BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Weales, Gerald

Stage BIRDS OF A FEATHER FARCE AND FAILED COMEDY Uoly ducklings have been turning into swans all over town lately, with varying degrees of aesthetic and commercial success. This transformation,...

...In P.J...
...Nor is much done with the advertising world in which Digby makes his living...
...The strengths in Dougherty's play are the suggestions that Digby's behavior is the result of an oblique sense of superiority and that Faye's conventional sexual partners begin to doubt themselves faced with male behavior which they find inexplicable...
...It is easily the funniest of all the plays reviewed here, and its success lies in its nonsense language games, its mechanical tricks, above all its speed and timing...
...Roberts or At War with the Army...
...At a moment when sentimentality and preachiness leave so obvious an impress on comedy (see Torch Song Trilogy and Isn' t It Romantic as well as the plays considered above), perhaps farce is the last, best refuge of the ugly duckling in search of swandom...
...Much more interesting are a couple of comedies about the dewimping of a wimp Joseph Dougherty's Digby and Larry Shue's The Foreigner...
...I cannot for the life of me understand why.' Simon's quasi-autobiographical hero, Eugene Morris Jerome (he frequently identifies himself by all three names), had his first coming-of-age in Brighton Beach Memoirs, which has been on Broadway for more than two years...
...In that comedy, the outside world impinged on his baseball and sexual dreams...
...Shue's play, like Simon's, is designed to make a point about the connection between prejudice and ignorance, but Shue chooses to go the way of farce...
...This transformation, in one guise or another, is at the heart of many contemporary comedies...
...One of the most persistent forms of self-discovery comedy is the coming-of-age play, and that is what Neil Simon offers in Biloxi Blues...
...These suppositions are as artificial as anything in Biloxi Blues, but they hold out the possibility of something more inventive than memories of Mr...
...Since the comedy carries the magic Simon name and since it has the blessing of Frank Rich in the pages of the New York Times, the play is almost certain to have a long and profitable run...
...He lusts a little too ostentatiously here, which makes his antepenultimate rejection of her advances more morbid than comic, and she, less casual than compulsive about sex, seems an unlikely candidate for a conversion to romantic love if that is what it is...
...His hero, freed of his sense of his own inadequacy, defeats the villain and gets the girl...
...The obvious end of a play like Digby is that the hero and the heroine get together, and Dougherty promises the consummation of their love just beyond the final curtain...
...but they are more appealing than Biloxi Blues because each is built on a sound suppose...
...If Blues has the edge on Club, it is because the eight estimable actresses in the latter pretty much 3 May 1985: 281 settled for shtik while the young performers in Biloxi Blues at least try to make characters out of the cliches they are asked to play...
...Characters* discover their true selves, assert the selves they have always suspected were there, have their worth (wit, charm, whatever) recognized by significant and insignificant others...
...A barracks can be a forcing ground, as David Rabe used it in Streamers, but here, despite the intrusion of anti-Semitism and homosexuality, we are in SeeHere, Private Hargrove country...
...There was a kind of warmth in Brighton Beach Memoirs that made it likable despite (or perhaps because of) its bromides...
...Although Simon was in the army right after World War II (the play is set in 1943 with the war still there to devour or endanger his characters), nothing in the play seems to be built on observation...
...But The Foreigner never even pretends to work in terms of character...
...This conclusion would be more effective if Digby were to discover, to his surprise, that his philosophical objections to his society's sexual attitudes are both real and the cover for his own uncertainty in the face of a woman like Faye Greener...
...One of Faye's lovers is a successful pop-porn artist, another a plasterer turned actor, but I am never certain that Dougherty wants his art jokes to make a thematic point about fashionable art and fashionable sex being equally empty...
...Neither of the plays is completely satisfying (how many plays are...
...Simon recycles the usual army jokes (farts, smelly socks, latrine duty) and surrounds his ethnically mixed squad with the comforting presence of stereotypes like the tough sergeant and the whore with the heart of gold...
...Suppose an excessively shy man passes himself off as a foreigner to avoid having to deal with other people, and his pretense not to understand English makes him privy to their secrets...
...Barry's play, which came and went quickly in March, the youngest of the eight sisters who make up the titular club belatedly (and with the help of a stay in a mental hospital) finds the strength to assert her own personality among her siblings...
...For me, at least, Biloxi Blues is as charmless as The Octette Bridge Club...
...Add that Dougherty has a talent for funny lines, most of which he gives to his not very wimpish wimp, and Digby can be seen not only as a reasonably amusing play but as the promise of more interesting work to come...
...GERALD WEALES...
...Now, a little older and in the army, he reaches what passes for maturity in Biloxi Blues by losing his virginity, falling innocently in love, and learning that he is capable of moral cowardice and careless cruelty...
...The Foreigner is the most bizarre of the plays under discussion because Shue puts his English hero in a Georgia fishing lodge which he must save from the machinations of a malevolent clergyman and the violence of his KKK associates...
...Her self-realization, like that of Eugene Morris Jerome, takes place amid the crackling of presumed comic lines...
...Anthony Heald, who is fast becoming off-Broadway's most talented player of wimps, was the protagonist of both plays when I saw them, moving from The Foreigner, which is still running at the Astor Place Theatre, to the Manhattan Theatre Club for Digby...
...Suppose a young man, unhappy with contemporary sexual mores, chooses to become the friend of an attractive woman rather than another of her lovers...
...If the last of these suggests seriousness of purpose, it lies in Simon's intentions, not in his achievement...

Vol. 112 • May 1985 • No. 9


 
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