Monday, May 24, 2021

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 From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Richard Kiley, Julie Harris. (Photos: Friedman-Abeles.)
VOICES [Drama/Death/Marriage/Mystery] A: Richard Lortz; D: Gilbert Cates; S/L: Jo Mielzine; C: Theoni V. Aldredge; M: Peggy Stuart Coolidge; P: Jerry Schlossberg, Jerry Hammer, and Adela Holzer; T: Ethel Barrymore Theatre; 4/3/72-4/8/72 (8)
Julie Harris, Richard Kiley.

Despite a five-member cast, this essentially two-character suspense thriller, a genre that has practically vanished from Broadway, featured Richard Kiley and Julie Harris as a married couple spending a long weekend at an isolated old Maine cabin during a snowstorm. The wife has recently been released from a mental home. She still has nightmares of a drowned five-year-old son who died while she and her husband were having sex during a St. Thomas beach vacation.

Lisa Essary, Julie Harris.

As the blizzard outside rages, the ghostly voices and presences of a departed family assail her inside. The husband refuses until the second act to admit he hears the voices, too. The play concludes by revealing that the couple are themselves dead. (Some may be reminded of a vaguely similar premise in the movie blockbuster, The Sixth Sense.)

Plays like this “give Broadway a bad name,” groused Clive Barnes, who attacked the work for its lack of suspense and “faltering command of the English language.” Similar comments were forthcoming from the other critics, although one or two, like Martin Gottfried, thought the play evolved slowly into “a ghost story with a genuinely nifty twist, a very satisfying spook show.”

The stars, two of Broadway’s greatest, were at sea and neither received noteworthy encomiums for their participation. Others involved were Lisa Essary, Patricia Wheel, and Scott Firestone.

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 These have been drawn from an unpublished manuscript that would have been part of my multivolume Encyclopedia of the New York Stage series, which covers every show, of every type, from 1920 through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 by clicking here. 

Next up: The Wager.