Broadway's new fare --from Serling to Schnitzler

Broadway is currently augmenting its meager menu of incoming new plays with a renovation and two revivals. ``Requiem for a Heavyweight,'' by way of television and films, has opened (and closed) at the Martin Beck Theatre. The uptown Circle in the Square is presenting ``The Loves of Anatol,'' the first major staging of the Arthur Schnitzler comedy in more than 50 years. The Roundabout Theatre Company's highly praised Off Broadway production of Peter Nichol's ``Joe Egg,'' starring Jim Dale and Stockard Channing, is scheduled to arrive March 21 at the Longacre. Requiem for a Heavyweight

A landmark Playhouse 90 TV drama in 1956 and a 1962 movie starring Anthony Quinn, ``Requiem for a Heavyweight'' realized the late Rod Serling's hope that his powerful ringside tale of loyalty and betrayal would one day reach the stage. Its success on Broadway in 1985 required critical and popular approval of an old-style prizefight melodrama.

As the title more than implies, ``Requiem for a Heavyweight'' concerns the ordeal facing Harlan (Mountain) McClintock (John Lithgow) when a doctor pronounces the battered boxer too physically damaged to continue in the ring. Unbeknown to McClintock, manager Maish Resnick (George Segal) has wagered that ``Mountain'' would survive only four rounds in his latest bout. When the fighter goes seven rounds, Maish loses his bet.

To recoup the loss, Maish proposes to dress McClintock in a Daniel Boone costume and enter him as a comic-relief wrestler in a series of forthcoming matches. After a drunken rampage on discovering Maish's treachery, McClintock arrives at a decision that enables him to recover something of his damaged pride and self-respect.

As staged by Arvin Brown, the Long Wharf Theatre production might be described as a timely period piece. Mr. Brown retained the 1956 era of the original, thus preserving authenticity and helping rationalize some of the more melodramatic elements. The play's limitations were to an extent inherent in the deliberately paced version at the Martin Beck. Furthermore, expanding a 90-minute teleplay into a two-act stage drama involved extensions and elaborations that diminished dramatic tautness.

There were times when ``Requiem for a Heavyweight'' strained credibility. At such moments, the strong performances by Mr. Lithgow as the simple but honorable fighter, Mr. Segal as his unscrupulous manager, and Maria Tucci as the sympathetic state employment agency interviewer who befriends McClintock made vital contributions. Mr. Lithgow created an appealing figure of a burly, bewildered innocent grappling with the effects of a betrayal he doesn't suspect. Mr. Segal's Maish was a nasty, if desperate, opportunist, and Miss Tucci brought as much believability as possible to the part of the tender-hearted bureaucrat.

Among the numerous players who helped the plot along and/or provided local color were David Proval (McClintock's loyal trainer), Cosmo F. Allegretti, Dominic Chianese, and Joyce Ebert. Marjorie Bradley Kellogg's multiple settings (lighted by Ron Wallace) simulated the sordid milieu of the story and facilitated quick scene changes. The costumes were by Bill Walker.

``Requiem for a Heavyweight'' acquired an extra relevance in connection with current attacks against prizefighting. Mrs. Carol Serling, the playwright's widow (as quoted in the New York Times), believes ``the play could be considered an indictment of the prizefight game. It's about parasites -- greedy people who live off others, and the wreckage that's left afterwards.'' In this connection, ``Requiem'' delivered its own indictment.

The latest version of the Serling original also illustrated once more the role of the nonprofit institutional theater in the progress of projects from developmental stages to Broadway presentation. The production at the Martin Beck was preceded by versions at the Soho Repertory Theatre (1979), the Long Beach (Calif.) Studio Theatre (1983), and New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre (1984). The Loves of Anatol

The Circle in the Square is presenting an artificially stylized version of Arthur Schnitzler's ``Anatol'' plays. Director Ellis Rabb and co-adaptor Nicholas Martin have done considerable cutting, revising, and rearranging of the original material to tell the ruefully comic tale of a Vienese playboy who prattles about love while practicing seduction. ``The Loves of Anatol'' augments six of the original one-acters (written between 1889 and 1892) with a later playlet, ``Anatol's Megalomania,'' in which the aging philanderer looks back in melancholy.

The Circle in the Square revival casts the personable Stephen Collins as the fin-de-siecle womanizer and stalwart Philip Bosco as Max, the worldly-wise confidant who observes Anatol's deflating misadventures in amour. A versatile trio of leading ladies play dual roles in the Rabb arrangement: Mary-Joan Negro as the seamstress whom Anatol never quite dares hypnotize and the demimondaine whose cherished jewels bring trouble; Valerie Mahaffey as the truth-telling ballerina with an enormous appetite and also as the Annette of the autumnal epilogue; and Michael Learned as a sadly self-composed matron and a vulgar courtesan.

Ranging from light comedy to broad farce, the fanciful Rabb staging captures some of the irony and satirical sting of Schnitzler's sophisticated observations about cynical infidelity and the pursuit of passion. Pamela Sousa and Reed Jones perform fleeting Donald Saddler dance steps between episodes, and sound-track pigeons coo (a bit incongruously) from somewhere up in the rafters. Scurrying waiters and attendants move props and furniture around Lawrence Miller's stylish setting, lighted (candles and all) by Richard Winkler and James Tilton. Robert Morgan has costumed the production sumptuously. 3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down Musical by Jerry Colker (book and lyrics) and Michael Rupert (music). Directed by Andrew Cadiff. Choreography by Don Bondi.

There's nothing naked about ``3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down'' -- except perhaps the ambition of its protagonists. The heroes of the new show at the Minetta Lane Theatre are struggling stand-up comics who join forces in their quest for fame and fortune. Author Jerry Colker plays the hostile, angry man of the trio, with Scott Bakula as the brash emcee type and John Kassir as a melancholy mime with a bent for ghoulish foolishness.

After landing a spot on the Johnny Carson show, the lads cavort as undercover cops in drag through a TV comedy series and zoom to the top of the ratings before ending their fling with fame. Messrs. Kassir, Colker, and Scott display talent and energy, whether in the uneven comedy routines or in mostly satiric and sardonic songs by Mr. Colker and composer Michael Rupert. Henry Aronson leads a zingy combo through Michael Starobin's musical arrangements. The all-purpose nightclub setting has been cleverly designed by Clarke Dunham, with costumes by Tom McKinley and lighting by Ken Billington.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Broadway's new fare --from Serling to Schnitzler
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today