John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

When fiction becomes fact…………………

When fiction becomes fact…………………
John William Tuohy 

An Unfinished Race
Ambrose Bierce 

James Burne Worson was a shoemaker who lived in Leamington, Warwickshire, England. He had a little shop in one of the by-ways leading off the road to Warwick. In his humble sphere he was esteemed an honest man, although like many of his class in English towns he was somewhat addicted to drink. When in liquor he would make foolish wagers. On one of these too frequent occasions, he was boasting of his prowess as a pedestrian and athlete, and the outcome was a match against nature. For a stake of one sovereign, he undertook to run all the way to Coventry and back, a distance of something more than forty miles. This was on the 3d day of September in 1873. He set out at once, the man with whom he had made the bet — whose name is not remembered — accompanied by Barham Wise, a linen draper, and Hamerson Burns, a photographer, I think, following in a light cart or wagon.

For several miles, Worson went on very well, at an easy gait, without apparent fatigue, for he had really great powers of endurance and was not sufficiently intoxicated to enfeeble them. The three men in the wagon kept a short distance in the rear, giving him occasional friendly “chaff” or encouragement, as the spirit moved them. Suddenly — in the very middle of the roadway, not a dozen yards from them, and with their eyes full upon him — the man seemed to stumble, pitched headlong forward, uttered a terrible cry and vanished! He did not fall to the earth — he vanished before touching it. No trace of him was ever discovered.

After remaining at and about the spot for some time, with aimless irresolution, the three men returned to Leamington, told their astonishing story and were afterward taken into custody. But they were of good standing, had always been considered truthful, were sober at the time of the occurrence, and nothing ever transpired to discredit their sworn account of their extraordinary adventure, concerning the truth of which, nevertheless, public opinion was divided, throughout the United Kingdom. If they had something to conceal, their choice of means is certainly one of the most amazing ever made by sane human beings.


Over the years, the above short story has morphed into the realm of truth by retellings that swore the event really did happen. That it was a fact. Eventually, that tall tale merged with another story of a man, seemingly from the Victorian era, who suddenly appeared in Manhattan in 1950.

I’ll tell you what actually happened but first I need to point out that the odd thing is that in 1913, the Ambrose Bierce disappeared and was never heard from again. The generally accepted story was that Bierce had traveled to Mexico to ride across Mexico with Pancho Villa and that Villa, for whatever reason, had him executed.

The problem is that Bierce was highly critical of Villa and had no reason to ride with him. He also suffered tremendously from asthma and generally avoided the outdoors and animals. A priest named James Lienert said that he witnessed Bierce’s execution but Lienert, a dubious fellow, was a highly unreliable source. There is actually no evidence at all that Bierce went to Mexico and so what became of him remains a mystery.

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Back to the man who supposedly appeared out of nowhere into the heart of times square. The story goes like this; on a warm June night in 1950, an odd looking man, about 30 years old, suddenly appeared on the street in Times Square. He wore mutton-chop whiskers and was dressed in the Victorian era style. Wide eyes and seemingly terrified, the man tries to dash out of the street when he was struck and killed by a taxi cab. A police detective named Hubert V. Rihm was said to have investigated the case. Searching the body he found old currency, business cards in the name of Rudolph Fentz, and a letter addressed to Fentz postmarked in 1876. 

The detective couldn’t find a Fentz listed in the phone book no one at the address on the business card and letter knew him. Eventually, the story goes, the cop, turned up a 1939 phone book listing a Rudolph Fentz Jr. When Rihm located the junior's widow, she told him her father-in-law had vanished in 1876 after stepping out for a cigar. Officer Rihm dug into old police files and found the missing-person report from 1876. The address given was the same as that on the dead man's business cards.

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The English investigative writer Chris Aubeck became fascinated with the case and spent an entire year gathering the actual facts behind the mystery. Aubeck started by checking the Social Security database and old telephone directories and in doing so, tried several name variations on the name. No Rudolph Fentz or police detective Hubert V. Rihm appeared anywhere in official print. There was no birth of burial records for either man.

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So Aubeck decided to check the origins of the story. After a six month search, he found a version of the story in a 1975 French book which cited a1974 Italian magazine as its source. In turn, the Italian magazine referred to a 1973 Norwegian article which was reprinted from a Swedish periodical who took the story from a journal published by in 1972 by the California-based Borderland Sciences Research Foundation, a group investigating UFO sightings and paranormal events. 

