|Andre De Shields.|
A sci-fi, high-camp fantasy brought to New York by Chicago’s Organic Theatre Company and promised as the first of a trilogy. The latter two parts, though, never saw the lights of Broadway after Warp I died. This well-done, multimedia creation offered Broadway “a serious parody of all the space-fiction, super-hero comic books of the Pow-Zap-Wow school,” reported Clive Barnes. Its vivid melodramatic comic-book style was not enough to draw the type of audience needed to survive on the Main Stem.
The play performed by this acrobatic, athletic, and attractive young troupe was about David Carson (John Heard), a schizoid bank teller whose other self is Lord Cumulus, a heroic fifth-dimension warrior who strives to conquer the super arch-villain Prince Chaos (Tom Towles). In his fantasy world his girlfriend on earth, Mary Louise (Carolyn Gordon), becomes the evil seductress Valaria, whom he must vanquish before tackling Prince Chaos. Lord Cumulus fights his enemies by the force of his concentrated brain power.
Costumes, sound effects, settings (arrangements of ramps and platforms), and spectacular lighting made the experience technically dazzling, providing an accurate impression of the comic-book style that it also gently mocked. “[P]rojections, puffs of smoke, flashes of fire, a whining electric organ and electronic roars and crashes,” as Douglas Watt observed, created a lot of sound and fury that most critics felt signified nothing. Barnes declared, “We life in a junk world and this is junk art. Beautifully cooked—but junk.”
Among the cast members was Andre De Shields in the role of Desi Arnez.
Laura Crow and Cookie Gluck were honored with Drama Desk Awards as Most Promising Costume Designers.
Do you enjoy Theatre’s Leiter Side? As you may know, since New York’s theatres were forced into hibernation by Covid-19, this blog has provided daily posts on the hundreds of shows that opened in the city, Off and on Broadway, between 1970 and 1975. These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through 1950. Unfortunately, the publisher, Greenwood Press, decided it was too expensive to continue the project beyond 1950.
Before I began offering these 1970-1975 entries, however, Theatre’s Leiter Side posted over 1,600 of my actual reviews for shows from 2012 through 2020. The first two years of that experience were published in separate volumes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 (the latter split into two volumes). The 2012-2013 edition also includes a memoir in which I describe how, when I was 72, I used the opportunity of suddenly being granted free access to every New York show to begin writing reviews of everything I saw. Interested readers can find these collections on Amazon.com by clicking here.
Next up: The Wars of the Roses.