Playwright Confesses! Moose Murders, the Broadway Fiasco, Grows New Antlers for Revival

By Robert Simonson
09 Dec 2012

Beautiful Soup artistic director Steven McCasland with Bicknell.
Photo by Samantha Mercado-Tudda

But, obviously, things began to fall apart bit by bit. Roach had questionable intentions. "He had money. He had so much money," said Bicknell. But, "he also said he wanted to do what he said was 'Something nice for Lillie,' who was his wife." Lillie Robertson created the role of Lauraine Holloway Fay, the frenetic oldest child of Hedda. It is Robertson's one Broadway credit.

It was decided to do the play on Broadway, without an out-of-town tryout. "There was a lot of discussion of maybe doing it Off-Broadway, and I remember I was trying to get Anne Meara to play a role in the show, and she said, "You're going to do this on Broadway?'"

Finally, Arden dropped out after one performance. Bicknell said, "I think she read it very well. But afterwards she said, 'This just isn't right for me.'" The reason given was "artistic differences." Holland Taylor replaced Arden for the second preview. "There was a lot of confusion" in the production, said Bicknell, "a lot of incompetence."



All of this, and more, is covered in Bicknell's memoir. "It's one of those stories where you say, 'Well, it can't get any worse.' Then you turn the page and it does!" Bicknell had been encouraged by various people over the years to record his account of the debacle, but never did. The thing that changed his mind sounds like the kind of improbable plot detail that might have be pulled from Moose Murders itself.

"I kept journals throughout the experience" of producing the play, he said, "but I lost them along the way. That was my reason I gave for not doing writing a memoir. I said, I can't just try to do this from memory. Then one day, a few years ago, I received a package that had no return address and inside were all those journals. To this day, I don't know how they came back to me. But I couldn't ignore an obvious omen." So he wrote the book.

Bicknell say he has bears no animosity toward Frank Rich. "I wish I had met Frank Rich," he said. "I think he's great. A lot of people called it a scathing review. I didn't think it was scathing. I think it's one of the best reviews he ever wrote. He was actually very fond of Moose Murders. It fascinated him. It was a hallmark for how bad things can get. I think he wrote that of all the Playbills he received while critic of the Times, the only one he kept was Moose Murders."

Over the post-Moose Murders years, Bicknell has taken on many odd jobs, including a reservations clerk for Air France. Lately, though, he has returned to his first love, forming, with Rachel Hockett, a small theatre company in Ithaca called the Homecoming Players.

"I decided to follow my dream. I'm a very old man. It's the city I grew up in, the most beautiful place on earth, and I'm doing, finally, the thing that I love, which is theatre."

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For more information about the Jan. 29-Feb. 10, 2013, production of Moose Murders, visit beautifulsouptheatercollective.org.