Friday, February 12, 2021

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975.

Harvey Evans, Mary Small, Robert Spenser, Dixie Carter, Jerry Lanning.
SEXTET [Musical/Homosexuality/Sex] B: Harvey Perr and Lee Goldsmith; M: Lawrence Hurwit: LY: Lee Goldsmith; D/CH: Jered Barclay; S: Peter Harvey; C: Zoe Brown; L: Marc B. Weiss; P: Balemar Productions, and Lawrence E. Sokol; T: Bijou Theatre; 3/3/74-3/10/74 (9)

An intimate six-character musical that many considered a derivative of the successful Stephen Sondheim-Hal Prince show Company, but without that classic’s finesse and genius. In Sextet, the characters are guests at a dinner party given by two gay men, Kenneth (Harvey Evans) and David (Robert Spencer). There are David’s stereotypical widowed Jewish mother, Fay (Mary Small), her salesman date, Paul (John Newton), David’s straight, ex-college roommate, Leonard (Jerry Lanning), and Leonard’s wife, Ann (Dixie Carter, who would have a successful career, including the TV series, “Designing Women”). As the evening progresses, the various sexual attitudes and feelings among the six are gradually disclosed.

“In the end,” Martin Gottfried commented, “they discover . . . that they’re stuck with who they are.” He also described how the show’s nonlinear construction allowed it to layer and mix the dialogue. “One character talks to a second, who responds to a third who reacts to a fourth.”

In turning thumbs down Clive Barnes remarked that the show suffered from a dearth of humor and, while pleasantly modest, a “faintly familiar” score. He cited a scene touched on by several others as the show’s funniest, when the square salesman smokes a joint and blows smoke rings with it. Edith Oliver called it a “frail little musical,” and Douglas Watt regarded it “more with pity than outright displeasure.” Richard Watts, however, called it “amiable and quite agreeable,” while Gottfried, the most positive reviewer, was captivated what he considered a “clever and straight and musical and funny and unusual and fine show.”

Like others, Barnes picked Carter as the standout performer: “I liked best Dixie Carter as Ann, because she looks pretty, plays a trumpet and does a Grouch Marx impersonation.”