WHEN A SHOW called Camelot opened on Broadway nearly a decade ago, one critic wrote that it was the first time he had come out of a musical humming the scenery.
If they ever do a musical at the Loeb, Harvard's lush drama center, no doubt someone else will write the same thing. Plays at the Loeb have great sets. But, oddly enough, two other things that the Loeb does not have are exciting theatre and a Harvard audience. Luckily, a lot of genteel middle-aged locals frequent the Loeb, so the Loeb has money, and with money you can build that swell scenery. But what about the rest?
This year the Harvard Dramatic Club will do three plays at the Loeb during the fall term: Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Chekhov's Three Sisters, and John Bowen's After the Rain (a sort of parable play that was a critical success and audience bomb in London and New York). Are you thrilled? Even if they are great productions, are you going to go? I doubt it. You are not going to go, because, unless you are a real theatre enthusiast, you have either no interest in seeing any of these plays in any form or you have already seen them and don't want a second helping.
Harvard has no drama department, productions for this season. The cream of the list somehow did not make it on to the fall schedule. When I saw my friend again last week, he told me the sad story of what went wrong over the summer.
Two of the plays planned for this fall, he said, could not be done because of difficulty in obtaining rights. This is a shame, since at least one of these plays is far more exciting than any of the three works finally chosen.
This same friend assured me that we could at least expect something different from Leland Moss, who will direct The Three Sisters. Moss evidently will strip the Chekhov work down to the essentials, freeing the play of such trappings as sets and costumes. So if you want to see The Three Sisters -surely the most frequently performed Chekhov play in this country-the Moss production might be a good thing.
On the other hand, the director of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof made something of a mess with his previous attempt at directing a Williams work last spring.
IT LOOKS much cheerier at the Loeb Experimental Theatre, where productions are put together for peanuts and performances are given for free. While the schedule is not definite yet, all three projected programs and one of the amazing things about the Loeb is that the productions are put together by people in their spare time, most of whom have no serious dramatic training. But equally amazing is the fact that these people, with no theatre department and the crap that goes along with it, should do plays that are conventional, run-of-the-mill university theatre department type stuff.
Last spring, a member of the HDC showed me a list of prospective Loeb are good ideas.
These are an unspecified work by Pirandello and two evenings of one act plays, America Hurrah and Morning, Noon and Night.
America Hurrah is Jean Claude van Itallie's amazing trio of improvisational-styled sketches about the vulgar mechanization of American life.
As produced last season on Broadway by Circle-in-the-Square, Morning, Noon and Night consisted of plays by Israel Horovitz, Terence McNally and Leonard Melfi. Collectively these one-acters made up the finest evening of new American drama of the last theatre season and should work well in the Ex.
Like last year, the Loeb will also bring in productions from outside to help fill the main stage between HDC offerings. This year's import schedule is promising.
October will bring The Concept, a chilling piece of theatre performed by members of Daytop Village, a community of ex-dope addicts. It was one of last season's biggest off-Broadway successes. This will be followed by Le Treteau de Paris' stark production of the Anouilh Antigone, which, when I saw it four years ago, struck me as an unusual presentation of a much too frequently done play.
Surrounding these two plays will be Die Schauspieltruppe Zurich's repertory of playwrights Durrenmatt, Frisch and Goethe (late September) and the Oxford-Cambridge Players' Twelfth Night (December). Last season, only the latter troupe attracted a large student audience to the Loeb, and their work was enthusiastically received. This year's production is directed by Jonathan Miller, Beyond the Fringe alumnus and one of the funniest men alive.