Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the March 7, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New York Review: `Saved’
Three decades before Edward Albee wrote his chillingly
abstract "The Play About the Baby," Britisher Edward Bond
wrote the more realistically chilling "Saved." Interestingly,
"Saved" is remembered more for a horrifying scene in which
a baby is murdered than it is for being one of the important
plays of the mid 1960s.
Now a production by the Theater for a New Audience, under the stunning
direction of Robert Woodruff, vividly reconstructs the world of
working class. The bleak suffocating climate is at once recognizable
and reprehensible. If the infamous and acclaimed play still succeeds
in sending shivers through sensitive bones, it continues to make clear
its unremittingly hardcore message.
Woodruff’s vision is one that certainly respects that of the author,
to depict a group of people as fundamentally basic in their needs,
as they are infuriatingly and frustratingly brain dead. Bond’s
express their feelings and dole out their opinions in fits and starts
and in violent outbursts. They have reduced living to a precise mode
of conduct and to a concise code of communication, either repressive
or violent. The icy gray setting (designed by Douglas Stein with
harsh lighting by David Weiner), a large open space in which various
pieces of furniture and things are conspicuously carried on and off,
does its job to create the socio-economic prison that these characters
The play begins with a let’s-fuck-for-fun encounter between a genial
Len (Pete Starrett) and the blunt let’s-get-on-with-it Pam (Amy Ryan).
Although this less than romantic and aborted attempt at coupling is
amusing in its primitive way, it remains the one and only light moment
in an otherwise dark play.
A pall quickly descends on this early infatuation when
softy Len moves in with hard-boiled Pam and her indifferent parents
Harry (Terence Rigby) and Mary (Randy Danson), a vapid couple who
say more with their silences than does Pam with her ranting and
Len, who would like nothing more than to settle down with Pam, becomes
a third wheel when Pam discloses that she is pregnant with Fred’s
(Norbert Butz) baby. Fred is Len’s former school chum cum slum scum.
Months pass, the baby is born. Pam, sullen and unpleasant, refuses
to attend to the constantly crying baby, leaving the reluctant,
and humiliated Len to its care.
Because Len pays board, Pam’s mother, Mary, is suspiciously civil
to him, even allowing him to hand stitch a run in her pantyhose. This,
while she is wearing them, and not concerned in the least that Harry
will see them, which he does. Mary and Harry’s long festering
is also about to erupt.
The situation, in which those in power and in charge are not meeting
the basic necessities of life, is not a subtle metaphor. The internal
agony of those whom we perceive as cruel and cold is not easily
At first, the cries of the baby take a back seat to the snapping and
snarling of the adults who refuse to accept responsibility. The lack
of life-affirming values in these emotionally corrupted adults reaches
its climax when the baby, who has been left unattended in a pram,
is stoned to death by Fred and a group of his cronies.
The play’s brilliance lies in Bond’s ability to present these events
in a cold and clinical, but never dispassionate or cynical way. If
you do not know the play, the denouement is revelatory. It will
leave you thinking and talking.
The actors appear completely transformed by their characters. Len’s
vulnerability surfaces in Starrett’s edgy and increasingly interesting
performance. Ryan uses an effective nervous tick to embody the
strung-out and heartless Pam. Danson and Rigby make an impact as the
loveless parents. The most terrifying performance comes from Butz,
as the amoral Fred. But, in the end, which I will not divulge, you
will see that the playwright is not giving up on the human race or
in the ability of those with heart and a willingness to persevere
to mend that which needs fixing. Three stars.
— Simon Saltzman
York. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $45. Through March
The key: Four stars — Don’t miss; Three stars — You won’t feel
cheated; Two stars — Maybe you should have stayed home; One star —
Don’t blame us.
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