance, as did Woods, who also received a Vernon Rice Award.


Sunday, January 24, 2021


William McCauley, Susan Merson, Eli Wallach.
SATURDAY SUNDAY MONDAY [Comedy/Family/Italian/Italy/Marriage] A: Eduardo de Filippo; AD: Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall; D/DS: Franco Zeffirelli; L: Roger Morgan; P: Barry M. Brown, Fritz Holt, and S. Spencer Davids b/a/w the National Theatre of Great Britain; T: Martin Beck Theatre; 11/21/74-11/30/74 (12)

Sam Gray, Jeff Giannone, Walter Abel.

A mildly diverting comedy that came to Broadway after a successful staging at Britain’s National Theatre, with the director-designer of that production, the world famous Franco Zeffirelli, repeating his chores with an American cast. The first play to reach Broadway by prolific Italian dramatist-screenwriter-director-actor Eduardo de Filippo, it contained elements of Neapolitan farce, commedia del’arte, and the subject of a cuckolded husband, all of which are bound up in many of the writer’s works.

Sada Thompson, Sam Gray.

Zeffirelli created extremely realistic scenery for this large-cast, three-act, family comedy, which takes place in the kitchen and dining room of a well-to-do Neapolitan family. It begins on Saturday night, with the actual onstage preparation of a ragu by the matriarch, Rosa (Sada Thompson), the fragrant aroma of which pervaded the auditorium. It then shows the consumption of that concoction at a Sunday dinner peopled by numerous friends and relatives. Finally, on Monday morning, the cold leftovers are finished off.

The central action, apart from the cooking and eating, concerns a marital misunderstanding between Rosa and her spouse, Peppino (Eli Wallach). Rosa has been cool to Peppino ever since she began thinking he slighted her cooking. He, unaware of his contretemps, assumes she has been having an affair with a good-looking accountant neighbor (Ron Holgate). The problem is ironed out in the third act after a monumental verbal brawl between the couple. In the course of the play, the many charming characters surrounding the married couple are introduced, along with their subplot relationships.

Eli Wallach, Ron Holgate, Terry Hinz.

Wallach and Thompson gave their professional best to this modestly pleasing enterprise in the roles that would be played on film in 1978 by Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay (Laurence Olivier played the elderly Antonio [Walter Abel on Broadway]). The critics were tolerant of the comedy’s blandishments, but were not lavish in dispensing accolades. They questioned the uneven use of Italian dialects, the too-long, two-and-a-half hour length, and the stock characters and plot. Most agreed with Clive Barnes that it was “a perfectly agreeable boulevard comedy,” but not much more.

Though all had their reservations, only a few, like Martin Gottfried and John Simon, were truly ill-disposed toward the play and production, which lasted a mere week and a half.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

449. SANTA ANITA '42. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Lani Gerrie Miyazaki, Stephen D. Newman. Photo: Thomas Victor.
SANTA ANITA ’42 [Drama/Asian-Americans/Family/Period/Politics/Race/Romance] A: Allan Knee; D: Steven Robman; S: Jeremy Unger; C: Carol Odits; L: David Sackeroff; P: Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn; T: Chelsea Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 2/27/75-3/16/75 (32)

One of the major disgraces in American history, the internment of huge numbers of Japanese-Americans during World War II, was brought to national and world attention with increasing outrage in the 70s in books, plays, and films. The first treatment on the New York stage was this flawed drama, set largely at at California’s Santa Anita Racetrack, which was used as a detainment camp from 1942 to the war’s end.

The play focuses on the Japan-born Tamako (Lani Gerrie Miyazaki), who came to America in 1920 to marry, by arrangement, Satoru (Conrad Yama), a man much older than she. She had a son, Michael (Sab Shimono), by him. Michael grows up as the action develops across many short scenes. After he is already mature, she meets and has an affair with a white, American engineer (Stephen D. Newman), who gets her pregnant. Pearl Harbor intervenes, the family is interned, and, among other catastrophes, Michael is killed by camp guards after delivering a fiery speech denouncing American policies.

