Sunday, March 14, 2021

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Black-Eyed Susan, Charles Ludlam.
STAGE BLOOD [Comedy/Crime/Theatre] A/D: Charles Ludlam; S: Bobjack Callejo; C: Arthur Brady; L: Richard Currie; P: The Ridiculous Theatrical Company; T: Evergreen Theatre (OB); 12/8/74-2/9/75 (45)

Charles Ludlam’s special brand of theatrical campiness was somewhat toned down in this fairly straightforward backstage farce about a small troupe of barnstorming actors about to perform Hamlet  in a small town, and whose lives seem a reflection of Shakespeare’s characters. The actor playing the Ghost (Jack Mallory) is the father of the one playing Hamlet (Ludlam). He’s found murdered with a hatchet in his neck in his dressing room. The action largely concerns the company’s efforts to find out the murderer. Portions of Hamlet are mixed in with scenes of the company’s backstage life.

Jokes and silly comic characters abound, including a would-be-playwright of a stage manager (John D. Brockmeyer), a sexed-up new actress who plays Ophelia (Black-Eyed Susan), her actor-lover (Bill Vehr), and Hamlet himself, wearing a blonde wig making him look more like Carol Channing than the Prince of Denmark.

Mel Gussow laughed at the comedy, but found it “less well and untidy than the usual Ludlam. . . . There’s a loss in madness and nonsense but a gain in structure and discipline.” Julius Novick, however, thought the parodic intentions worthwhile but their execution sorely lacking. The dialogue was inadequate, he thought, and the thematic concerns of investigating “the histrionic temperament and theatrical artifice shallowly developed.” Finally, he observed, “[T]he acting is unmodulated and uninspired.”