Posts Tagged ‘self torture and strenuous exercise’

From the deep archives: Harry Kondoleon’s SELF TORTURE AND STRENUOUS EXERCISE

March 16, 2011


Adding to the archive I’m creating at HarryKondoleon.com, I’ve just posted online the review that I wrote for the Soho News in 1980 of his one-act play Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise, one of his best and most-produced works.

This was his first full production in New York City (while he was still a student at Yale Drama School), my first exposure to his wicked wit and attention-getting language, and the first attention he got from the New York press.  He wrote the play for a class taught by Arthur Kopit. The assignment was to write a play with three characters named A, B, and C. As I synopsized in my review:

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.”

You can read the complete review online here.

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.”

From the deep archives: Harry Kondoleon’s “Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise”

March 2, 2010

This was my review in the Soho News of the first Harry Kondoleon play produced in New York:

I wish Harry Kondoleon’s Self Torture and Strenuous Exercise had played longer than its 10 showcase performances, so I could urge you to see it. Kondoleon’s amusing one-act isn’t great, but it’s more than merely diverting. A comic soap opera about urban sophisticates, it’s one of those crazy, Joe Ortonesque plays in which the characters say and do the outrageous things most people think of but never actually say and do – that’s how Kondoleon can squeeze so much material into a feverish 45 minutes.

Carl confesses to his best friend Alvin that he’s in love with another woman besides his wife, Adel; Alvin assures him that’s okay for a widower, not knowing that Adel survived her latest suicide attempt and not knowing that Carl’s paramour is his own wife, Beth. Adel arrives in disguise, wrists bound, and swearing vengeance. “Carl is the source of everything evil in the world!” she cries. “Adel, calm down,” soothes Alvin, “you’re beginning to distort things.” The two women eventually team up against the egomaniacal Carl; Beth is a frustrated poet, Adel an aspiring novelist, and they’re tired of being exploited in Carl’s pulpy best-sellers. “I won’t wear lost love like a corsage,” sobs Beth, launching a hilarious demonstration of her orchidaceous verse. “How long are you going to keep sending the same five poems to The New Yorker?” taunts Carl. “You think they’re amnesiacs?”

All this hysteria was smartly enacted in Theater Core’s production at the Newfoundland Theater, especially by May Quigley as Adel and Ken Olin as Carl (who seemed, aptly, a swell guy rather than the “rat with a necktie” he was pegged by the women). Max Mayer’s staging was also clever; on exiting, the actors retreated to a balcony over the stage to observe the action as raptly as the audience did.

Self Torture played on a double bill with Keith Reddin’s Desperadoes, which opened with a promising Sam Shepard-ish image: a woman pasting wet dollar bills all over a blindfolded man in jockey shorts tied to a chair. The play didn’t live up to that tableau, though. It was Moonchildren meets When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder meets American Buffalo without any real threat of danger. Those plays are decent models, though, and Reddin is clearly a writer with potential.

Soho News, August 20, 1980

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