In the line of straight entertainment The New Theatre Workshop scored a minor triumph Thursday with its presentation of Gregory Corso's In This Hung-up Age. That the author cannot take any credit for originality of situation--six passengers and Beauty stranded on a brokendown bus in the middle of the desert--is no drawback in this case. The language of his characters is fast, vigorous, and funny, and the denouement is grotesquely original. In the cast, Fred Mueller as the Apache, Harry Bingham as the Hipster, James Rieger as the Poetman, and Earle Edgerton as the Tourist are superb caricatures, while Clare Fooshee and Mary MacGregor as Mrs. Kindhead and the Radcliffe student provided an equally amusing female contingent. There is a slightly grating moment when the Apache becomes too obviously a mouthpiece in declaring that this hung-up age cannot exist without jazz, but it is easily absorbed into the whole. Corso's play does not reach for much, and is the better for it. Its humor and its design are blunt; it elicits spontaneous enthusiasm.
Peter Junger's choral poem The Magic Circle, which proceded Corso's play, did not measure up. James Shucter's direction was extremely deft, and together with the precise and sometimes beautiful delivery of Peggy Polk, Nancy Curtis, Keith Gardiner, and Harold Scott, exploited well what the poem had to offer. But to me this was not a great deal. Junger's language is often musical and thrilling, but his images of fallen glory (grey Byzantium, the sleeping emperor, druids) and modern confusion (herds of taxis, flame-winged planes, departing stars) seemed little more than trite. At times it was difficult to escape the feeling that one was being served warmed-over Yeats. For me this use of commonplace imagery counteracted the strength which language alone might have given the piece.
What with its recent presentation of Inside Contemporania plus the two productions on yesterday's program, it might be argued that the New Theatre Workshop is favoring too many undisguised treatments of man's dilemma in the modern world. But for the time being, at least, the choice of In This Hung-up Age once again vindicates the group's taste and talent.