Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on August 10, 1975 · Page 77
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August 10, 1975

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 77

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, August 10, 1975
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Page 77
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Critics visit Eugene O'NeilVs Monte Cristo By Martha Smith WATERFORD, CONN. - I have had two peculiar sensations overcome me this week. The first was Tuesday when members of the National Critics Institute were invited to the Monte Cristo house, an 1880s home in downtown New London. The house, built by Eugene 0'NeiH's.fath'er, is in a state of disrepair, but is habitable. Presently, the pavfd Hays family (he is artistic director of the National Theater of the Deaf) live in ihe house. Much of toe furniture is as it was when O'Neill did some of his most magnificent, tortured, writing. It was at Monte Cristo that he wrote "Long Day's Journey into Night," the autobiographical story of his family. The play could not be released until everyone who had lived in Monte Cristo house was dead. In one ear... Tuesday, some of us caught each other listening and glancing at the ceiling. We were convinced we had heard the agonized pacing of O'Neill's mother, addicted to morphine and confined to the upstairs. Other ghosts made their presence known. Most particularly prevalent was the brooding spectre of O'Neill himself. He seemed everywhere: in the musty wallpaper, in the narrow cramped, hallways, slouched, in the corner chair. It was almost possible to see him angrily carving his initfals in the bannister -- an ..act he committed, as an outraged child to display anger at his father. - For many years, the New London citizenry liked to pretend Eugene O'Neill had never been part of this community. But today there is a theater center honoring him in nearby Waterford and his home is part of the National Parks Service listing. I cannot understand how he could be ignored in life. Tuesday we could not believe him really dead. The house of "LongDay's.Journey" was filled with more than nine curious critics. »· THE SECOND PECULIAR sen sation was that of being in the Divine Presence Wednesday evening, sitting knee to knee with Judith Crist. She held forth in the critics' - living room for nearly three hours, giving views of philosophy of film and theater criticism -- her narrative liberally spiced with anecdotes. Crist looks every inch the critic. She has a slight air of hauteur about her and a candid way of gaz- Stafford show hurt by bad skits , By Jay Fredericks There was a beautiful example of the echoing hollowness of the public statements of most television network executives in a couple of side-by-side articles in a recent is. sue of-"TV Guide." In "Hollywood Report," the writers were talking about the uneasy feelings stealing over those producers and creators of programs in next season's so-called "Family Hour.'' On the next page, in "As We See It," television executivesiwere being quoted issuing ; stirririg calls to their, industry to face the chal- Ienge r of;the cultural revolution. . - (Television executives are almost always.^making speeches about" "meeting the challenges" of soriie- .'·;.-· thing of other while back :at the "main office, their hired hands are ' exerting every effort to keep-those. : challenges off the air.) - . ' While Elton Rule of ABC was talking about/ providing^ "mature ' jprogramming with adult therhes,. attacking, serious sbcial issues" / and Robert t. Howard of NBC was spying that the television audience "is more sophisticated arid ready ,; · to accept-responsible treatment of mature themes than ever before" ". and RpbertT). Wood of CBS was declaiming about "confronting the ^contemporary" and giving hew' insight into :the real concerns of .the 7 . .public; the;pfoducers of "Phyllis,a new CBS series, were being told by CBS censors that they couldn't use the payoff line of one of their episodes; f,he line;''Of course; they were gay.".;··.-.·'. ····":.'.' · : - " , .' "; Norman Lear, who produces a ;. number of television's high rated 1 . shows, says the networks are using the "family hour" as an instrument to kill ideas.""They're not after sex on 'Maude' or violence on 'The Six Million Dollar Man'or gore on 'Emergency.'They're out to kill original thought, realistic state-' -· ments." Ed Weinberger, producer of'"Phyllis" says it is not Big Brother and 1984 - "it's Kid Broth'.; .. er-arid 1954." j I had heard some good things * about Jim Stafford, the comic-sing- "S" 1 '. ' ', I : SHQW TIME, August 10,1975 er, so I turned on his summer variety television hour last week and settled back, Doping to; be enter- t a i n e d . - M y hopes soon were dashed:: ; J . : Like all summer .variety hours on television -- of all: that I've seen anyway -- the Stafford show suffered: from incredibly-bad sketch material. I can only.assume that all competent writers in Hollywood go ion vacation at the same time during the summer: There was one skit on the Stafford ^how, with :Gavin MacLeod and: Bernadette Peters,, that was absolutely incomprehensi-: fele.