The ambiguous ending suggests either that Tamako remains to contemplate her future life or that she goes home to Japan. Throughout, she has been advised by a semi-realistic chorus-like figure, the Teacher (Henry Kaimu Bal), to adapt to life the way a Japanese garden does to its landscape.

Though well performed and directed, the play—despite evidence of writing talent—failed to handle its subject effectively, being “wispy and confusing” and never entirely clear or convincing” to Edith Oliver; lacking in “coherence” and being “simplistic” to Clive Barnes; too “slackly hung together” for Douglas Watt; “unimaginative” to Martin Gottfried; an too melodramatic for Jack Kroll.  

Friday, January 22, 2021

448. SAMMY ON BROADWAY. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Sammy Davis, Jr.
SAMMY ON BROADWAY [Musical Revue] D: Darrell Giddens; P: Nederlander; T: Uris Theatre; 4/23/74-5/4/74 (14)

Freda Payne.
Also called simply Sammy, this was basically a showcase for the versatile talents of singer-mimic-actor-dancer-comedian-musician Sammy Davis, Jr. As filler, the show backed him up with songstress Freda Payne and legendary tap-dance artists the Nicholas Brothers. 

The Nicholas Brothers.

“This is essentially a nightclub show with Mr. Davis as the featured act,” explained Mel Gussow. Supported by an onstage orchestra of 28, the diminutive figure of the great entertainer, seen in the wide expanses of the Uris Theatre (currently the Gershwin), appeared “tinier and even more vulnerable than ever,” thought Brendan Gill, but Davis’s enormous energy drove him through “bursts of song, dance, wry jokes, reminiscences, laments over the onset of age, tributes to friends, and stern self-exhortation.”

Dressed in black tie and tux, Davis opened with some Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley songs, then turned the stage over to his backup acts, and didn’t offer another number until 10:00 p.m. when he completed the show with a 45-minute routine. One tap dance was included during this sequence. The part Mel Gussow liked best was the star’s rendition of “Bojangles.”

Thursday, January 21, 2021

447. SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Ellen Burstyn, Charles Grodin.

SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR [Comedy/Romance/Two Characters] A: Bernard Slade; D: Gene Saks; S: William Ritman; C: Jane Greenwood; L: Tharon Musser; P: Morton Gottlieb, Dasha Epstein, Edward L. Schuman and Palladium Productions; T: Brooks Atkinson Theatre; 3/13/75-9/3/78 (1,453)

Ellen Burstyn.

An unassuming, well-crafted romantic comedy that had all the right ingredients for Broadway audiences of the mid-70s. It caught on at once and hung around long enough to make it the most successful straight play of the decade, running three and a half years. Its afterlife in regional and amateur productions raked in lots of additional profits. And, of course, there was the 1978 movie version, with Ellen Burstyn (of the original Broadway cast) and Allan Alda.

Its simple, but appealing, concept, arranged to have two already happily married characters, George (Charles Grodin) and Doris (Burstyn) meet one weekend in 1951 at a California resort, fall in love, spend the night in sin, and agree to get together at the hotel on the same weekend every year thereafter.  George is a New Jersey accountant, out West on a business trip. Doris, a Catholic, is at the hotel before making a planned retreat at a nearby convent.

Charles Grodin, Ellen Burstyn.

The couple’s affair takes them through 24 years of weekend encounters, in the same hotel room. The audience gets to see all the current trends in lifestyles represented by their changing clothes, language, and behavior. Six scenes show them at five-year intervals, so George and Doris’s physical changes become readily apparent in each new scene.

Same Time, Next Year was viewed as a perfectly adroit boulevard comedy, despite its basically implausible premise, and appealed to all the wishful thinkers for whom it was obviously intended. A clever combination of social satire, nostalgic reminiscence, mildly racy words and jokes, and full-blown sentimentality, it offered meaty roles for its attractive and charismatic players.

Charles Grodin, Ellen Burstyn.

Bernard Slade’s comedy was warmly recommended by John Simon, who said “it is genuinely funny, often moving, and slyly perspicacious throughout. If it does not rise into the domain of art, it at least never stoops to facile sagaciousness, obvious vulgarity, or straining for laughs.” Brendan Gill deliberately exaggerated in betting that the play would “run for twenty years.” He laughed “helplessly, all evening long.” Douglas Watt may have quibbled over the play’s slenderness, but Clive Barnes knew he had seen “the funniest comedy about love and adultery to come Broadway’s way in years. . . . Here is an old-fashioned, well-made play that is well made in a new way for new times.”