The story of the man appearing suddenly in Times Square was written by a man named Ralph M. Holland. Aubeck traced Holland down to Cuyahoga Falls but Holland died in 1962. However, Aubeck learned that Holland spent his life working as a laborer at the Vaughn Machinery Company and spent his spare hours reading and writing about paranormal phenomena science fiction. He published his own fanzine, the Science-Fiction Review. Aubeck learned that most of Holland’s writing were published under his pen name Rolf Telano and was an advocate of a "fourth dimension" an alleged hole in the fabric of reality that is often used to explain the Bermuda Triangle.

Image result for Rolf Telano, science fiction

 Aubeck is certain that Holland created a story of the man suddenly appearing Times Square to try to justify his long-held theory that the fourth dimension is real. "I doubt,” Aubeck said “that for Holland this was ever much more than a game"

New England Mystery: Who Murdered the Envelope Man?

Who Murdered the Envelope Man?

John William Tuohy

Eugene Bosworth was 56 years old, born in Ware Mass., a manufacturing town ln Hampshire county. He had been married for twenty-six years. He had been a successful carpenter and developer by was badly injured in a fall from the roof of the Hartford Bank where he was working. Afterward, he took a job selling soap and ink door to door but there was no money in that. After two years, he took to running numbers. He thrived as a gamble in the area of Gold Street in Hartford, a city that had a robust and lucrative gambling market.

After 15 years, the city’s elite, led by Mrs. John M. Holcombe, rose up against the city’s numerous gamblers and slowly started shutting them down. Bosworth folded up shop and moved his operation to Putnam which failed so he moved back to Hartford and opened a policy shop on Asylum street, but the police shut him down.
He moved to Pearl street, below Haynes street, a heavily black neighborhood, where he prospered. But he found no peace there either when he fell victim to the endless petty rivalry between the Hartford policy kings, in this case, policy boss James Waldron had already declared that Pearl Street was his territory and had the police raid Bosworth’s shop on a regular basis until he gave up and left the city.
He tried Danbury, to the same results. Finally he moved back to New Britain, where he could start over again in the nearby Hartford market where Bosworth was known in the underworld as “The envelope man” because he had come up with a method printing envelopes with spaces on the backs for two columns of figures, the gambler filled out the empty slots with their numbers and initials and dropped it through a slot at Bosworth’s policy office. Other gambler relied on wire service to stay in business.
Unlike most denizens of the Connecticut underworld, there was nothing flashy about Bosworth. He and his wife moved to 50 Hungerford Street in Hartford. A police report described Bosworth as “Of a quiet disposition, unobtrusive in manner and formed no close friendships, even among the men with whom his business brought him in contact. While here (In Hartford) Bosworth was strictly temperate and never had any trouble of any kind.”
Bosworth had rented a suite at 255 Main street, The Ward Building, in New Britain where he hung a sign in the window that read "Cigar Agency" and then went about the business of opening a numbers policy and running Faro games.
On Tuesday, August 2, 1904, shortly after noon, William H. Gibney was sitting in the office of a livery stable directly under Bosworth’s window. Gibney and at least 12 other people heard the commotion going on in Bosworth’s apartment and then heard nothing. After a few seconds, they heard Bosworth calling out “Oh my God, Oh my God”

