Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 23. 21st September 1972
At Unity Theatre until 30th September
At Unity Theatre until 30th September.
Unity's latest offering is a superb production by Bill Juliff which does full justice to the brackish humour of James Leo Herlihy, and his frightened picture of America breaking down. I say 'brackish' because the comedy is neither zany, wholesome, stomach aching nor wholly black and bittert despite the author's efforts to chill our sniggers with a thrill down the spine). It lies uneasily between;the humour of what Herlihy calls 'lonesome' people, people alienated, afraid of other people, of getting involved. Their fear lies primarily in their inability to treat each other as individuals. They resort to categories, talk of 'they' make jokes about marijuana,'ethnic'groups, people with long hair, 'so you can't see her face'—defensive (nasty )jokes. They can't converse—most of the talking is monologue.
In the first play, Gloria, Manhattan socialite of a lower order, recounts the events of an unexpected party to friends, nudging her husband awake at suitable moments to crack a cruel one at his expense.
Death here is at third hand. A young junkie dies: Gloria had refused to pay for her next fix Shirley Keesing portrayed the poor bitch beautifully We progress to Terrible Jim fitch and girlfriend holed up in a sleasy motel. Dialogue impossible: the mutilated girl refuses to indulge in it we leave them with Jim on the point of stabbing the girl, who is certainly not an unwilling partner to her own murder. Susan Smith's performance as Lonesome Sally Wilkins is perfect. Yawning long face .absent eyes, terribly dumb and blonde, completely wrapped up in herself, and so evocative of yer typical gangster moll in Hollywood myths. Stuart Devenie managed to sustain a rather melodramatic role very well. In the final piece of the trio, a campy bestseller author—a brilliant piece of obscenity from Bruce Tidswell, and extremely well staged)is bloodily murdered by the two characters who made his fortune for him, a dumb hunk of Amerikan manhood dominated by Mama sriking down Commies. The violence, physical and psychical, has increased as the conscious witicism sags.
But America as monster is nothing new to us. James Leo Herlihy fails to pass on his fear, his horror which manifests itself in the bestseller writer, a man terrified because lie has discovered that there is something more than a little rollen in the state of Amerika, who fails to look at himself first... 'take the mote out of thine own eye...' The humour in these plays is not mordan nor morbid enough the characters fail to move or frighten:the audience leave chatting of trivialities. I can't help comparing it unfavourably with Jean Claude Van ltallic's America Hurrah which [unclear: wnsi] did a few years ago. Perhaps it had the advantage of forerunning a whole 'school of similar horror plays, but it had the audience uncertain and silent at the end.
Stop You're Killing Me can't be simply written oil as a dish of New York froth, but the author is too paralysed by his own tears to frighten Ins audience, to confront and knock their dearly held conceptions.