Charles Grodin and Ellen Burstyn helped turn the play into a smash hit by the excellence of their chemical connection. Edwin Wilson’s comment that “they are providing two of the most solid pieces of acting New York has seen in a comedy in some times” was representative. “Ellen Burstyn,” wrote T.E. Kalem, “glows with womanhood and the understanding of life that comes from having weathered life’s storms. Her performance has an unstrained authority and is resonant with insight.” Of her costar, Barnes declared, “His is a lopsided comic presence on stage, and he is even more consistently funny here than he was in the film The Heartbreak Kid. His comic sensitivity is so acute that he can give life to a line by a calculated waver of his voice.”

Same Time, Next Year landed a Tony nomination for Best Play and a Drama Desk Award for Best American Play. Burstyn won the Tony for her acting, and also snared a Drama Desk Award. She and Grodin shared an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Ensemble Playing, while Gene Saks received a Tony nomination as Best Director.




Julius Caesar (Photo: Joan Marcus)

 For Part 2 of my two-part essay on how Donald Trump was treated on the New York stage during his presidency, please click on THEATER LIFE.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


James Badge Dale, Tamara Tunie in Building the Wall. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

For Part 1 of my article about how theatre handled the Trump presidency, please click on THEATER LIFE.

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

Lindsay Kemp.

SALOME [Dramatic Revival] A: Oscar Wilde; AD/D: Lindsay Kemp; S: Chris Sedimaur; L: David Andrews; M: William Hellerman; P: New York Theatre Ensemble i/a/w Alan Eichler and Ron Link; T: Truck and Warehouse Theatre (OB); 1/8/75-2/16/75 (30)

Scottish mime Lindsay Kemp--the Taylor Mac of his day--followed up his Broadway production of Flower with this eccentric Off-Broadway revival of Oscar Wilde’s one-act play, which the author wrote in French in 1893, years before it was allowed a public performance. Kemp, whose transvestite methods were evident in Flowers, brought a similar touch to Salome, doing it with an all-male cast. 

His attempt to conceptualize the staging began promisingly enough with an opening tableau in which the briefly-dressed company, wearing white clown makeup, stood stock still for several minutes. However, as Clive Barnes pointed out, the moment they began speaking Wilde’s words, the play flew out the window.

Kemp himself played Salomé in this travesty version of Wilde’s melodrama, but his performance was “a display rather than a characterization,” wrote Barnes. The critic also faulted the show as tedious, humorless, and bland.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

445. SAFARI 300. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Tad Truesdale.
SAFARI 300 [Musical Revue] CN: Tad Truesdale; D: Hugh Gittens; CH: Lari Becham; S: Bob Olsen; C: Lee Lynn; L: David Adams; P: Richie Havens; T: Mayfair Theatre (OB); 7/12/72-7/26/72 (17)

 A stimulating revue of Black music covering hundreds of years of Black history, conceived by and starring Tad Truesdale, performed in a small, basement theatre on W. Forty-sixth Street. The 10-person company included Lari Becham, Ernest Andrews, Joyce Griffen, Holly Hamilton, Onike Lee, Fredi Orange, Andre Robinson, Grenna Whitaker, and Dorian Williams. They sang and danced spiritedly on a bare platform stage with a ramp at the rear, conveying the pain, sorrow, anger, joy, and humor of their racial experience. Popular singer-musician Richie Havens served as the producer.

The music ran the gamut from African ritual chants to slave melodies and hymns to 1920s Harlem jazz to 70s rock and rhythm ‘n blues. Howard Thompson observed that much of the show was “blazingly dynamic and alive.” He noted that Truesdale “has a voice best described as friendly. He is far more effective fitted into the ensemble numbers.”

Monday, January 18, 2021


Norma Donaldson, Benay Venuta, Helen Blount, Judy MacMurdo, Paula Cinko.