and walked up to Bosworth’s apartment. When no one answered the door, he fetched one of the two policemen on duty in New Britain that day, a cop named Hellberg.
Hellberg knocked, waited and finally broke down the door and found Bosworth lying In a pool of blood. Officer Hellberg’s report read “Blood streamed from the man's face and his head . and shoulder was covered with it. Near him was an overturned chair which had apparently been placed at a table. In the middle of the room and on this were slips of paper and envelopes, spattered with blood as was the floor and also the walls. A drawer In the table was half open and in this lay a hammer which had not been used as a weapon of assault or defense for It was found to be dusty and had evidently not been used.”
Bosworth's had a total of nine wounds on the head and was partially conscious and tried to speak, but the policeman couldn’t make any sense of what he was saying, although it sounded like “Lou” or “Hew”
The policeman called for an ambulance and a local doctor arrived to try and help. He determined that Bosworth had been struck on the head in at least nine different places with some blunt instrument and his skull was broken in three places, twice in the forehead and once on the back of the head. Bosworth died on the operating table at the hospital a little after 2 o'clock.
Bosworth’s wife fainted when a reporter told her that her husband was dead. When she recovered she made this remarkably lucid statement “'Mr. Bosworth was as happy as he could be this morning at the breakfast table. I did not want him to go to New Britain and urged him not to go, but he did not think he was in any danger. I don’t know what I will do now. My health is poor and I'm unable to work for my living. I hardly know whom to look to. One of my sisters In East Hartford recently lost her husband and she is in poor circumstances. My husband's brother in Providence was burned out and I don't suppose he has anything. Mr. Bosworth did not carry any life insurance that I am aware of. I urged him to have his life insured but he did not believe ln it. He has money in the bank, but I don't know how much."
She also added that she had a premonition of her husband's death. In 1902 she had her fortune told. "The circumstances of my call at the gypsy's tent have remained vivid in my mind” she said “and I can almost recall the exact words that were spoken to me by the fortune teller. When she came to the place where she forecasted the fate of my husband she said, 'I can see a man whom you dearly love. He Is sitting In a room alone. Someone enters and strikes him violently over the head. He falls to the floor and dies."
Due to a shortage of manpower, the New Britain police weren’t able to search Bosworth’s room until the following day. Because the investigating officer was forced to knock down the door the day before, the room had been left open.
The police searched for the murder weapon and for a while assumed that Bosworth had been beaten to death with his own cane, a heavy one which he usually carried, and assumed that the murderer had taken the cane with him when he left. However, the cane was found the next day at Bosworth’s home. A section of gas pipe was found in the room but there was no blood on it and that was discounted. Since Bosworth was lying beside an overturned chair, which had stood in front of a table that was covered in policy slips, leading police to believe that Bosworth was sitting when the attacker struck him.
What they did find was a key broken off in the door lock and inside the room, they found thirty copies of the same key. Apparently, to avoid a raid, Bosworth had the keys made to hand out to his better customers who could let themselves into the room to gamble at their leisure. No money was found on Bosworth or in the room, although his wife told the police that he rarely left the house with less than a $1,000 in his pocket. (He had made a $1,000 withdrawal from the bank several days before) Although a pay-off slip found on the floor showed he had collected at least $350 that day from gamblers. A $250 diamond ring, which he always wore, was missing as well.
The first, and most logical, the assumption was that Bosworth had been killed in a robbery. But soon it came to light that Bosworth had decided to get rid of his competition by starting a fake letter-writing campaign to clergymen who belonged to the Federation of Churches, giving the location of gambling dens around the city to the Hartford.
It was also known by the police and the local underworld that gamblers disliked Bosworth intensely. When police questioned other gamblers about Bosworth’s death the remarks were 'Served him right,' and 'He was no good,' no one they spoke to had any sympathy for him.
So now the police had a motive, then a witness named George Gibson came forward. He said that he was going up the stairs to Bosworth’s office when a man rushed down the stairs. Gibson said that the man didn’t seem agitated and nothing about his appearance attracted attention. He was a man of medium build, about 40 years old, with grey hair and mustache.
Police now had a motive and suspect. However, three days later former Hartford Police Commissioner Henry Osborn was murdered in his home on Capital Avenue during a robbery (A man named Joseph Watson was later hanged for the murder) and the Bosworth case was forgotten.

