Jerry Tallmer Holds Nose, Defends Stinker


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November 16, 1961, Vol. VII, No. 4

Theatre: The Automobile Graveyard

By Jerry Tallmer

Here’s a howdy do: to have to defend what I do not essentially much like. “The Automobile Graveyard,” Fernando Arrabal’s infantilistic beatnik Passion Play, rubs me the wrong way at every intellectual pore, as all his work always has; but it does not, repeat not, deserve the yet more infantilistic treatment it received last Tuesday morning in the drama pages of the major metropolitan newspapers. For it is not, repeat not, an indecipherable avant-garde joke, but rather an all too simple, all too obvious, indeed all too banal scream of self-consciousness and self-sentimentalization. The glaring fact about the plays of Fernando Arrabal is that it is their author rather than their characters who is most truly burdened with a Christ complex: and this in sublimation of a well-announced brutalization in early childhood, complete with the beatings which figure so heavily throughout the Arrabal canon, sado-masochistically transformed into pietas that are if anything more to be relied than endured by their victims.

Full stop. Have I said that “The Automobile Graveyard,” as staged (and greatly juiced up) by Herbert Machiz at the 41st Street Theatre, is what any of its inmates would refer to as a real ball? Well, it is. The whole evening is a razzmatazz of variously funny business, gags, quips, and effects, interspersed with excellent beatsongs — most trenchant to the action — by Mordechai Sheinkman and Kenward Elmslie. And these are excellently rendered by the holy hip trio — Jesus, Judas, and Peter – around whom most of that action devolves; it is the best such intermeshing of talk and tunes since “The Connection.” Indeed in this respect it rivals “The Connection”….

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 9, 2009


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