Saturday, February 6, 2021


Doris Roberts, Elizabeth Wilson, Florence Stanley, Maureen Stapleton, Neil Flanagan, Joan Pape, Lee Wallace.
THE SECRET AFFAIRS OF MILDRED WILD [Comedy/Fantasy/Films] A: Paul Zindel; D: Jeff Bleckner; S: Santo Loquasto; C: Carrie F. Robbins; L: Thomas Skelton; P: James B. McKenzie and Spofford J. Beadle; T: Ambassador Theatre; 11/14/72-12/2/72 (23)

Maureen Stapleton, Neil Flanagan.

The critics bulldozed a wide path through this insubstantial comedy about Mildred Wild (Maureen Stapleton), a middle-aged film fanatic, who escapes from the humdrum prosaicness of her life as the wife of a diabetic, Greenwich Village candy store owner (Lee Wallace) by imagining herself the heroine of old Hollywood movies. She watches at least 3,000 movies a year and has collected fan magazines since the 1920s. Mildred’s fantasies allow her to be Shirley Temple, Scarlett O’Hara, King Kong’s main squeeze, Tarzan’s Jane, and Ginger Rogers. The shallow plotline establishes her as the winner of a phony contest that would presumably send her to Hollywood for a screen test.

Lee Wallace, Doris Roberts, Maureen Stapleton.

Stapleton’s talents were capably exhibited in the broadly played, quick-change, Walter Mitty-ish leading role, but her performance lacked a play in which to flourish. As Jack Kroll observed of playwright Paul Zindel, “He has written so far down to the audience that he’s fallen right through it and is at this moment plummeting straight to hell. . . . I have never seen such a symphony of gangrenous venality as this play.”

Elizabeth Wilson, Lee Wallace, Maureen Stapleton.

Clive Barnes wrote that “Miss Stapleton . . . runs the gamut as a crushed cauliflower about to blossom, and her accomplishment as a comedienne is precise and beautiful. She always exaggerates with taste. . . . But Miss Stapleton is not a stand-up comic. Too often the author has supplied her with wisecracks rather than a character, and with situations rather than a play.” Florence Stanley, Elizabeth Wilson, Neil Flanagan, and Doris Roberts, were among the fine actors who were unable to make this turkey edible.

Lee Wallace, Maureen Stapleton.