×

Biography

As the Depression years of the 1930s descended on the world, American theater began to exude social concerns that were pro working class and political philosophies that were decidedly "left of center." S.N. Behrman (1893-1973) approached the complicated social issues of the 1930s from a different angle. He chronicled the period from the witty and urbane viewpoint of the "privileged" classes as they desperately attempted to continue enjoying their privileges. One of Behrman's most successful creations is the world-trotting, celebrity-devouring expatriate artist Marion Froude (Cynthia Merrill), the heroine of his 1932 Broadway hit, "Biography."

With:
Marion Froude ... Cynthia Merrill Richard Kurt ... Squire Nichols Leander Nolan ... Jerry Neill Minnie ... Victoria Alonso Feydak ... Borah Silver Orin Kinnicott ... Rowland Kerr Slade Kinnicott ... Barrie Page Davis Warwick Wilson ... Richard Hill

As the Depression years of the 1930s descended on the world, American theater began to exude social concerns that were pro working class and political philosophies that were decidedly “left of center.” S.N. Behrman (1893-1973) approached the complicated social issues of the 1930s from a different angle. He chronicled the period from the witty and urbane viewpoint of the “privileged” classes as they desperately attempted to continue enjoying their privileges. One of Behrman’s most successful creations is the world-trotting, celebrity-devouring expatriate artist Marion Froude (Cynthia Merrill), the heroine of his 1932 Broadway hit, “Biography.”

Marion moves through all strata of society (whether it be among the emerging Russian proletariat or the insecure glitter mongers of Hollywood) with a genuine love of humanity and a sensuous nature that literally beams over all she favors and she can’t help favoring all. Cynthia Merrill is perfectly cast for the role. Unfortunately, most of her efforts are defeated by this flimsy Hollywood Theatre Club production.

Portrait artist Marion has returned to her Manhattan apartment with her ever-present maid and companion Minnie (Victoria Alonso) in tow. The Depression has caught up with her and though her recent sojourn to Europe left her rich in adventure and experience, she is on the verge of financial collapse. Salvation arrives in the form of callow youth magazine editor Richard Kurt (Squire Nichols), who offers a generous sum for Marion’s “tell-all” biography. Marion not only accepts the money, she eventually accepts the insufferable but idealistic Kurt as her lover.

It soon becomes apparent that Marion’s literary trip down memory lane is causing a fervor of controversy among lovers past and present. Everyone has a different agenda. Marion’s first love and now successful lawyer and senatorial candidate Leander Nolan (Jerry Neill) wants to prevent publication (some things never change). Film star Warwick Wilson (Richard Hill) only wants to make sure she spells his name right. The misanthropic Kurt wants the work to be a missile aimed at the heart of a society he detests.

Director Todd Mitchell Felderstein never successfully melds these elements of S.N. Behrman’s work to their comedic intent. Merrill radiates in vain about the stage but the pace of the action moves just slightly ahead of inertia. Scenes are never cleanly realized and at times allowed to just flounder to completion.

Adding to the problems is Squire Nichols’ less than adequate “acting” of the role of Richard Kurt. He cannot be believed as a man who could win the heart of Marion Froude.

Much more successful is Borah Silver as Marion’s friend, the composer Melchior Feydak. Though he tends to waltz in and out of his Viennese accent, Silver lends an endearing melancholy charm to the role of a failed musician who must assume his dead brother’s identity in order to find work.

Neill also has his moments as the insecure senatorial candidate Nolan, who is under the dictatorial thumb of financial backer and future father-in-law Orrin Kinnicott (Rowland Kerr). Barrie Page Davis offers an energetic but pouty presence as Slade Kinnicott. Victoria Alonso as a brooding maid Minnie and Richard Hill’s tiredly flamboyant movie star Warwick Wilson complete the ensemble.

The production design credits for this production go uncredited and deserve to be.

Biography

(Theatre Rapport; 65 seats; $ 14 top)

Production: Crane Jackson's Theatre Rapport and the Hollywood Theatre Club present "Biography," a play in three acts by S.N. Behrman. Exec producer, Crane Jackson; director, Todd Mitchell Felderstein. Costumes, George Jeffrey Garner, Meg Moynihan; stage manager, Beth Humphrey. Reviewed Nov. 21, 1992; runs through Dec. 12.

Cast: Marion Froude ... Cynthia Merrill Richard Kurt ... Squire Nichols Leander Nolan ... Jerry Neill Minnie ... Victoria Alonso Feydak ... Borah Silver Orin Kinnicott ... Rowland Kerr Slade Kinnicott ... Barrie Page Davis Warwick Wilson ... Richard Hill

More Legit

  • The Kilroys The List

    Listen: New List, New Leaders as the Kilroys Push for Parity

    The collective of writers and producers known as the Kilroys has been pushing for gender parity in the theater for five years now. With the launch last week of the latest edition of the List — the group’s annual round-up (inspired by Hollywood’s Black List) of plays by women, trans and non-binary writers — members [...]

  • Annette Bening

    Star-Studded Cast to Perform Live Reading of the Mueller Report

    Haven’t perused the Mueller report yet? A star-studded cast, including Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, and John Lithgow, can read it to you. For one night only on Monday, June 24, stars will perform a live reading of passages from the Mueller report for “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts,” Robert Schenkkan’s [...]

  • Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to

    Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to Be This Timely

    When Paula Vogel began writing “Indecent” in 2010, she had no idea how resonant its exploration of immigration woes, anti-Semitism and homophobia in the past century would become in the current political climate. The Tony-nominated play, running until July 7 at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater, traces the theatrical history of 1907 Yiddish play “God of Vengeance” [...]

  • Bitter Wheat review

    West End Review: John Malkovich in David Mamet's 'Bitter Wheat'

    How soon is too soon? Hardly a year had passed since allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public before David Mamet announced that his satire on the subject, “Bitter Wheat,” was set to star John Malkovich in the West End. Six months later, we’re sat watching a corpulent, super-rich movie mogul — Barney Fein (cough, [...]

  • Batman Julia Roberts Spike Lee

    Batman, Julia Roberts, Spike Lee Among 2020 Walk of Fame Honorees

    Batman, Julia Roberts and Spike Lee are among the names selected to be inducted into the 2020 Walk of Fame. The full list of honorees was announced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Fame Selection Committee via an exclusive livestream by Variety. Chosen from hundreds of nominees during a selection meeting in June, [...]

  • Tracy Letts

    Tracy Letts' Comedy 'The Minutes' to Hit Broadway in 2020

    Playwright Tracy Letts’ comedy “The Minutes” will hit the Broadway stage in Feb. 2020. “The Minutes,” written by actor, producer and playwright Letts, is a comedy taking a look at the current state of American politics through the lens of a small, fictional town called Big Cherry. The play is set in a city council [...]

  • Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer

    Jamie Forshaw Tapped as Executive Producer of MWM Live (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Forshaw has been named executive producer of MWM Live, Variety has learned. The theater veteran most recently served as VP of production for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. In his new role, he will oversee MWM Live’s slate of stage productions with an emphasis on expanding the division’s work on Broadway. MWM Live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content