Shaft of Love

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Release date: March 28, 1975
Venue: Yale Repertory Theatre
Directed by: David Schweizer
Literature: Charles Dizenzo
Costume Design: Atkin Pace
Set Design: Atkin Pace

Jean (Meryl Streep), "love's great fool," is going with Brad (Joe Grifasi), a three-time loser in marriage. Does Brad love Jean or her money? What hanky-panky is passing between Dr. John Burns (Jerome Dempsey) and Nurse Norse (Alma Cuervo)? Will Tess (Julie Haber), dying in the hospital, die before Maxine (Kate McGregor-Stewart) can kill her and steal her husband, Doug (Charles Levin)? What about the voluminously pregnant, unmarried Missie (Linda Atkinson)? Who is Snapper? And who cares?

Meryl Streep (Jean), Elizabeth Parrish (Mary Burns), Jerome Dempsey (Dr. John Burns), Linda Atkinson (Nurse Black), Alma Cuervo (Nurse Norse), Julie Haber (Tess), Kate McGregor-Stewart (Maxine), Joe Grifasi (Brad), Charles Levin (Doug), Linda Atkinson (Missie), Barry E. Marshall (Hank), Norma Brustein (Dr. Joyce), Ted Tally (Bailiff), Joseph Capone (Prosecutor), Frederik Warriner (Judge), Jeremy Geidt (Judge)

The New York Times wrote about the premiere: Despite his comic aspirations, the playwright ends as his own guilty victim. The play is pleasant and homey, almost like watching two hours of soaps and laughing at the silly lines. It is more homage than indictment. At yesterday’s matinee, the audience sat, comforted by memories, reassured, vocally and accurately predicting tag lines. As one woman said, “It’s so . . . typical.” And it is. The play is plot—a web of tangled relationships. Occasionally and deftly, the playwright pushes sentiment past absurdity, as when a nurse regrets, “Illness is a terrible thing—there’s so much of it at the hospital.” But this is no mad Mel Brooks assault on a genre. There is none of the comic hysteria of the recent Yale literary spoof, “The Idiot’s Karamazov.” The problem, of course, is how to parody self‐parody. The playwright’s answer is to write it almost straight, offer us smiles of recognition, and let the comment come from the actors. As in the last panel of a comic strip, or a Roy Lichtenstein picture, Kate McGregorStewart ends scenes with a bright, wide‐eyed stare, freezing a tear or a cackle. Blackout. Besides Miss McGregor‐Stewart, Meryl Streep, Jerome Dempsey, Elizabeth Parrish and Charles Levin are particularly adept at this italicized style of comic performance.