A QUARTER FOR THE LADIES ROOM [Musical Revue/Women] LY: Ruch Batchelor; M: John Clifton and Arthur Siegel; D: Darwin Knight; S: David R. Ballou; C: Miles White; L: Lee Lawson; P: Phillip R. Productions; T: Village Gate (OB); 11/12/72 (1)

If the title of this revue doesn't immediately come to mind, that may be because it was flushed away after only a single performance. Done in a cabaret ambience with the audience seated at small cocktail tables before a tiny stage, A Quarter for the Ladies Room presented five archetypal women in an intimate performance set in a ladies room lounge. 

There was the sweet-as-pie Angel (Pauline Cinko), the attractive Mistress (Judy MacMurdo), the Black and sexy Harlot (Norma Donaldson), and the aging Wife (Benay Venuta). Helen Blount was the patient Attendant. Each unloaded her problems with men in song (there was no dialogue), but the music and lyrics, while not awful, were neither diverting nor interesting. It was well enough performed, but essentially bland. "I wouldn't give you a nickel for it," growled Mel Gussow.

Among the song titles were "First Quarter," "Turn Around," "Talk about the Men," "My Lover and His Wife," "Why Don't I Leave Him?," and "The Last Quarter."

Note: apologies for this entry being placed after the "R" postings instead of before them.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

443. THE RULES OF THE GAME. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Joan Van Ark.
THE RULES OF THE GAME [Dramatic Revival] A: Luigi Pirandello; TR: William Murray; D: Stephen Porter; S: Douglas Higgins; C: Nancy Potts; L: Ken Billington; P: The New Phoenix Repertory Company; T: Helen Hayes Theatre; 12/12/74-12/21/74 (12)

This rarely revived early Pirandello work (not to be confused with Jean Renoir's classic 1939 film of the same title) was presented by the New Phoenix Repertory Company in a version that intrigued somebut that others felt might have been better done. The 1918 play intrigued the critics for its treatment, not of the usual reality-versus-illusion theme of the Italian playwright’s work, but of the conflict between reason and instinct.

Silia (Joan Van Ark) is the instinctual woman, one who lives for her feelings and impulses, while her detached, intellectual husband, Leone Gala (John McMartin), lives for a life dominated by the cool forces of rationality. He shows no evidence of jealousy even when he knows his friend Guido (David Dukes) has been having an affair with Silia at the luxurious apartment he has provided for her as part of their separation agreement. Rankled by her husband’s indifference (actually a mask for his jealousy), Silia wants him to die, and contrives a situation in which he is forced to challenge to a duel a master swordsman and marksman over an alleged insult offered to Silia. Playing as he does by the “rules of the game,” Leone arranges matters so that Guido, his second, must fight the duel and thereby die in his place, a victim of what T.E. Kalem called “the deadliest rule of all: a husband’s right to kill his wife’s lover.”

John McMartin, David Dukes.

The Rules of the Game, the play being rehearsed at the start of Pirandello’s classic Six Characters in Search of an Author, proved to be a suspenseful, intellectually invigorating exercise, but the consensus was that its performance left much to be desired. According to Clive Barnes, “the acting was not quite good enough for this strangely stylized comedy of ill manners. When Mr. [Paul] Scofield played Gala [three years earlier, at London’s National Theatre], he played him with a frozen indifference and a blazing intellectuality that was almost a moral force. . . . John McMartin . . . has little of this certainty. His metallic voice charmingly bumbles on, and he is almost pathetic as a betrayed husband about to be led to his doom. . . .”

Joel Fabiani, John McMartin, Charles Kimbrough.

Harold Clurman, opining that the company simply lacked the actors to pull this play off, said that the husband’s role needed “a 40-year-old John Barrymore . . . and all the Phoenix can provide is John McMartin, a character actor best in the impersonation of clowns, weaklings and dotards.” T.E. Kalem, however, had other thoughts, pointing to "a polished cast paced by the sensitive honesty of John McMartin's performance makes the evening hum with suspense." 

