- A Personal History of the American Theatre by Spalding Gray, and: Nobody Wanted to Sit Behind a Desk by Spalding Gray, and: Lee Towey, N. Y. by Sylvia Palacios Whitman (review)
- Performing Arts Journal
- The MIT Press
- LIVE performance art magazine 5
- pp. 35-36
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline slides show the daughters of the women-the beautiful ones! Like Ishmael Reed in his novels Mumbojumbo and Yellow Back Radio Brokedown, O'Grady uses Egyptian motifs to enhance and explicate the imaginative lives of Afro-Americans. Unfortunately, Annie Hamburger's piece followed this one. Too long, too slow, illconceived . Hamburger is no slouch as a performer. She had a great presence and her props were interesting, but one never knew just why she was mouthing the words she was saying and moving about. Expressive gestures were not enough, particularly after Malpede and O'Grady. The final performance was Stuart Sherman 's spectacle, "The Erotic." Here was a kind of Groucho Marx whiz kid whipping out objects with the agility of a Sufi master. The juxtaposition ofobjects often took on a surreal and unnerving sensibility. At other times, they seemed ludicrous. Sherman was affable throughout, keeping up the patter of tiny objects and engaging the audience . The piece seemed meditative in an odd way and tangential to the theme. For me it was anything but erotic. The objects were too smooth, too diffident, too cerebral to give a sense of passion or its consequence . On this evening of Halloween a more festive ending would have certainly been more appropriate. But then Sherman did give the audience a smile before he packed his table and stalked out into the night. Patricia Jones Spalding Gray, A Personal History of the American Theatre. The Performing Garage (November). Nobody Wanted to Sit Behind a Desk. Economy Tires Theatre/DTW/American Theatre Laboratory (November ). Sylvia Palacios Whitman, Lee Towey, N. Y. American Theatre Laboratory (November ). Both Spalding Gray, very much the New Englander, and Sylvia Palacios Whitman, an Argentine, have an interest in storytelling and personal history: Gray seems compelled to tell his own story in a series of monologues, while Whitman orients her latest theatre piece around the reminiscences of Lee Towey, a woman who worked her way from roller skating for the phone company through being personal secretary to the elder John Rockefeller to a position with a Wall Street brokerage firm. The fanciful imagery and atmosphere of Whitman's piece is close to the sensibility in novels and stories by South American writers: a bird was pulled from the paper flames over which a man had warmed his hands and was pinned to a canvas flat bearing the outlines of a house. A -womandid a sort of dance with a branch, from which leaves magically grew at both ends. A blue veiled figure glided across the stage in a canoe. But by far the most compelling element of Lee Towey, N. Y. was the lady herself. Lee Towey is a sixty-ish, gray-haired, clear blue-eyed woman. She carefully describes Canal Street, where she-was born, and the changes she had seen there over the years. She was dignified, and reticent about her personal life, yet charming in her alliance and complicity with the audience. (Both Towey and Gray took obvious pleasure in the audience responses to their revelations.) When she talked about the Rockefellers, half an oversize paper elephant was hung against the back wall. Why? Because the elephant is an emblem for Republicans, which the Rockefellers are, or because elephants, like Towey, never forget? Is this a piece about memory, about time passing, changes occurring? The slow-paced unfolding of the dreamlike, contemplative images in Whitman's piece, which did not bear a clear associative relationship to the Towey story, tended to accentuate the contrast between the parts and styles of the performance, rather than suggesting a unified perspective. Spalding Gray, on the other hand, seduces us with a narrative line. He is an experienced actor and raconteur(these are his fourth and fifth monologues), and combin35 resistable of which was surely that of Gray as satyr. Throughout, Gray was seemingly sincere (did he fabricate the stories about the friend who administered the poison in Guyana and the friend's father who shot himself over Nixon's resignation?) and, as in Nobody.... did not hesitate to expose his own clumsiness and vulnerability. Lee Towey, N. Y. ed with his candor is a skill for manipulating and...