5 March 2008 | manxman-1
Funny and touching commentary on failure and success
"What is a wasted life?" is the question that the wonderful Aline MacMahon asks as the narrator in this absorbing and amusing taped stage play. Taking place over the course of two days following the disastrous production of playwright Martin's fourth play, the story revolves around the shifting relationships between Martin's first and second wife, his first wife's new husband Allen, and Martin's sister Terry, a lapsed nun. Charlotte, the first wife, a now-penniless socialite and Allen, a failed forger of famous painters, survive by stealing groceries from neighbor's porches. When Martin's new play folds in the middle of the first act he retreats to his mother's (Aline MacMahon's) summer home on Long Island where Charlotte and Allen have taken up residence, unknown to the family. Comedic conflicts immediately arise when Martin, who has a habit of fainting at any moment of stress, arrives in the middle of the night with his second wife Alice, a successful writer of children's books. While Martin, Charlotte, Allen and Terry could all be classified as failures to some extent, the meaning of the play (and of the title) can be encapsulated in a rave review of Martin's failed play - which he delivers before fainting on realization that he only dreamed it. The critic's comment, that no matter whether a play was good or bad he was just grateful for the use of the hall, applies to the state of life itself. In other words, it may not be perfect but it's better than nothing. The gloriously classy Aline MacMahon, who even at an advanced age makes one aware of just how beautiful she was in younger days, provides commentary on the past, the future and the ultimate demise of the play's characters, all of whom she outlives. This is a funny and touching filmed stage play that provides a charming tribute to a talented writer. Intelligently directed by Lee Grant, kudos to Broadway Theater Archives for making a record of this production.