Barnes added that Joan Van Ark “is perfectly admirable within [the play’s] own conventions but lacks the capricious willfulness of Pirandello's actual heroine. The only character who truly stood within the actual play was the Guido of David Dukes, half‐elegant barfly and half‐Mafia scion . . . , who wanders through the action like a somnambulist closed‐liddedly intent on some unknowing destiny—a pawn to the great playwright in the skies.” Other cast members of note included Peter Friedman, Charles Kimbrough, Ellen Tovatt, Munson Hicks, and as one of the “neighbors,” a young actress named Glenn Close.

Saturday, January 16, 2021



Laura Esterman, Charles Siebert.
RUBBERS and YANKS 3 DETROIT 0 TOP OF THE SEVENTH [Comedy/One-Acts] A: Jonathan Reynolds; D: Alan Arkin; S: Henry Millman; C: Susan Denison; L: Roger Morgan; P: American Place Theatre; T: American Place Theatre (OB); 5/16/75-9/21/75 (145)

“Rubbers” [Politics/Women]; “Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top of the Seventh” [Baseball/Sports]

What Clive Barnes labeled “two undeniably funny” one-acts marked the arrival of a promising new writer in Jonathan Reynolds. These plays were, to several reviewers, overly long for their subjects, but their power to amuse was attested to by all. There was no consensus on which was the better play.

The first, a political satire, featured an excellent manic performance by Laura Esterman as Mrs. Brimmins, a Brooklyn assemblywoman intent on pushing a bill through the New York State Assembly requiring the countertop placement of condoms in drugstores, rather than being hidden where consumers cannot easily see them. The entertainingly exaggerated, self-serving male legislators who are set against their earnest female colleague’s bill are hilariously exploited to “reflect the painful dopiness of most politicians,” observed Martin Gottfried. Mrs. Brimmins uses her every wile, including sex, to sway the opposition, whose arguments are expressed in broad comedy turns depicting the social devastation her bill would cause if passed.

Jack Kroll “didn’t stop laughing from start to finish” during “Rubbers,” but Edith Oliver and others thought it went on “far too long.” To Barnes, the author’s “theatrical zaniness” turned to “dramatic folly” by his failure to know when to hold back. The cast included Charles Siebert, Lou Criscuolo, Macintyre Dixon, Lane Binkley, Albert Hall, and others.

Mitchell Jason, Tony LoBianco, Lou Criscuolo.

“Yanks 3” is essentially a monologue by an aging pitcher, Duke Bronkowski (Tony LoBianco), who is making a sensational comeback for the Yankees and whose entire career and outside interests are on the line after an eight-year period of utter failure. He is pitching a no-hitter and throwing only strikes against Detroit and is in the seventh inning when his confidence begins to waver. As the game and his inner thoughts are played out, his irritable catcher (Lou Criscuolo), aphorism-spouting manager (Mitchel Jason), and groupie girlfriend (Lane Binkley) speak to him. Soon, though, his game has crumbled and he gives up a grand slam that has his number written on it.

The exploration of his ethnically bigoted psyche as he faces each Tiger batter was to carried off with comic effect. LoBianco gave it a “tour de force” performance, wrote Barnes.

Alan Arkin’s direction was acclaimed and the acting in both pieces was top-notch, as were Henry Millman’s sets, especially his bright green baseball field.


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Friday, January 15, 2021

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


Leila Martin, Hal Linden.
THE ROTHSCHILDS [Musical/Biographical/Business/Family/Germany/Jews/Period/Romance] B: Sherman Yellen; M: Jerry Bock; LY: Sheldon Harnick; SC: Frederick Morton’s book The Rothschilds; S/C: John Bury; L: Richard Pilbrow; P: Lester Osterman in the Hillard Elkins Production; T: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre; 10/19/70-1/2/72 (507) 

Hal Linden and company.

Mixed reviews greeted this earnest attempt to forge a serious, high-minded musical drama out of the story of the great German-Jewish banking family founded by the clever, ambitious Mayer Rothschild (Hal Linden). Mayer’s success as a financier in the 18th century principality of Hesse allows him to provide economic support for the armies of Napolean. The general, in his turn, reneges on a promise to abolish the Jewish ghetto.

Michael Maitland, Robert Benson, Kim Michaels, Hal Linden.

