The Long Watch

The Playgoer

I'll give this one eight days on Broadway if it gets that far. A melange of all the worst war movies you have ever seen, The Long Watch has but one raison d'etre: the heartfelt theory of the authors that long-range rescue planes in time of war are a good thing. The reminder of the play is tied around the complex conjugal relations of half a dozen or so WAVES, who manage to turn their air-sea rescue base into a complete shambles in less than three hours on stage.

The main trouble with The Long Watch seems to be that authors Morrie Ryskind and Harvey Haislip have not quite been able to decide into what genre they want their play to fit. There is neither continuity of style, content, nor emotional response. The dialogue and situations are ostensibly comic until the denouement, when a WAVE falls asleep on the job, causes the death of five aviators including her husband, and ultimately commits suicide. Of course it isn't really a tragedy since for some reason this convinces Washington of the necessity of long-range rescue planes. But one can't help feeling that it's too bad anyway.

The dialogue ranges from fifth to mawkish sentimentality. Walter Abel, as Captain Mike Dorgan, alternates between swallowing nobly and delivering impassioned speeches into a ship-to-shore phone, which scare the daylights out of his six WAVES. At length, however, his more elevated sentiments blossom forth, and he breaks into a rousing chorus of "For Those in Peril on the Sea." The less said of the rest of the acting the better.

Perhaps Director John Larson could do little with the script (the authors' first attempt, by the way), but he certainly might have attempted to eliminate a portion of the audience's squirming by toning down the delivery. John Blankenchip's settings, the play's one saving grace, are ingeniously devised to accommodate the wide variety of activities invariably occurring at the same time. JOSEPH P. LORENZ