Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
At the Plymouth Theatre
The unfortunate opening for parody offered by the above title is, in this case, unavoidable. Success seems indeed to have spoiled George Axelrod. In his second play, the author of The Seven Year Itch has scraped together a group of stock Hollywood characters, armed them with the feeblest of gags, and had the presumption to try to foist the result on the public as a humorous and slightly meaningful commentary on modern success. The result is not only meaningless, but unfunny.
Protagonists in this painful tale are a Pulitzer Prize playwright, an oh-so-Marilyn-Monroe-like Hollywood star, and a plain young man of almost no attributes who attains great success in love and literature through a pact with the devil--in the guise, as one might have guessed, of his Hollywood agent. Axelrod's fumbling attempt to give the thing a measure of significance in the last act adds considerably to the burden of the performers, who have a hard enough time making anything of their lines during the first two-thirds of the play.
Walter Matthau, as prize-winning playwright Michael Freeman, emerges from the affair with more dignity than his fellows, though this is little enough. His remarks about the second play being the hardest are unfortunate as far as Axclrod is concerned, but they are certainly borne out with disturbing accuracy.
Jayne Mansfield and Martin Gabel as the star and the infernal agent do well enough with their parts, which offer nothing more than opportunities for fairly clever characterization. But Orson Bean, the youthful bargainer for success, is unable even to meet the demands of his role except at moments when startled exclamations and muggins are called for. Others in the cast are equal to their sorry assignments, but nothing more.
To catalogue the cast and the woes of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? further would be meaningless and brutal. It would be dangerous to predict that the play will draw no audiences on Broadway, but it certainly will not be spoiled by success. There is noting to spoil.