Coward, Fugard, and Shaw grace New York stages Hay Fever Comedy by No"el Coward. Starring Rosemary Harris. Directed by Brian Murray.
How better could blithe make-believe celebrate the Christmas season than with a No"el Coward classic? Producer Roger Peters and the debuting MBS Company have answered the rhetorical question with ``Hay Fever.'' The dashing revival of Coward's romping 1925 satirical farce fills the Music Box with the sound of the cuckoo and the bubbling music of laughter. A London success that failed the first time around in New York, ``Hay Fever'' has achieved the status of comic creations that survive and thrive beyond their own times and fashions. The stylish Music Box production recaptures the attitudes of a bygone era as Coward delineates the ordeals endured by four weekend guests at the Cookham country home of the egocentric, bad-mannered Blisses.Skip to next paragraph
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Incomparable Rosemary Harris stars as the slightly pass'e luminary Judith Bliss, who knows more about stealing a scene than she does about the flowers at the bottom of her garden. A picturesque putterer, Judith couldn't tell a delphinium from an aster, which she thinks is an aristocratic family name. And she would be the last to suspect that the Bliss family flower is probably the narcissus. Miss Harris gives us every toss of Judith's lovely head, every last affectation, and every trick of the grand man ner and the vocal glissando.
Mia Dillon and Robert Joy revel in the roles of the Blisses' spoiled and tempestuous offspring, the objects of their mother's occasional bouts of maternalism. The family foursome is completed by Roy Dotrice as pop-author David Bliss. They are antically served by Barbara Bryne as the maid-of-all-work who has graduated (at least temporarily) from theatrical dresser to suburban domestic. The neglected weekend guests, whom the Blisses have invited without consulting each other, are gamely played by Charles Kimbrough as a starchy diplomat, Campbell Scott as one of Judith's adoring young fans, Carolyn Seymour as a catty social gadfly, and Deborah Rush as the pathetic and ultimate dumb blonde.
The set pieces of ``Hay Fever'' -- the ``welcoming'' tea party, the riotous adverb game, the morning-after breakfast and mock melodramatic climax -- come off with unalloyed hilarity. Jennifer von Mayrhauser's costumes are delightfully '20s chic. Michael Yeargan has designed a country house drawing room (lighted, come rain or shine, by Arden Fingerhut). Its hospitable amenities belie the heedless inhospitality of the hosts. In contrast to the deplorable state of bad manners in the Bliss household, the state of play at the Music Box is comically Blissful. The Blood Knot Play by Athol Fugard. Starring Zakes Mokae, Mr. Fugard. Directed by the author.
Each clasping the other's hand, Zakes Mokae and Athol Fugard raise arms in a salute -- to an applauding audience, to a moment of elation, and to what the occasion signifies. The two actors have just finished a performance of ``The Blood Knot,'' the moving and frequently comic Fugard drama the two men first acted in 1961 in South Africa. Since that breakthrough work, the association between the internationally acclaimed playwright and one of South Africa's major acting talents has become part of 20 th-century theatrical history.
The stirring curtain calls at the Golden Theatre acclaim the first Broadway production of ``The Blood Knot.'' (It was acted Off Broadway in 1964 by James Earl Jones and J. D. Cannon.) Mr. Fugard staged the present Yale Repertory Theatre revival.
``The Blood Knot'' concerns the relationship between two half-brothers, the black Zachariah (Mr. Mokae) and the light-skinned ``Colored'' Morris (Mr. Fugard), whose father was a white man. After passing as white for a number of years, Morris has returned to Zachariah's one-room shack in the nonwhite shanty town of Korstein, near Port Elizabeth. Morris seizes on the uneasy reunion to ingratiate himself with the somewhat skeptical Zachariah, a gate tender at a local whites-only park. Besides performing do mestic chores, fussy Morris takes custody of his half-brother's wages, explaining that the money saved will enable them to make a down payment on a small farm.