The fifth of the HDC New Theatre Workshop's experimental productions returns to the group's original purpose: to perform new plays. The two dramatic adaptations of E. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited written by two students in Professor Chapman's English Y were presented by different casts and different directors. They make an unhappy study in contrasts.
The first script, written by Robert MacDonald and directed by Zandy Moore, was almost painfully unsuccessful. Though Mr. Moore's direction seemed insensitive and obvious, it must be realized that his cast is almost completely inexperienced and he had only two weeks of rehearsal time. Mr. MacDonald's script is overwritten and forced. Instead of creating recognizable people in a recognizable human situation, he portrays a cast of perfectly typed characters for whom one can feel no sympathy or concern. The actors lack any feeling of dramatic reaction to one another. One can almost see them thinking about their cues. But, as some sage said, the best way to learn to act is to act; and writing likewise.
The second presentation, in contrast, is highly successful. William Kaufman, author of the adaptation, has written a creative and highly imaginative script from Fitzgerald's rather slim material. He demonstrates remarkable insight, subtlety, and compassion in handling human relationships as well as a keen ear for dialogue, and a sense of humor. Thomas Lumbard's direction of a fairly seasoned cast seems to come off quite well.
The plot, publicized by the film The Last Time I Saw Paris, involves a man who sowed quite a few wild oats during the stock market boom. He returns after the death of his wife to reclaim his daughter from his sister-in-law, who blames him for his wife's death. Seven-year-old Rachel Whitman is most fetching and unaffected as the young daughter. Phyllis Ferguson is completely believable as the sister-in-law, mixing resentment for her toiling and skimping with a warmth and tenderness. James Stinson plays her sympathetic husband with suitable low pressured earnestness. Roger Moldovan is more than effective in the lead, without being over-sentimental. Robert Hesse looks properly drunk and idiotic in the walk-on part, and Lee Jefferies is suberbly plastered as an old love of the hero who intrudes at an inconvenient moment.
Considering the Workshop's purpose, this production is both entertaining and worthwhile.