|William Hickey, David Selby, Cathryn Damon, Roberts Blossom, James Staley, Ralph Roberts.|
Dennis Reardon’s second play (originally seen in June 1972 at Off-Off Broadway's Actors Studio Theatre), came three years after his well-received The Happiness Cage. Unlike that maiden effort, it was heavily panned. Set on a rundown farm, it recounted the behavior of an evil young farmer, James (James Staley, played OOB by James Woods), who jealously hates everything about his brother, Franklin (David Selby), recently killed in Vietnam after stepping on a land mine.
Franklin was the family favorite and his envious brother now displays his pent-up venom by killing a sow, a hired hand, and his senile grandmother (ludicrously played in drag by William Hickey). He also seduces his brother’s girlfriend (Mary Hamill), allows his father (Roberts Blossom) to die of a heart attack, and manhandles his mother (Cathryn Damon). Throughout, the ghosts of the dead appear to the haunted James and talk to the living.
Reardon’s drearily dour drama was “pretty awful,” reported Clive Barnes, “extraordinarily lugubrious,” groaned Edith Oliver, “overwritten and overextended,” blasted Harold Clurman, and “very bad and very boring,” yawned John Simon. Here is Barnes on the production itself: “The acting and direction are for the most part as overhysterical as the work itself. David Schweizer has staged the play in a manner of heavyhanded melodrama, and the setting by Santo Loquasto is virtually unworkable.” R.I.P.