The play sweeps across many years and allows the audience to view the growth of Mayer’s five sons from frightened ghetto children fleeing the brutality of young Gentile hoodlums, to men of international power and prestige. The love affair of one son, Nathan (Paul Hecht), provides the focus for a romantic subplot set in England. The episodic work thus mingles military and economic history, anti-Semitism, and romance in an atmosphere some felt was too humorless and heavy for a Broadway musical.

Hal Linden, Timothy Jerome, Chris Sarandon, Paul Hecht, David Garfield, Allan Gruet.

Clive Barnes found the music an effective blend of classical, Jewish, and Broadway styles, concluding that the show was superlatively performed and staged. Others believed the show well done, but unexciting. Still others, like Martin Gottfried, considered it a serious failure that came nowhere near the best of the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick collaborations, Fiddler on the Roof. Gottfried said The Rothschilds was superficial, “lead-footed and overstuffed, . . . old fashioned, [and] only represents the vulgarity of money and the vulgarization of Jewishness.” Several reviewers commented on the relative sparsity of dance.

Paul Hecht, Jill Clayburgh.

Of the players, Hal Linden was commended for his role as the Rothschild patriarch. Walter Kerr described him as wearing a beard and caftan, like an 18th-century Jew, and said he “sings the role buoyantly, [and] plays it with a glad virility.” Keene Curtis, who played multiple role as four princes, caused Barnes to write that “each role was so different that you would not have been all that surprised if one of his characters had met one of his characters right there on stage.”

Members of the cast included David Garfield, Jill Clayburgh, Robert Benson, Chris Sarandon, and many others. Songs included "Pleasure and Privilege," "He Tossed a Coin," "Sons," "Rothschild and Sons," "The Amazing London Town," "I'm in Love! I'm in Love!," "In My Own Lifetime" (the most admired song in the show), "Stability," and "Bonds."

Keene Curtis.

Despite its relatively robust run (for those days), The Rothschilds suffered heavy financial losses. It did accrue, however, a decent number of official recognitions, including Tony nominations for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Lyrics, Best Director, Musical, Best Scene Designer, and Best Choreographer. Tony wins went to Hal Linden for Best Actor, Musical, Keene Curtis for Best Supporting Actor, Musical. Linden also snared the Variety poll award for Best Male Actor, Musical.

In 1990, Lonnie Price directed an Off Broadway revival, with Robert Cuccioli as Nathan. Cuccioli later played Mayer in a revised version of the show called Rothschild & Sons, seen Off Broadway in 2015 at the York Theatre. Interested readers can find my unenthusiastic review here.

Hal Linden, Keene Curtis, and company.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

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

Jane White, Bill Moor.
ROSMERSHOLM [Dramatic Revival] A: Henrik Ibsen; D: Raphael Kelly; S: Stuart Wurtzel; C: Patrizia von Brandenstein; L: Timmy Harris; P: Roundabout Theatre Company; T: Roundabout Theatre (OB); 12/3/74-12/29/74 (32)

Ibsen’s 1886/87 drama, in which tragic impulses blend with social and political satire, was given what Douglas Watt termed a “musty” revival (its sixth in New York since 1904) in the Roundabout’s basement theatre, where neither its director nor cast could do much to animate the complexly realistic/symbolic play. The action plodded along under Raphael Kelly’s dutifully naturalistic staging, little of its special mood being evoked in the intimate space. It lacked “tension,” said Watt, “cohesion,” remarked Clive Barnes, and “any directorial conception,” according to Howard Kissell.

Jane White as Rebekka, the “spiritual” wife of Pastor Rosmer (Bill Moor), gave “a strong, womanly portrayal,” wrote Barnes, but was “more heavy-handed than necessary,” added John Beaufort, and showed “ a tendency to overact,” in Kissell’s opinion. Moor’s Rosmer was bland without much interest.

Jane White was an actress of African-American descent who had a distinguished career in all entertainment media. Her casting here, in a role typically played by white actresses, was another sign of the growing tendency of progressive theatres to explore color-blind casting. 

