Julian Green is 96 years old and living in Paris. He is also the author of South, a controversial 1955 drama finally having its American premiere Jan. 12 Off-Off-Broadway, courtesy of Target Margin Theatre.
Denholm Elliott starred in the original London production (produced by Peter Hall at London's Arts Theatre Club) of the play, which portrays life on a Carolina plantation on the eve of the American Civil War. A young Polish officer, a quintessential outsider, visits the plantation, to romantic and tragic results.
Lord Chamberlain refused to grant a license for South's performance, prompting Hall to respond that the play "was not primarily about homosexuality; this topic is only a thread in Green's tapestry. [The play is about] extremes: North versus South, white man against colored man, the old world of Europe in contrast to the new world of America, the difficulty that the sexually normal have in understanding the sexually abnormal." (Remember, this was 1955.)
Director David Herskovits told Playbill On-Line his understanding of the situation was that Lord Chamberlain never exactly banned the play but did censor the Peter Hall production. "It's amazing how recently all these laws were still in place in England. We have censorship in America, too, but never that KIND of legislation, probably because we have a Constitution!"
Born in 1900, Green, an American expatriate, is one of the few foreign members of the Academie Francaise. A novelist and essayist, he received the Prix Marcel Proust and Prix France-Amerique and is widely produced outside the U.S. "The odd thing about Green," Herskovits said, "is that although the play is about the American Civil War, he wrote it in French. Then he translated it into English. He's like Beckett that way."
Asked how he would direct this production, Herskovits, artistic director of Target Margin, said he would acknowledge the period and history of the play, yet keep the style somewhat exaggerated. "It's not a Southern costume drama. I want it to be an interpretation without layering anything on top of what's there. It's about silences, people not committing themselves. Ultimately, everybody's a slave to something. So the play seems to be about love, but it's also about God. The excitement of the story is in its mystery and its many possibilities."
Featured in the Target Margin cast of South are Thomas J. Ryan, Will Badgett, Yuri Skujins, Maria Porter, Mary Neufeld, Lenore Pemberton, Greig Sargeant and Maria Striar. Sets are by Marsha Ginsberg, costumes by David Zinn, lighting by Lenore Soxsee, sound by Wayne Frost.
For tickets ($15) and information on South, which begins previews Jan. 7 and runs to Feb. 2 at the HERE space downtown, call (212) 647 0202.
--By David Lefkowitz