Presented by and at the Metropolitan Playhouse, 220A E. Fourth St., NYC, Oct. 2-25.
Nearly 100 years ago, Clyde Fitch was considered America's finest playwright. His last produced play, "The City," has not been seen in New York, the city of the title, since its original production in 1909. Now, the Metropolitan Playhouse, which creatively explores America's theatrical heritage, is presenting a neatly tailored version of this important play, a significant steppingstone for 20th-century American drama. If, in our dreams, America ever had an equivalent to Britain's National Theatre, this is the very kind of play that would cry out for presentation. Here, it is left to the limited resources of Off-Off Broadway. Anyone interested in the history of American playwriting should hie themselves immediately to East Fourth Street and offer a practical thank you to the Metropolitan for giving us the chance to examine the wonder that was Clyde Fitch.
It must be remembered that "The City" is still a creature of its time and is replete with its own built-in flaws. Thus we have sensationalism that includes drug addiction, murder, and incest (audible gasp from audience members), plus a happy ending where the principal character does The Right Thing. But, as well, we are given a diverse group of solidly constructed characters, a gripping plot, fast-flowing natural dialogue, and enough moral dilemmas to satisfy Arthur Miller. The central theme of the pernicious effect of the city has echoes of Dreiser and Sinclair, but Fitch provides a spirited defense that will cheer the heart of any true New Yorker.
The sins-of-the-father plot has George Rand, Jr. (Michael Hardart) pitted against dastardly Fred Hannock (Andrew Firda). Under Yvonne Conybeare's fluid direction, Hardart provides a remarkably believable interpretation of a man in crisis. Strong, viable characters are also created by Tod Mason and Teresa Kelsey. But it is Clyde Fitch who is the star here; catch him while you can.