Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 1. Monday, February 25, 1963
Three Plays: Gore Vidal (Heinemann)—50/-.
For as long as I can remember Life Savers have been sold without centres and every Hollywood film has starred a divorcee. But plays have changed radically. Once characters were cast in the likeness of flesh-and-blood people; now most are sexually abnormal, wretchedly poor or gentlemen who sit cross-legged on bare stages staring meditatively at their feet.
Fortunately the plays of American novelist Gore Vidal are refreshingly old-fashioned. He writes about believable people. His protagonists are much more than prototypes. He has something to say, too.
Vidal writes in a preface: "I use the theatre cold-bloodedly to make critical comment on the world I live in." He uses farce and satire deliberately, as a device, to sugar his pills. In "Visit To A Small Planet," for example, he takes a serious theme (anti-nuclear testing) and twists it farcically until he seems pro-war. Unfortunately, there is the possibility that Vidal's audience will be too busy laughing to bother about any message.
"The Best Man" is a very convincing drama—the conflict between US presidential nominees on the eve of the national convention. "On A March To The Sea" is least successful, possibly because it is least amusing. The story, of a Georgian gentleman's fight for survival during the Civil War, is probably too American for New Zealand tastes.
Still, every page is entertaining reading. Gore Vidal will make you laugh and his sane and salutary comments will stimulate thought. "Three Plays" is worth the money—just.