It's interesting that on the same day Bosworth was murdered, someone crushed the skull of another Hartford area gambler named Timothy O'Connell, a policy bank operator, a friend of Bosworth’s, and owner of the Cowles Hotel, Manchester. (It was actually more of a saloon than anything else) He was also owned several commercial properties in New Britain. O'Connell had left the city three weeks before, going first to a horse racing track in Vermont and then down to New York where he registered at the Grand Union Hotel as s "Thomas Hayes, Boston."
He was found dead in his room, from two tremendous blows to the head with a blunt instrument. A hole was found in his head, behind the left ear “as large as a half dollar and about three-fourths of an inch deep.” The front of his face was also badly beaten. However, the official cause of death was “asphyxia", meaning he had been choked to death after he was beaten. As in the Bosworth murder, an expensive ring was taken from the body, although in O’Connell’s case, his finger had been cut off to get the ring.
A few weeks after Bosworth was murdered, gamblers moved into Ward building where Bosworth had operated and opened another policy bank, this one operating under the name of The Central Social Club. The operation was run by James C. Cooley, II. Haywood, W. Johnson, and H. B. Cooley.
In 1905, a year after the Bosworth murder, police focused their investigation on a Hartford born criminal named Milton Franklin Andrews, a 6 foot three professional gambler who had a very narrow, deformed chest, and because of stomach trouble was compelled to subsist almost entirely on malted milk.
Andrews had been involved in several scam artist related murders with his girlfriend. Detectives from the Pinkerton agency found him in San Francisco when a local grocer when the store owner mentioned to a policeman that a dark-haired and mysterious-acting young woman, came into her store daily and bought malted milk.


Detectives trailed the woman to 748 McAllister Street. The detectives Burke posed as repairmen and knocked on the apartment door and said they wanted to look at the gas fixtures.
When the woman refused to open the door, the detectives threatened to break it down and the woman shouted back “If you do I will kill you.”
Andrews was inside the apartment. he seized a revolver, as the detectives burst in the door of his apartment and shot himself and the woman with whom he was living. Andrews died instantly and the woman survived him only a few hours.
Because Andrews had known Bosworth and because he had been seen in the general area of the murder when it happened, Hartford police considered him a suspect in the killing, either directly or indirectly but there was never any tangible evidence to connect him with the crime. Anderson also didn’t the description of the man seen fleeing down the stairs of the Ward building.

Victor Hugo

     ("Le voile du matin.")

     { April, 1822.}
     The mist of the morning is torn by the peaks,
       Old towers gleam white in the ray,
     And already the glory so joyously seeks
       The lark that's saluting the day.

     Then smile away, man, at the heavens so fair,
       Though, were you swept hence in the night,
     From your dark, lonely tomb the owlets would stare
       At the sun rising newly as bright.

     But out of earth's trammels your soul would have flown
       Where glitters Eternity's stream,
     And you shall have waked 'midst pure glories unknown,

       As sunshine disperses a dream.



New England Mystery: Who killed Jennie Mondano?

                                                      Who killed Jennie Mondano?
John William Tuohy

On the morning of July 6, 1908, the temperature would reach 91 degrees along Hartford large Italian neighborhood, Front Street, although the Italian quarter, begun in about 1910, extended four blocks long and two blocks wide across the city’s east side. It, as one inhabitant recalled years later “was a lusty, zestful place. Wine flowed and the air was filled with music.”
"Front Street was unique," said a local historian "Nowhere else in the city you could go and have outdoor cafes, all little stores. People were hanging out of windows all day saying, 'hey, how are you doing?'"

The records are scarce, but it appears that Joseph Mondano, a brick mason born in Italy, came to Hartford in 1900, alone, to find work while his wife and daughter, Jennie, waited in Brazil.  In 1902, he sent for his wife and daughter, and, like so many others, the family settled on Front Street.
Three-year-old Jennie Mondano of 71 Front Street was small for her age. She had dark curly hair, large dark eyes and was wearing a gray dress with a dark stripe,  black shoes, stockings and gold earrings. She was let on to play, on her own, by her mother.
Jennie Mondano was seen by neighbors at about 11 o'clock playing in an alley that was (the reports vary) either right next door to her house or house or two away. He mother was home preparing the dinner meal. At 11:00, she walked out to the porch for her daughter to come in for lunch.

Her mother searched the area and then, joined with other mother’s, searched the street. Panicked, she sent for Jennie’s father, Joseph Mondano, a stone mason, who was at a job site in East Hartford.
According to the family, the police did virtually nothing to look for the child much less investigate the case beyond taking a report, neighbors formed search parties and barged their way into various tenement houses to look for her while another group of armed men from the neighborhood searched for the girl along the riverfront, thinking that perhaps the girl had wandered into one of the vacant tenement houses there and had accidentally locked herself in.

