Yale Udoff

NY Times Review - A GUN PLAY

'A Gun Play' Comedy About Violence


There is a cold and fine madness to Yale M. Udoff's play "A Gun Play," which opened at the Cherry Lane Theater yesterday. It is a comedy about violence, and despite a certain unoriginality of subject, it is to be rec­ommended, largely for itself but also partly for the very promise of Mr. Udoff. When you are seeing his second and third plays, it will be agreeable to recall that you saw his first.

"A Gun Play" is not so much a comedy is a Marx brothers tragedy. It takes absurdity to the point of death. It gently pokes fun at society's corruption and then settles its hash with a tommy gun. Mr. Udoff is a philosopher of the Bonnie and Clyde school, and he has watched many gangster movies on the late, late show. As a result, his hero, who says very little, merely drinks his coffee, sips his Benedictine and occasionally practices with his machine gun, seems like an agreeable mixture between George Raft and Robespierre. Especially, come to think of it, George Raft.

The scene—beautifully designed by Ralph Funiceilo and Marjone Kellogg—is set in a, smart restaurant that is about to face rapid disaster. The disaster starts as the play begins. The restaurant is supervised, stage-managed, conducted by an imperious maitre d' who has a range of accents to fit all clients, an imperturbability that would do credit to the captain of & sinking ship and a pride in his job. There is also a sloppy waiter called Stan by his friends and Stanley by his enemies.

Stan is the only honest person or object in the restaurant. He has a bad time of life. For one thing he is a blissfully incompetent waiter. For another the kitchen, downstairs is flooded, and midway through the play, the chef leaves. Stan's efforts to 'bail out the wine cellar while also producing caneton a "1" orange meet with less than complete success.

The clientele is singularly unpleasant—apart from the gunman, there is a nymphomaniac model, a chinless stockbroker, a woman columnist, a wellknown unknown painter and a young married couple from the suburbs. Before long you begin to suspect that these people represent the canker in our society—and unfortunately, for this is perhaps the play's weakness, this I also suspect is precisely what you are meant to suspect. The play is symbolic around the edges— but much of it is funny enough for you to forgive and forget its basic obviousness.

Mr. Udoff appears to have a happily natural affinity for the significantly absurd. A radio station will give salient and grisly details of a butcher who went berserk with his customers, or the quiet killer will wait patiently at a table while a girl comes in with a fresh supply of ammunition. For this he gives her a credit card, while she whips out a credit card recording machine from her briefcase and the transaction is efficiently completed. And his bizarre characters are often very nastily lifelike.

The play has been very well. cast—unusually well cast for an Off Broadway play—and the direction by Gene Frankel, helped by the movement devised by Julie Arenal, is exemplary.

Of the performances, just possibly, and then only narrowly, Gene Troobnick as the hard-pressed waiter stands out. This is such a neatly comic performance, from, its disgusted air of bafflement to its downtrodden sense of injustice and its natural human aspirations. Mr. Troobnick's defeated, landslided face is uncommonly expressive, especially in disaster's minor key.

As Orlando, only rarely furioso, the maitre d' of impeccable tailoring, and implacable style. Arny Freeman oozes self-confidence as if it were toothpaste. Lara Parker makes a languorous sex cat of a model. William Bogert is the foolish stockbroker she has brought with her and Tony Musante is the Man from Retribution, the mild mannered gunman from destiny.

The obviousness of the play needs to be accepted. That agreed, Mr. Udoff's perception of death's little trivia and his caricature of the way we live can be cheerfully persuasive.

The Casts
A GUN PLAY, a Plix bv Yale M. Udoff. Directed by Paul Weidner; setting by Santo Loquasto; costumes by Coleen Callahan; lighting by Larry Crimmins; stage manager, Fred Hoskins. Presented by the Hartford Stage Company, Hartford, Conn.
Stan ................. David 0. Peterscn
Orlando............... Henry Thomas
Wallace.................. Ted Graeber
Lita..................... Charlotte Moore
Linden................ Robert Moberly
Jack................... James Valentine
Norma.................... Darthy Blair
First motorcycle officer.......James Carruthers
George.................... Ron  Frazier
Melinda.................. Tana Hicken
Fashion model........Dolores Brown
2d motorcycle officer.......Cristopher Andrews
Young girl............ Robin Murphy
Johnni............... Michael Esterson