Though best known these days as a critic and columnist for Theatre Week magazine, Charles Marowitz has also been busy penning musicals of his own. In 1995, he collaborated with composer Michael Valenti on Bashville In Love, a spoofy, Gilbert & Sullivan-style musical farce that received strong notices at Texas Stage Company.
Now Marowitz and Valenti are premiering Quack, their musical adaptation of Moliere's The Doctor In Spite Of Himself. The show, a vaudeville version of the Moliere farce, runs at California Repertory in Long Beach and features book and lyrics by Marowitz, and a score by Broadway veteran Valenti (Oh, Brother!). It runs through Nov. 16.
Valenti is the composer of the new oratorio, "The Way" now being readied for production in New York. Marowitz, who was co director with Peter Brook at the RSC Experimental group, is currently Artistic Director of the Malibu Stage Company in California. Marowitz's comedy/mystery Sherlock's Last Case was presented on Broadway and starred Frank Langella.
Reached by phone in California, Marowitz was candid about his work on Quack!. "It could do with three more numbers and be expanded by 20 or 30 minutes, but keeping the framework that we have," he said.
The idea for Quack! came about when Marowitz was asked to suggest a Moliere play for the Cal Rep season. "It's a very short play, and there's no really good English translation, so I had to adapt it a little. As I was reading the piece I could see it fast-forwarded to a 20th century vaudeville. This wasn't one of Moliere's satires, this was light farce, this was Charley's Aunt. After the show opened [Nov. 9], one notice took me to task for by-passing the issue of wife-beating in the piece. What issue? That's preposterous, it isn't even in there. The show isn't trying to SAY anything, it's Smith & Dale, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar." Possible next stops for the deluded doctor are Daytona Beach or San Diego Rep. "Both theatres have the script and a tape. Daytona may be more suitable because they specialize in musicals."
Marowitz is concurrently putting much energy into Bashville In Love, which has been rewritten since its Texas premiere. "We'd love to go East with it and take it to New York," he said.
Though discussed by Valenti and Marowitz at the same time as Quack!, a piece about Lola Montez is still in the talking stage.
Paul Langford, writing for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, called Quack! "a fast-paced, short, light farce sure to please any audience... The music and lyrics reflect the chosen era perfectly. Together, composer Michael Valenti and lyricist Marowitz create some fun tunes, especially the "Love Duet," "Seduction" and "Love Is What The Doctor Ordered." For the most part, the cast is up to the music."
The Los Angeles Times critic wrote that Charles Marowitz's "leaden" direction botches the timing with stagnant staging. "Character development is usurped by comically drawn eyebrows of the actors and overblown caricatures. [Marowitz] has done a serious disservice to a French master and a genre. If vaudeville isn't dead already, this may do it." California Repertory's next production after Quack! will be their annual holiday show compiled from O. Henry stories.
For tickets or information on Quack! at California Rep: (310) 985-5356.
-- By David Lefkowitz