Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Acting Saves "Impossible Years"

Cleveland Press November 21, 1967

A series of brief jokes punctuated by the expressive eyebrows of Sam Levene, opened at the Hanna last night. The jokes have been strung together into something called "The Impossible Years." It passes for a play but more closely resembles a television situation comedy minus the commercials.

Whatever it is, it had a lengthy run in New York and most of last night's audience laughed loudly enough to indicate they were amused.

The show is a generation gap comedy about a psychiatrist who is writing a book about teen-age problems but is having a few problems of his own with his daughters, ages 17 and 13.

The older one gyrates in tune to an overloud transistor radio, sasses her folks, leaves her room dirty, smokes too much, cuts classes, runs around with assorted bums and beatniks and is misunderstood.

THE YOUNGER ONE listens to classical records played too loudly, eavesdrops, makes precocious remarks and reads "Fanny Hill."

There's nothing wrong with either one that a firm hand, properly applied, wouldn't cure except that a set of parents too interested in just understanding them has never done so.

THE SITUATION is acceptable enough as a jumping off point for a comedy. What strains one's credibility so much is that the antics of the older one should come as such a surprise to her elders after all those years.

Situations and characters are right out of stock domestic comedies and the dialog is a piling up of cliches.

The situation which passes for a plot is the sudden concern for their daughter's chastity, their discovery from their friendly family physician (who catches things from his patients and hates Medicare) that their concern is too late, the further discovery that she has been secretly married and their attempt to find out the identity of the husband.

THE LATTER will hold no suspense since there is only one romantic looking type hanging around on stage even if the solution is an implausible piece of plotting.

Sam Levene and Elizabeth Fleming as the parents manage better than the others with the material at hand which is pretty thin most of the time.

As an example Miss Fleming is called upon to get a laugh by taking a belt from a bottle of Scotch after her daughter tells her off. The fact that she gets that and other laughs is due to her abilities and not the script.

LEVENE IS too much of a pro to be defeated by any script but there were moments early in the play when there might have been some doubts. Matters soon picked up, however, and this veteran actor brought into force all of his mastery of timing and of the double take.

His most hilarious moment is in the second act, a hangover that looked so real you could imagine that even his thinning hair must have hurt.

What there are of good lines in the play are all his and they range widely in quality. Most of them are on par with TV comedy,

"JUST BECAUSE Linda is forger doesn't mean she's a liar," he bellows in one of the typical gags given him.

The rest of the cast is energetic but occasionally strident.

Except that sex is dealt with more frankly in the theater than it is on television, this play might have come right out of a small tube.

But then I could be wrong. I haven't seen much television lately.