Wednesday, April 28, 2021


Jack Hollander, Leonard Frey, Ron Faber. (Photo: Friedman-Abeles.)
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA [Dramatic Revival] A: William Shakespeare; D: David Schweizer; S/C: Paul Zalon; L: Ian Calderon; M: Richard Peaslee; P: New York Shakespeare Festival Lincoln Center; T: Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre (OB); 11/10/73-12/30/73 (57)

Joseph Papp, as the new producer at Lincoln Center following Jules Irving’s departure, used his first season to inaugurate a series of Shakespeare revivals in the smaller of the institution’s two theatres, the Forum, now renamed the Mitzi E. Newhouse. Troilus and Cressida was the initial offering of this unsuccessful venture.

David Schweizer’s production of this somewhat vague comedy failed to clarify its action or themes, and served only to make things foggier. His camped-up interpretation found few supporters. “Rarely can Shakespeare have been less festive than in this excruciating travesty,” barked Clive Barnes, who called it “inept, . . . sophomoric, . . . [and] foolhardy.” A 12-member cast, many playing two roles, acted an unfunny farce interpretation that looked something like a “mid-20th-century strip-cartoon.” This “dull attempt at being daring” caused many to flee at intermission, or even before.

Walter Kerr was incensed by the thoughtless staging, but was particularly concerned about the awful speech of the actors, most of whom seemed “altogether unacquainted with the English language.” William Hickey as Pandarus and Madeleine Le Roux as Cressida, Cassandra, and Helen were among those who came in for especially rough critical handling. Barnes, for example, spewed that  “William Hickey's nasal whining as Pandarus was particularly offensive, and Madeleine Le Roux has a long way to go before she can qualify as even a bad Shakespearean actress.”

There were many notable names involved. Among them were William Hickey as Pandarus, Ron Faber as Nestor and Priam, Jack Hollander as Agamemnon, Leonard Frey as Ulysses, Richard Masur as Menelaus and Ajax, Charles Kimbrough as Thersites, Christopher Walken as Achilles, and Beeson Carrol as Hector.

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