Friday, October 22, 2010

NYTimes archives - review of THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT

I was interested in finding out more about the reception of Bill Manhoff's THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT since my JULIA & BUDDY is inspired by that play.

I found the Howard Taubman's November 19 1964 review in the NYTimes pretty interesting. For one thing, I didn't realize that a "pseudo-intellectual who pretends he is above animal instincts (the owl) and the disarmingly earthy tart with a heart of gold (the pussycat)" is a familiar story. But maybe because things are very different in the 21st century, where it's a common belief that all men are flat-out slobs and horndawgs ala the work of Judd Apatow.

Another comment that seemed odd:
. Mr. Manhoff relies too much on obvious lines like "I'm a prostitute, but I'm not promiscuous," but he can occasionally be crisp and bright.

Obvious? There must have been more prostitutes portrayed on the stage in those days. Manhoff does describe the Doris character as a prostitute with a heart of gold, which, while probably more common in those days, is still with us as I noted in my commentary about Adam Rapp's RED LIGHT WINTER.

However, I was encouraged by this:
Mr. Manhoff, of course, is well aware that to sustain a play on two characters is something of a virtuoso stunt. Even if his story and characters had more substances, it would be difficult to carry off. But "The Owl and the Pussycat" for all the vivacity of Arthur Stortch's staging, repeats itself and indulges in stretches of padding.

Because I think that my play does not have padding - but I will have to look at it more closely to make sure it doesn't.

I don't actually mind if O&P didn't get great reviews - if it did, there'd be no point in doing a sort of re-do in the 21st century. And according to an article in the New Yorker (behind their pay wall) O&P was a big hit, in spite of the reviews.

One thing that makes you really aware that the article is from almost 50 years ago is this bit from the end:
...it should be noted for the record that Miss Sands, a Negro, plays a role that has no intimation of color. The only question to answer is, How does she fill the role and aid the play's values, such as they are? Admirably.

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