Intriguing but finally turgid and dated
Juan Meyer | 12/25/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The Broadway Theatre Archives series is full of gems. You will find treasures hidden in this collection, especially memorable performances by many actors and actresses who never made it big in the movies, like Kim Stanley, Julie Harris, Blythe Danner, Joan Hackett. Or some legendary performances from the stage, which were luckily preserved in these TV adaptations, like Jason Robards in "The Iceman Cometh" and Lee J. Cobb in "Death of a Salesman".
Unfortunately, this adaptation of the John Steinbeck play is not one of those treasures.
The story plays like a male "Yerma" (the Garcia Lorca play in which a woman is devastated for her inability to have a child). You might be laughing already and that's the problem. Such a subject needs a very careful treatment for it to be compelling in any time and place. A desolate old guy who could never have children laments that he will die without passing on his bloodline. The concept borders on the ludicrous, but it's intriguing nonetheles.
Unfortunately, this is more ludicrous than intriguing, greatly helped by the pathetically melodramatic performance of Myron McCormick, the lead. You can not help but feeling turned off by his constant wailings and it makes it very difficult to understand what is it that his wife (Colleen Dewhurst) sees in him.
The fact that the four acts of the play take place in different settings to show us the universality of the dilemma only makes thingw worse. At the beginning we have the characters in a circus setting, on the second act in a farm, and then it all ends up in a ship, with everybody changing costumes. By the end, we have been bulldozed by the fake "universality" of this atrocious take on the tragedy of male sterility.
As for the intriguing, that's left to the great Collen Dewhurst, as the sterile man's wife, who will go to any lengths to give him a child that he believes is his. Her character reaches malignant dimensions in her quest and her performance gives hints of this, unfortunately the story is more interested in the syrupy side.
A curiosity, but not really worth it. If you want to see great theather on TV, better go check one of the rare (and spectacular) performances of Kim Stanley in "Dragon Country" or Blythe Danner in "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale""
A strange departure from normal dramatic settings
Rizzo | Denver, CO | 05/27/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"John Steinbeck's Burning Bright is a 1950's play that received much criticism as well as the book. This was an attempt at a play/novelette. The stage production was a failure after 13 performances.
The story is of a 50ish man, sterile and whose wife is much younger. The man, Joe Saul desperately wants a child to pass along the bloodline. His loving wife Mordeen is willing to provide him that child even if it involves extreme measures.
Now, there is an introduction to the play, and what is said, and that you will surely miss, is that the play is of "everyman's" life, meaning that this could be the story of any man's life. It is said elsewhere that Steinbeck wanted to call the play Everyman.
Hence, the three different settings where the four characters are in different situations; same storyline, but characters roles are completely different as the play progresses.
This surely confused me and I'm sure many will be. It starts off with Joe as a circus performer, and the next act he is a farmer, and thirdly, a captain of the ship. My first reaction to the switch was...."Ok, maybe he is a circus performer by day, farmer by night." It is confusing, but this is the setup, a departure from playwriting at that.
Regarding this performance, I didn't find the actors powerful, nor very convincing. Steinbeck, the genius that he was, may have visioned it, but it didn't come across as great drama. You can hear Steinbeck's prose clearly. The storyline kept me interested, but with the quality of background settings, some less than convincing scenes, and the format, it was just ok. .....Rizzo"