Saturday, March 27, 2021

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

(seated) Sonia Zomina, Louis Zorich; (standing) Andrew Jarnowsky, Shirley Stoler, Zitto Kazann.
SUNSET [Dramatic Revival] A: Isaac Babel; TR: Mirra Ginsburg and Raymond Rosenthal; D: Robert Kalfin; S: Santo Loquasto; C: Carrie F. Robbins; L: William Mintzer; M: Ryan Edwards; P: Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn; T: Chelsea Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music (OB); 12/5/72-12/24/72 (24)

Originally staged Off Broadway in 1966, this translation of Isaac Babel’s Yiddish-language play is a picturesque 1928 depiction of Jewish life Odessa, 1913. It was appreciated for its wonderfully detailed examination of an interesting family situation and its many realistically observed characters, including rabbis, vodka-drinking peasants, and marriage brokers. Its theme, said Clive Barnes, “is that there is a time to be young and a time to be old, that there is a time for high hope, and a time for sunset.” (Babel died in a Soviet concentration camp during World War II.)

It tells of a boisterous, well-to-do, 62-year-old caterer, Mendel Kricks (Louis Zorich), infatuated with a beautiful 20-year-old woman (Ellie George), with whom he has a notably erotic scene and for whom he intends to sell his business so he can run off with her. This creates a conflict with his two sons, Levka (Zito Kazann) and Benya (Andrew Jarkowsky),   not only to end the father’s philandering but to wrest his power from him.

Barnes declared that “Louis Zorich makes a splendid figure as the vain, eventually broken patriarch,  bringing to the end a Lear-like pathos to the role. There were several other well-crafted performances. Robert Kalfin's direction was lively and continually interesting, and the sets and costumes were perfect for the dramatic world created. The critics were fairly well disposed toward the work, although some felt it lacked dramatic thrust.

Next up: The Sunshine Boys