Kissell said the effect of the revival was “rather like hollow theatrical thunderclaps,” while Watt called it “a very small tempest in a teapot.” Others involved included Stefan Schnabel, Stephen Scott, Virginia Payne, and Steven Gilborn.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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

Regina Baff, Sylvia Miles, Ron Rifkin.
ROSEBLOOM [Comedy-Drama/Family/Jews] A: Harvey Perr; D: Jered Barclay; S: Merrill Sindler; C: Ann Roth; L: Thomas Skelton; P: Harlan Keiman and Peter Goldfarb; T: Eastside Playhouse (OB); 1/5/72-1/23/72 (23)

Rosebloom was originally staged at Los Angeles’s Mark Taper Forum, where it won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award. The New York critics, however, were seriously unimpressed. The nearly plotless play presents a psychologically impaired middle-class Jewish family—a preening, neurotic woman in her mid-40s named Sylvie (Sylvia Miles); her mentally and physically challenged son, Mark (Ron Rifkin), confined to a wheelchair; and the son’s pot-smoking, screwball wife, Enola Gay (Regina Baff), named for the plane that dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima. They talkatively await and then greet the arrival of Rosebloom (Harold Gary), the family patriarch who is returning home from a 26-year prison term for murder.

Much of the play is written in dense, literary, pause-filled, undramatic, drifting language, combining inner monologues with actual dialogue. The style suggested Edward Albee to most reviewers, but some saw traces of Pinter, Joyce, Pirandello, and Capote. Fantasy and fact, dialogue and asides, flashes of violence, frequent profanity, and bitterness and sarcasm, were principal ingredients in this heavily symbolic work.

Favorable comments were scattered in the coverage of Clive Barnes (“a strangely original play”), Walter Kerr (“much of this is intelligently, persuasively, written”); and Douglas Watt (“a chilling comic tour de force as jumpy as a Schoenberg quartet”). Still, Barnes thought it “too ornate,” Kerr said it was directionless, and Watt felt author Harvey Perr “outsmarted himself.”

Among the more acid-tipped words were those of John Simon, who detected a latent homosexual theme in the writing, which he wished the playwright could have dealt with more honestly. His verdict was that Rosebloom was “the most repulsively pretentious piece of pseudo-art of the year.”

Jered Barclay’s staging and the four player ensemble were generally praised, Jack Kroll, for example, referring to the production as “an evening of sharp, gutsy New York acting.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

438. LE ROI SE MEURT (EXIT THE KING). From my (unpublished) ENCYLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

LE ROI SE MEURT (Exit the King) [Dramatic Revival/French Language] A: Eugene Ionesco; D: Jacques Mauclair; S/C: Jacques Noel; M: George Delerue; P: The French Institute/Alliance Française under the auspices of L’Association d’Action Artistique of the Government of the French Republic, with the patronage of the Cultural Counselor to the French Embassy, in the Le Tréteau de Paris Production; T: American Place Theatre (OB); 4/15/74-4/20/74 (9)

Note: No photos are available of this production.

Le Tréteau de Paris, a government-subsidized French company of traveling actors, made a brief visit with this revival of Ionesco’s 1962 drama about the death of King Berenger I (Oliver Hussenot), an ageless monarch who must face a death he never believed would come. An English-language version played in New York in 1968.

This symbolic, but not typically absurdist, play was given a reasonably effective mounting in which Oliver Hussenot offered what Anna Kisselgoff deemed a “virtuoso” performance. The rest of the company reportedly fell a bit short, thought Kisselgoff, one of the only reviewers from a major outlet (the Times) to cover the work.

“This is not, however, professionalism marked by homogeneity. As Queen Marie, the King's second and younger wife, Christiane Desbois seemed set apart from the others yesterday by the shrill declamatory style that brought to mind the Théâtre National Populaire. A program note confirmed that she had indeed been part of that famous company. At the other extreme there is Jean Dalmain, as the King's doctor and astrologer, and Mr. Hussenot himself—veteran actors who translate Mr. Ionesco's puns, contemporary mock jargon and deliberate commonplaces from surface clichés into the underlying truths of the playwright's intentions.”

In 2009, Geoffrey Rush starred in a Broadway revival of the play.




Poster for The Garrick Gaieties of 1924.

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