At the Broadway Theater last night, where Dude was having its opening performance, those of us whose tickets were marked "foothill" had to do some climbing. There we found the playhouse interestingly transformed. In the center was a small round stage totally surrounded by members of the audience, some apparently located in the "valley" or on the "hill". Up and down the aisles the actors kept rushing while they clutched their microphones with the wires trailing behind.
Everything started promisingly. The first of the players descended from the ceiling on a trapeze, actors representing such positive and negative forces as Mother Earth, the Moon, Bread and Zero arrived, and I thought the scene was, as some of the dialogue suggested, the Garden of eden. It even seemed possible that Gerome Ragni, the author, was playing a dirty trick on Arthur Miller by bringing in ahead of him another play about the creation of the world.
Tom O'Horgan, the director, has employed a lot of ingenious ideas for staging and for a long time the ingenuity works. But eventually it becomes evident that in the process of production something has been overlooked. They forgot to include a play, and i felt it grew confusing in purpose. Dude has a subtitle, which is "The Highway Life" and it is one of the many things about a disappointing evening that puzzled me. What is a "highway life"?
I at least gathered that the narrative had to do with good, evil, the need for love, and the conflict between constructive and destructive urges in mankind. But the way in which it goes about making its points struck me as being more bewildering than illuminating. I'll cheerfully admit it may be my fault that, outside of knowing there is a young man named Dude, I found out little more about him. Is he perhaps a kind of modern Christ? There are good things, like the moment when two of the players start to do a scene from Shakespeare, but not enough of them.
One of the disappointments to me was galt MacDermot's rock score. Mr. MacDermot is one of our most brilliant of popular composers, as he has demonstrated in Hair, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the incidental music for last year's Central Park production of Cymbeline. His songs for Dude are what used to be known in critical circles as "adequate," but my impression last night was that the songs were pleasant but commonplace, not at all the sort of superior modern music we expect from him.
the large cast includes such well known players as William Redfield and Rae Allen. All of them are talented, particularly Ralph Carter in the title role. But my favorite member of the company was a perky little stout black girl whose name I was unable to discover. Dude has an attractive home and it was undeniably a novelty, both of which may help it at the box office. But after the first half hour it made me unhappy.
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