On the morning of the 8th, the day after Jennie disappeared Police Captain Walter Smith took charge of the case. When he arrived at the Mondano house he found Mrs. Mondano in hysterics because a neighborhood fortune teller had assured her that Jennie had been taken by a short, slim man, from Italy, with a high forehead. She said that the child was locked in a closet on  Grove Street, (now called Bob Steele Street, roughly where the Connecticut Science Center building stands today) where she was looking out the window crying for her mother. Captain Smith and a group of neighborhood men march over to Grove Street and searched several houses but found nothing.

At first, Smith discounted Joseph Mondano has a suspect because Mondano, who had a reputation for being sober and industrious, had left for work at about 8 AM on the morning Jennie disappeared and witnesses said he stayed at the worked place until he was told of Jennie’s disappearance of Jennie.
At around 3:30, on the afternoon of the 8th of July, Captain Smith had taken over the case, Joe Mondano, age 39,  in tears, told a reporter from the Hartford Courant that he was going to Grove Street to speak to a different fortune teller.  He never returned.
According to a family friend and neighbor, Joe Mondano, who suffered some sort of seizure that day, told him that he was so upset over his daughter's disappearance that he was considering killing himself. By the end of the third day, most of the neighborhood people who knew Joe Mondano assumed that he had killed himself.
The Hartford police didn’t believe, for whatever reason, that Joe Mondano killed himself. They continued to look for him two years after the murder and came to the conclusion that he had fled to Italy although the Italian police never confirmed or denied that he was there.   
Still, the day after he disappeared, the Hartford police took the precaution of watching all the outgoing steamers from New York and Boston, in the event Mondano was alive. Another team of detectives was assigned to tracing the history of the family, in the hope of finding a motive for taking Jennie’s life. What the learned was that the family migrated from Italy to Brazil where five of their children were born, including Jennie, four of whom died before the family department for the United States. They also learned that money that the family had in banks in the US (About $4,350) and several thousand dollars in Rome was untouched.

Right after Joe Mondano left to find a gypsy, Michael Kelliher and Jacob Waxman were on the Connecticut River in a motorboat and found Jennie’s body just inside the breakwater below the old Colt factory. Her body was badly “decomposed” although, perhaps the writer meant to state that the body was badly damaged by the water. The girl's body had been weight down by a 15 pound stone that had been fastened to Jennie's back by the belt on her dress. The knot was tied in a square. One and the ends of the belt were cut short after the knot was tied, making the knot difficult to untie. Otherwise, he clothing was unperturbed.
An autopsy showed that Jennie was dead before she was tossed into the water. There were no marks or other signs of violence on the body. No evidence of any sort of assault. The stomach disclosed no trace of poison and the child had neither been choked nor suffocated, however, the examining doctor was emphatic that there was nothing positively indicate what had caused the death.
When word reached the family, the police recorded that the mother “became insane and strove to do herself bodily harm and to attack her relatives as well.”
Jennie’s mother didn’t attend her daughter funeral, claiming she was too distraught. The case left the police department perplexed. Since neighborhood folks whispered that perhaps it was the Black Hand that had kidnapped the child and held her for ransom, but there seems to be no validity to that.

Captain Smith said of the case, "I have handled a good many mysterious cases in the last thirty-six years, but I have never met the equal of their case. We have not the slightest evidence, so far, as any motive for the murder of an innocent child and, if it was not for the rock tied to the child's back, we should have no evidence of murder for as of yet, we cannot tell what means were employed for taking the child's life."
There has never been a single, tangible clue on who killed Jennie Mondano or what became of her father. A flood in 1934 damaged or destroyed most of the homes on Front Street and people started to leave. Urban renewal projects of the in the late 1950s and early 1960s changed what little of the Italian neighborhood that was left.

John Steinbeck: The dog ate my. Script

John Steinbeck’s dog, Toby, ate his manuscript of  “Of Mice and Men.”
There was no other draft.

 Steinbeck said of the incident, “I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically. I didn’t want to ruin a good dog for a manuscript, I’m not sure is good at all.”



- E.L. Doctorow 

Greetings NYCPlaywrights

Greetings NYCPlaywrights


February 25, 2019


CVLT began the biennial 10-10 Festival in 2009, putting out the call for short plays to be performed at its River Street Playhouse, the smaller venue adjacent to the main theater building. Ten plays would be chosen, each lasting roughly ten minutes. The first 10-10 that July was a resounding success, receiving submissions from all over Northeast Ohio and beyond. Now The 10-10 is back for its sixth edition!


