Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Zindel's "Miss Reardon" jabs a lot

Cleveland Press April 28, 1971

NEW YORK -- Paul Zindel, whose play "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" went from the Cleveland Play house to off-Broadway success, has another play -- this one on Broadway.

It is a success in terms of popularity but it is not the play that "Marigolds" was. Almost, but not quite. It is funny, sensitive and observant, and Zindel has created three interesting characters.

But for three acts it goes nowhere. Characters lacerate each other and themselves. They go to pieces and get themselves back together, but when it is over Zindel not only hasn't solved the problems, he hasn't clearly defined them.

In spite of its flaws I liked "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little." I liked it because the dialog is lively and biting and because a superior cast has been assembled to play the parts. It makes for quite an evening.

The play is about three sisters all part of the New York City school system. Julie Harris teaches chemistry, or did until she had a complete breakdown. Nancy Marchand is the married sister and a supervisor at the school board. Estelle Parsons is an assistant principal busy taking care of her ill sister and hitting the bottle at the same time. She's the one who drinks a little.

For three acts the conversation establishes their relationships. Much of it centers around the memory of their dead mother.

The drinking sister had taken care of her through a long illness and now is doing the same thing for her shattered sister. The oldest sister has the commitment papers, but the drinking sister won't consent.

And that's where matters stand for the evening. There is dialog and there are gimmicks and most of them are funny. Like Neil Simon in "Gingerbread Lady," Zindel has a sad story to tell but has laced it with laughs. Not that this is bad, it is just that it is all there is.

One characteristic of Miss Parson's sister is that she not only drinks a little, she swears a lot. A few four-lettered words would have sufficed to establish the characteristic. A lot of them make another crutch for the playwright.

Zindel writes well for women and the three leads are up to the demands, but Miss Parsons excels -- more than a little.