ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN (1975)
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Joseph Stern
Kathleen Johnson ~ Allan Miller
present

ARE YOU NOW OR
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN

by Eric Bentley
directed by William Devane

A MESSAGE FROM ERIC BENTLEY

The dialogue of ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN was taken from hearings before the Un-American Activities Committee. No words are put in any witness's mouth which he or she did not speak or write. No resemblance between the witness and the actual person is coincidental. These "characters" (as we call people once they are presented on a stage) wrote their own lines into the pages of American history.

Though I did abridge and tidy up the record I did not write in any additional dialogue whatsoever. But since I did make one change which I myself originally hoped not to have to make, the least I can do is report what it was to you, my audience. During the ten years of our story, the membership of the Committee varied a good deal. A pure and literal documentary treatment would have to show a different group of men every few minutes—sometimes every few seconds. On TV that would be possible, though I think you would still reject it—as too confusing. In the theatre, no management is ever going to be able to afford that many actors anyway. What I have done is to present a single group of Committeemen. I have therefore to ask you to realize that each actor will be speaking lines of more than one person. There was another factor. The Committee had nine members. We have to make do with a smaller number. So, finally, the Committeemen are composite characters in TWO ways: first they represent a succession of Committeemen over the years 1947-1956; second they represent, in each session, a larger number of men than you will see on stage tonight. Be assured, though, that the main principle stated above is not violated: I have not inserted any words that were not used. Nor have I transposed any words from one session to any other.

My own sense of the continuing relevance of the Fifties can well be suggested by two quotes from Committee Chairmen of that decade. Chairman Wood:

If, by any action of this Committee, we could be instrumental in eliminating from the field of public entertainment the views of people, particularly the youth, who decline to answer a question as to whether they are members of the Communist Party, it would make me extremely happy.

And Chairman Walter, complimenting an ex-Communist singer who had named his former comrades:

Every patriot in the history of America has been proud of the enemies he has made. Your contribution here cannot be appraised. It may well be that it is equal to a division of infantry.

Cast at Hollywood Center Theatre, Los Angeles
(in Order of Appearance)

Martin Sokoloff
Jay Fenichel
John Lehne
Byron Morrow
Paul Jenkins
Robert Karnes
Jess Nadelman
Phillip R. Alen
David Spielberg
Allan Miller
Beeson Carroll
Jeff David
Allan Miller
Angelo Gnazzo
Beeson Carroll
Jeff David
Irene Robinson
Phillip R. Allen
Allen Garfield
Jeff David
Charles Weldon
Committee Assistant No. 1
Committee Assistant No. 2
Committee Chairman
Committeeman
Investigator
Sam G. Wood
Edward Dmytryk
Ring Lardner, Jr.
Larry Parks
Louis Mandel
Sterling Hayden
Jose Ferrer
Abe Burrows
Elia Kazan
Jerome Robbins
Martin Berkeley
Lilllian Hellman
Marc Lawrence
Lionel Stander
Arthur Miller
Paul Robeson

Understudies
Tom Bower, Angelo Gnazzo, Phillip R. Allen, Jess Nadelman,
Jeff David, Sil Words, Robert Karnes & Richard Burns

Cast at Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C.
(in Order of Appearance)

Martin Sokoloff
Marc Plastrik
John Lehne
Byron Morrow
M. Emmet Walsh
Stephen Roberts
Ed Rombola
Tom Bower
David Spielberg
Allan Miller
Beeson Carroll
Jeff David
Allan Miller
Martin Shakar
Beeson Carroll
Jeff David
Heidi Mefford
Tom Bower
Wynn Irwin
Jeff David
Charles Weldon
Committee Assistant No. 1
Committee Assistant No. 2
Committee Chairman
Committeeman
Investigator
Sam G. Wood
Edward Dmytryk
Ring Lardner, Jr.
Larry Parks
Louis Mandel
Sterling Hayden
Jose Ferrer
Abe Burrows
Elia Kazan
Jerome Robbins
Martin Berkeley
Lilllian Hellman
Marc Lawrence
Lionel Stander
Arthur Miller
Paul Robeson

