New York Play Review: The Visit, Daily Racing Form, 1958-05-08


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THE VISIT By Whitney Bolton NEW YORK May 7 The threadbare timestained cliche Loved the Lunts hated the play does not hold good for The Visit in which Friedrich Duerrenmatt makes a chilling stab ¬ bing examination of a major frailty of man ¬ kind called human greed Not only is the author going about his business with singular ferocity but the Lunts themselves plunge into the work with notable vigor and determina ¬ tion No one alive can claim that The Visit is a pleasant play Indeed it is a horrifying and morbid play lighted fitfully here and there with the soft gleam of humor Thanks to the Lunts and aassociated players both the humors and the grisly truths remain intact and com ¬ prehensible prehensibleThe The story is simple enough A gangling village youth seduced a 17yearold girl she became pregnant asked for court jus ¬ tice and with bought testimony the boy escaped unscathedand the girl was virtual ¬ ly driven from the town Hungry fright ¬ ened she became a harlot to support her ¬ self The infant soon died And as the play opens the years have flown by Tlie village is destitute its citizens poor and hungry And the girl now the richest woman in the world comes by for a visit They get out some pathetic bunting pre ¬ pare to fete her because she can rescue them from misery and poverty by opulent gifts She arrives in a flurry of having stopped an express train without notify ¬ ing its crew She simply pulls the emer ¬ gency cord and it stops Why not She owns the railroad railroadIt It takes no time at all to get down to icy truths she allows the village to know that she will certainly succor them but on a condition She will give them not a measly million or two the most they dared hope for but a billion in exchange for the life of the dolt who seduced her They are starving without industries pale ghosts of economic men All right bring Anton Schill the storekeeper to her dead and they can have their billion billionThenceforward Thenceforward the author builds a sardonic cynical structure of greed at its ugly work From being humble but loved Schill becomes hunted and reviled Why wont he sacrifice himself for his fellow citizens From why wont they grow to what can they do about it And then they do it They kill him The richest woman in the world gives them their money the butler scornfully dropping the check on the chest of the dead Anton and then she leaves by another suddenly stopped express with his body in a coffin she has brought along alongIn In the marrow of all this the author has placed his observations of people He doesnt think too much of them obviously He has placed disturbing barriers A schoolmaster appalled at where the trend is taking them all pleads for her to buy the iron works and the closed factories and rehabilitate the town without murder She blows cigar smoke in his face and says But you see thats impossible I cant buy these things for you I already own them themThe The death for Schill comes steadily and implacably unavoidable There is that frosted terrifying moment when he seeks to leave town and his fellow men make a wall between himself and the train all the time saying Get on the train Anton You are imagining things We are here to bid you farewell not to stop you But he cant get on Its like a scene in a nightmare nightmareThe The merchant Schill and the rich woman Madame Zachanassian are played magnifcently and powerfully by the Lunts Mr Lurits slow crimbling decay into death is a masterful performance Miss Fontan nes disdainful calm unswayable figure of vengeance is towering She has tender moments with her old lover because she is at best still a woman in love but these moments inevitably are followed by a re ¬ turn to her determination His death deathThe The supporting cast andthe Teo Otto settings are fascinating and it is all played in the redecorated an renamed LuntFontaine Theatre a theatrical thea ¬ tre with soft candles and blue walls and painted ceilings and a stew of golden mo ¬ tifs It is a theatre as a theatre should be showy attractive luxurious and make believe a plush and elegant advance over the drab and dusty caves that pass for modern theatres in New York YorkPeter Peter Brook has given the play a teu ¬ tonic kind of sharpness and abruptness in his direction and all wrapped up together theatre play performances direction and sets The Visit is like being doused in deep cold water

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