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Larry Litt

The Day The Whores Came Out To Play Tennis

Written By Arthur Kopit
Directed by John Scheffler
Presented by Mortals Theater and Gray Lady Entertainment
Gene Frankel Theater
24 Bond St. NYC
Reviewed April 12, 2008

First let me come clean and confess my relationship with Arthur Kopit. I'm connected in two relevant ways. We grew up in the same part of the world - the upper middle class suburban community known as the Five Towns on the south shore of Long Island. We both come from what we euphemistically call the wrong side of the economic tracks.

Next you'll need to know that he was one of my playwriting teachers in City College's graduate creative writing program. So it's not by coincidence that I admire The Day The Whores Came Out To Play Tennis (from now on TDTWCOTPT, you know why). I get it on many levels.

We are in the nursery with five adult members of the Cherry Valley Country Club. There's frustration at an event taking place outside, on the tennis courts. Drinks are called for.

Thus begins a day of open, blatant, hostility directed at the club's sarcastic, vengeful smirking butler Duncan, memorably played to by Zachary Zito. He is a class warrior, a provocateur working in the enemy's trenches, disguised in tux and white gloves, there to deconstruct and destroy his ever condescending employers. It is a game of momentary reversals in class warfare and the final destruction of all that is held precious by decent society.

This is serious servant versus master battle. Equally as serious is the raging competitive warfare between clubby fathers and sons. Ever frustrated Frank (Robert F. Cole) and kindly but cunning Max (Bill Krakauer) are indulgent fathers pointedly burdened by sons who perplex and disappoint them. Sons who think nothing of attacking their fathers with vicious loathing in the long standing battle of youth in rebellion against the elder generation. Herbert is Frank's spoiled scion who can't get anything right but is always forgiven and therefore continues to pile up damages. Thomas S. Neilsen plays him almost as a contemporary American President, someone to be pitied for his lack of judgment and intelligence, never ever trusted. Max's son Rudolph the Wolf lives up to his name. Jonathan Pereira's cynical, aggressive, acid tongued arrogance recalls some young men I've met from Wall Street funded homes. There is a clear picture of the ugliness of unrestrained capitalism and privilege in Rudolph. But it is the pathetic childless heterosexual dandy Ratscin that gets the last word. Although he has no heirs, he has no paternal disappointment and heartbreak. His are the joys of style and sport, without the grief of intensified family sniper fire.

Oh, the whores? They're everywhere, shaking their sex machines, using their charms to gain access. Beautifully played by whores, as whores will play. You'll know what I mean when you see them.

TDTWCOTPT is a play for those who love the absurdity of class and social manners. It is a poke at our striated society pretending to be classless in public but completely committed to an aristocracy of financial dominance. It could have been written at any time in history. It's at home next to Greek high comedy or French farce or an English drawing drollery. Kopit's classic of class observation and indictment is a pleasure to watch while it invokes knowing, nodding agreement and laughter. America needs this provocation right now. I hope it's revived eternally.


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