The Unleavened Plays Festival is seeking six 10-minute plays, each reflecting the underlying theme of “PLAGUE(S).” The plays will be performed as an evening of staged readings at CBE on Sunday, April 15, 2019 -- the weekend before Passover begins, as people around the world begin to think about the Jewish people’s efforts to escape Egypt and head out into the desert toward freedom.


Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights seeks plays written by an Appalachian playwright (currently living in the Appalachian Mountains which, for our purposes, run from New York to Alabama) OR the plays must be set in the Appalachian region. Plays must be unpublished and must not have had a full professional production. Full length plays are preferred.

*** For more information about these and other opportunities see the web site at http://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


On Fourth of July weekend in 2015, while Hillary Clinton campaigned in New Hampshire for the Democratic presidential nomination, theatergoers in Falmouth, Mass., got a look at a work in progress about her — Lucas Hnath’s play “Hillary and Clinton,” now poised for Broadway. 

Set in an alternate universe during the 2008 primaries, as she fights for survival against a charismatic upstart, it was a comic tragedy, and it couldn’t have been more topical. Unfolding around a pivotal moment in the contest, it examined how the strictures of her gender and the baggage of her marriage affected her ability to navigate the men’s world of politics.

Hal Brooks, the artistic director of the Cape Cod Theater Project, remembers his audiences loving the series of staged readings. But he was so sure of the real Mrs. Clinton’s odds in 2016 that when he thought about the future of this play, rooted as it was in a failed White House run, he did have a concern.

“Once she’s president,” he said, “will anybody really be interested?”

Needless worry, that. Bad news for Mrs. Clinton seems to have been a stroke of luck for the play. So, apparently, has the uprising of feminist outrage that followed her defeat, propelling a wave of women into Congress this year and a pack of female candidates into the 2020 presidential race.



Within the anxiety dream of a lecture hall that is the setting for “What the Constitution Means to Me” — the agreeably baggy and highly topical performance piece that opened Sunday night at the New York Theater Workshop — the writer and actor Heidi Schreck is living out an assortment of roles. They include professor and pupil, class troublemaker and teacher’s pet, the woman in her 40s she is today and the 15-year-old girl she once was.

These various roles, I should add, are not mutually exclusive, and for the most part they are all inhabited by Ms. Schreck simultaneously, in the same exhilarated, frightened and confused breath. If such an all-in-one approach sounds like it might generate ambiguity and ambivalence, well, that’s appropriate to the subject at hand.

That would be the confounding, cohesive and divisive document that is the United States Constitution. This nation-founding set of principles from the late 18th century is — or should be — very much on most Americans’ minds at the moment. For the implementation of said Constitution to meet contemporary needs is largely in the interpretive hands of those men and women (but mostly men) who sit upon the Supreme Court.



Is it chance or synchronicity that brings “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” a muscular comedy about a woman unbound, to Broadway at this grim transitional moment in gender politics?

Either way, Theresa Rebeck’s new play, which opened on Tuesday at the American Airlines Theater, is so clever it uplifts, so timely it hurts.

That’s a depressing thing to say about a story set in 1899 in that temple of chauvinism, the French popular theater. Janet McTeer stars as Sarah Bernhardt, then in her mid-50s and aging out of the dying courtesan roles that made her world-famous. As far as Shakespeare is concerned, she is caught in the gap between Ophelia and Gertrude.

So why not try Hamlet?

Enter the men: Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner), one of France’s greatest young dramatists; Alphonse Mucha (Matthew Saldivar), the Art Nouveau illustrator of Bernhardt’s gorgeous posters; and Louis (Tony Carlin), a critic so parsimonious with praise I suppose it’s only fair that he’s given no surname.



Noonan really was one of Albany’s great shadowy eminences; 15 years after her death, she still seems to wield power. (Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is her granddaughter.) And yes, the relationship between Noonan and Corning really was the subject of speculation and gossip. Was it proof of something that Corning largely shut his own family out of his will while leaving his insurance business to Noonan and hers?

