Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Polite exit by Partington may calm the Play House

Cleveland Press January 19, 1971

Rex Partington, who resigned as managing director of the Play House, is making his exit like a gentleman. Those are stormy seas out there around the theater but Partington -- in spite of his shock announcement -- is seemingly doing his bit to calm the waves.

Insiders are not surprised that he stepped out, only that he did so before the season ended. Many expected that the board of trustees would not renew his contract an opinion shared by the ex manager.

The man most likely to succeed Parington is Richard Oberlin who has been picked as interim director. Oberlin's name was one of those mentioned when K. Elmo Lowe stepped down two seasons ago to be succeeded by the late William Greene.

"I DIDN'T KNOW the territory," admits Partington, a man who served with Tyrone Guthrie's Minnesota Theater Company and who worked in the New York theater prior to that.

"We want a man geared a little more to the Cleveland public," said Kenyon Bolton, president of the board of trustees. He said that the board has formed a search committee that will look at outside theaters as well as at Cleveland prospects. But I suspect that the board has already settled on Oberlin as the man.

Oberlin has worked as both actor and director at the Play House for 15 years. He has been resident director of the Play House Summer Theater at Chautauqua, N.Y.

He knows the Cleveland scene. He has had some experience with the business end of the theater.

MORE IMPORTANT, Oberlin is a man behind whom everyone can rally -- Play House company and the trustees as well.

The behind-the-scenes story of the Play House problems is one of turmoil- budget headaches, a shortened season, labor unrest and a poor choice of plays.

Partington confirms that the board earlier this season ordered a budget cut. The figure mentioned is $100,000. The closing of "Lysistrata," probably the season's most expensive production, after three performances hurt the budget directly.

INDIRECTLY it hurt in another way since it darkened the Euclid-77th Theater, the biggest of the three theaters at holiday time. This in turn cut into the business of the Play House Club and profits from the club have helped the theater tremendously.

The season will end May 7 after 35 weeks instead of a projected, 38 weeks, one week longer than last season's 34 weeks. But these figures are deceiving.

The play that closes the season, "The Promise," employs only three actors. The second-last production Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple," opens Mar. 19 and will close Apr. 17.

Actors not involved in either of those two shows will find the seasons ending in March. "The White House Murder Case" runs from Jan. 29 through Mar. 6, "Beyond the Fringe, " Feb. 5 through Mar. 13. "Summer and Smoke," which will open Friday evening closes Feb. 27.

The Play House chapter of Actors Equity, the actors' union, has had a number of meetings lately. The shortened season has been one of the reasons for the meetings.

THERE WERE TWO other resignations in recent weeks. Stuart Levin resigned as director of the Play House Youth Theater with remarks about a lack of creativity at the P lay House. Richard Allen quit as business manager to go to a better paying job in Ithaca, N.Y.

Not all of the drama at the Play House is on stage. Lately more of it has been going on backstage.