^ Stafford himself seems; a pleasant enough fellow who looks a 'little like a ybunger, haired Johnny Carson and,who talks as if lie's had 'just about one drink more thanjiis ·limit. The best parts of his show -^ which I will admit is damning with faint praise -- were those moments when he worked along or with a · hippie robot. The best of the summer replacement shows this year has been an hour starring some young, generally unknown comics. Titled "Keep On Truckin'" the show is a "Laugh- In" type of format of fast sketches some of which work and some of which don't. Made as cheaply as possible, the program has to strug- - gle by with a minimum of slapdash sets and costumes, butit has shown some innovative moments -- which is more than you can-say. for the rest of the hot weather programming. The most familianface in the group belongs to Jack Riley who plays Bob Newhart's. neurotic patient on the Newhart show. In a cast which "is, as I. said, made up primarily of young unkonwris there are some fine budding talents including one young fellow who" vwbrks with a hand puppet and is funny jas all get out.;;. . ·". ;; f ; ' " ' ' ·'". : · · .···* -. · ,.· ·.'·"'·' .· ·'· '·- ·". If anyone is interested, I have taken a sworn vow never to buy any product hawked by Joe Garagiola or Sammy Davis Jr. · ;. ; v; · ,.· ing directly into a young questioner's eyes. She is faintly regal in middle-age, her bearing minimizing the effect of hair hurriedly swept into a pony tail and a figure gone rather fullsome. But. she is eloquent, acerbic and highly opinionated. She has great energy and drive -- she believes egomania essential to good critics -- and she is the queen of American critics. I had an appointment to meet with her personally Thursday morning so she could review some of my work and make suggestions. Just between us, I was terrified. Deadline doesn't permit me to tell you how the session turned out -- it's Thursday now. But if I break my fingers, you'll know why. JUST FOLKS: The O'Neill Theater Center is teeming with big time folks. Last weekend, in particular, was busy because the American Drama Critics Assn. convened here during the National Playwrights Conference. I found myself playing volleyball on a team -with Henry Hewes. drama critic for "Saturday Review." Hewes, a tall, thin question mark of a man, is in my top ten of excellent critics. But he plays lousy volleyball. Across the net was Jerry Schoenfeld, executive direc : tor of the Schubert Foundation, which includes all the Schubert theaters as well as various endowing agencies . . . The piano player for the plays being premiered here is Steven FOR PRIVACY AND BEAUTY Cypress Basket Weave! Pfivacyf plus the added rustic charm of wood are com- · bihed in these two styleslof fencing. Durable, longlasting, rot-resistant Cypress .Wood in a basketweave design or Stockade style fencing., either will add that special touch to your outdoor hide-a-way or patio area. We've just received a good stock of these hard-to-get privacy fencing, but if you plan to install this type fencing this year we urge you to come in and see us now. McNiel Fence is one of Charleston's oldest and most reliable fencing companies and you con rely on us to furnish only top quality materials, plus guaranteed workmanship. CALL FORFRU[STIMATl BANK FINANCING AVAILABLE McNIEL FENCf CO. 30027thA««ut,N«rtha Cypress Wood' Stockade Fence Crist, Judith's s o n . . . A number of the actors here are fresh frsm small roles in big movies. Ben Masters was in "Mandingo" and Andy Backer is in "Smile," to be released this month .. .A favorite of everyone here is Peggy Pope. She played Elaine Fusco on the short- lived comedy TV series "Calucci's Department." It was one of my favorite shows and I was heartbroken when it was cancelled. Peggy says the cast felt the same way. She recently appeared on Broadway.dn "New Girl in Town," a show whose stage manager was Barry Steinman . . . The final play to be presented here "Lament for Doon-Doo" has two West Virginians working on it. I am associate dramaturg, meaning I help by suggesting script changes and general writing improvements. And Ed Setrakian, who returned to Charleston several seasons-ago with Baltimore Center Stage in "The Petrified Forest," has dual roles in "Lament." One more week, then home free . . . 344-3637 KOHO- 9fHT TV W.Va. Connmnicitions Diiisim »f MerrittCitp. for KeHeY Redmodeling Company Since 1958 3701 West Washington St. Charleston, W. Va. ^v* Phone 744-4356 xA Thermtron BLOWN INSUUTION INSULATE THE ATTIC UP UNDER THE. POOF. V«y, A HOUSE GWT BE HAPPIER- coMFOsrre THE PROOH t HONi 7444051 CAUHSFOt lAUYOWFiNCIMI |lf your Home is not well insulated--You've already paid for Insulation.. .And you'l! 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