But in Mr. White’s telling, all is innocent. Polly’s husband, Peter Noonan (Peter Scolari), is one of Corning’s closest friends; when the play begins the two men are drinking scotch and watching basketball in the Noonan living room while Polly sews and strategizes. Running up a new outfit, she argues that if Corning is to turn back the challenge of upstarts like Howard C. Nolan (Glenn Fitzgerald), he will have to be less aloof. Only she doesn’t say it so politely.



Stockard Channing wields weapons of deflection like a master samurai in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “Apologia,” which opened on Tuesday night at the Laura Pels Theater in Manhattan. The pre-emptive put-down, the obscuring fog of abstraction, the barbed aside, the motorized monologue — such are the tools expertly deployed by Ms. Channing’s character, a celebrated art historian who has trained herself to live on the defensive.

Her name is Kristin Miller, and she is described by the more temperate of her two sons as “a bloody nightmare.” Since it is Kristin who is the host of the birthday celebration (hers) at the play’s center, and since it is Ms. Channing who is portraying her, you can expect it to become an Olympic event for the hurling of slings and arrows of high wit and low cunning.



For reasons that likely will require little explanation, Gloria Steinem is experiencing a pop cultural renaissance these days. Two different major motion pictures are in the works with her as their subject: Julie Taymor’s My Life on the Road (from Steinem’s memoir, adapted by playwright Sarah Ruhl, starring Julianne Moore) and Dee Rees’s An Uncivil War, starring Carey Mulligan as a younger Steinem fighting to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. But first, there’s the play Gloria: A Life, a stage experience that’s one part theater, one part consciousness-raising group therapy session.

Written by Tony-nominated Emily Mann, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus, and put on at the Daryl Roth Theatre (named for the female producer who has produced more Pulitzer Prize–winning plays than any of her male peers), Gloria: A Life offers an experience that promises to be a more intimate recollection of Steinem’s journey, not only because it’s been singularly shaped by the hands of women. Despite the various big Hollywood affairs to come, the play is the production that Steinem has been the most involved with, its particular bent being the public’s introduction to Gloria, the girl, rather than Gloria, the icon, and with its emphasis on amplifying the experiences of its audience.



Even before those ubiquitous ads in your Facebook feed ruined the phrase “master class,” it had become a tired way of describing an actor, usually one with silver hair, as he or she delivers a performance sans special effects. (See also: “doyenne,” “lion in winter,” “gray eminence.”) But perhaps we can keep it out of retirement just one day longer, for this revival of Three Tall Women really is a staggering example of precisely what a dramatic actor does onstage. Actually three examples. Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, and Alison Pill — all with significant theater experience, all able to hold a room, all capable of the particular demands of Edward Albee’s simultaneously clipped and spiraling dialogue — just talk and talk and talk some more, for not quite two hours. Although they move around while they do it, there’s almost no action, barely a plot, and (apart from some unusual dynamics involving Miriam Buether’s tricky, clever set design) little that could be called a special effect. They just stand and deliver, or sometimes sit and deliver, and nearly two hours later you realize that you may not have blinked for minutes at a time while they did it.



It would be easy to regret Glenda Jackson’s 25-year absence from the stage but she has lost none of her innovative instinct. I suspect her experience of political life and the world’s injustice has enriched her understanding of Lear. Even if I jib at the conventional pieties surrounding Shakespeare’s flawed tragedy, there is no doubting that she is tremendous in the role. In an uncanny way, she transcends gender. What you see, in Deborah Warner’s striking modern-dress production, is an unflinching, non-linear portrait of the volatility of old age. Jackson, like all the best Lears, shifts in a moment between madness and sanity, anger and tenderness, vocal force and physical frailty.

Her great gift, however, is to think each moment of the play afresh. She enters, without undue ceremony, hand in hand with her beloved Cordelia. But there is irony when she announces, in a self-mocking drawl, that she will “crawl” unburdened towards death. Having routinely given Goneril and Regan their share of the kingdom, she ecstatically cries “Now our joy” on turning to Cordelia, and initially greets her refusal to play the game with incredulous laughter. But instantly this turns to violence as she hurls Cordelia to the floor and rushes at Kent with one of the blue chairs that adorn the set. Yet, even here, the mood swiftly changes as Jackson registers the banished Kent’s departure with a derisive regal wave.


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