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

breakthrough

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

Britain’s

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

characters

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

appropriately

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

inhabit.

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

raving.

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,

rebuffed,

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

relationship

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

dismissed.

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

certainly

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

pathetic

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

Saved, American Place Theater, 111 West 46 Street, New

York. Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. $45. Through March

18.

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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