Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Play House's"Dylan" Is Spotty

Cleveland Press January 20, 1966

"Dylan" begins and ends magnificently. In between is a series of incidents which disclose with varying degrees of success the man's grandeur, sensitivity, vulgarity, debauchery and unrelenting march toward doom.

But it is the opening that touches a nerve, that gives insight that defines the two most important characters.

It is a beach in Wales on a raw February day. Dylan and his wife Caitlan meet and exchange flippant remarks. Flippancies flare into anger and an abrasiveness takes over as they hurt each other -- not as strangers, or acquaintances or friends might but cutting deeply as it could only happen between lovers, and it is an anger that ebbs quickly into tenderness.

AT THE END of the play Caitlan boards the ship that has brought Dylan's body back to Wales. She is filled with both rage and grief. "And you planned it, too -- dirty Dylan!" she says bitterly.

For the rest the play is an account of the life of Dylan Thomas by Sidney Michaels. based on John Malcolm Brinnin's "Dylan Thomas in America" and "Leftover Life to Kill" by Caitlan Thomas.

Through a series of vignettes it recounts the experiences of his American tours that involved more bars and bedrooms than they did lecture platforms.

HIS FRIENDS deplore his condition but contribute to it at the same time. He is a Rabelaisian figure, enormous in his appetites. This is a great poet with a fierce spirit of independence but he also is coarse and vulgar. There is always plenty to drink, and women throw themselves at him.

Most of this is dramatic; some of it is mere reporting.The play tells us what happened, but never explains why.

Patricia Elliott is magnificent as Caitlan Thomas, determined to match him excess for excess, wild and bitter, plaintive and cruel.

Richard Oberlin is strong in the title role, a strenuous part with a variety of moods. Whether it is in the character as written or in his portrayal, the role lacks the indications of disintegration of a man drinking himself to death.

HE HAS some fine scenes in addition to the previously mentioned opening. One is the exchange with the reporters when he arrives in the United States, another his careful interpretation of a nursery rhyme.

Judith Adams is Dylan's American mistress. She seems amused by his behavior though the role indicates a change from contempt to sympathy.

Paul Rodgers has designed an ingenious, all-purpose set of platforms, stairs and boxes that suits every scene.