Understudies
Robert Karnes, Jeff David, Wynn Irwin, Tom Bower,
Martin Shakar, Marc Lawrence, Ed Rombola & Louis Vuolo


- WINNER, 1975 L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award:
Best Production
Direction (William Devane)
Featured Performance (David Spielberg)
Ensemble Performance


PHOTOS
by Kevyne Baar
Click on any photo to see it larger

The cast with the real Lionel Stander, next to the actor
playing him, Wynn Irwin (LT Front table)

LT Back: Martin Sokoloff, Mark Plastrik
LT Front: M. Emmet Walsh, John Lehne, Byron Morrow
RT Front: David Spielberg, Allan Miller
RT Back: Jess Nadelman, Philip R. Allen, Jeff David,
Beeson Carroll, Angelo Gnazzo

PHOTOS
by Kevyne Baar
Click on any photo to see it larger


REVIEWS



An Ordeal by HUAC
by Dan Sullivan
L.A. TIMES, Tues, Feb. 18, 1975

The names, we are reminded at the outset of "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" at the Cast Theater, are not coincidental. This is what Elia Kazan, Abe Burrows Lillian Hellman, Paul Robeson, etc., actually said to the House Un-American Activities Committee 20 years ago when "invited" to speak about communism in show business.

This is Larry Parks caving in, Arthur Miller sitting tight and Lionel Stander telling the honorable gentlemen where to put it.  But the purpose of Eric Bentley's documentary drama carved from his mammoth collection of on-the-record HUAC testimony, "Thirty Years of Treason," is not to make certain witnesses look bad or good. It is to present the committee as, itself, one of the more un-American activities of recent history.

It succeeds in this. We find ourselves sitting in a court where a "witness" is, in effect, a defendant against a devastating but unspecific charge of disloyalty to his country. He is not allowed to cross-examine his accusers or to call his own witnesses. His chief prosecutor is also the presiding judge. His testimony will be heard by the whole nation, which, moreover, assumes that he must be guilty or why would he be up there?

It is all very familiar. We think of Kafka. We think of the Stalinist trials of the late 1930s (the penalties much less severe here, of course—job loss but not death). We also may think of the Watergate hearings. If it is wrong to put an Arthur Miller through this, it is right to put a John Mitchell through it? The questions raised by the evening cut several ways. HUAC isn't all that it is about.

Psychologically, it is about what fear—put it more politely: pressure —does to people. William Devane's production of the play at the Cast is, I should say immediately, superb. And one of the reasons it is superb is its skill in showing us what each witness is going through, without making a judgment on him. It will leave that to us.

David Spielberg as Larry Parks, for instance (the cast is so well matched that you could pick almost anyone to make the point), absolutely defies categorization. He is simply a nice young man without the considerable resources needed to look the United States government in the eye and say, finally: No. "I'm asking you not to press me on this," he pleads time after time as the committee demands the names of others in Parks' Hollywood "cell" (whose chief activity seems to have been coffee parties).

But in executive session (later made public) he does give a few names, his hand over his mouth as though to deny the act even as he completes it. The committee then assures him that they have heard all the names before ... if that's any comfort  "It is no comfort at all, Spielberg whispers. The impulse is to tiptoe away and leave him by himself.

Although somewhat softer than Bentley's original script, this is not a sentimental production. One is not edified by the small-change brought to the committee by certain witnesses in hopes of proving their patriotism—Kazan's (Angelo Gnazzo) citing of a play he once did about a priest; Jerome Bobbins' (Beeson Carrol) speaking of the "American quality" of his dances. The actors let these statements speak for themselves and they do. As do the comical but basically desperate remarks of Abe Burrows (Alan Miller). HUAC did not bring out the best in people: Panic is the general theme here.

Some people didn't yield to it Jeff David's Arthur Miller is an icicle, Ethel P. O'Connell's Lillian Hellman a rock. "I will not cut my conscience to this year's fashions. To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself, is inhuman and indecent and dishonorable." Self-righteousness is the actors problem here. Both avoid it by projecting an anger so hot that it looks cold.

There were other methods of dealing with the committee. Stander (Allen Garfield) turns the hearing into a comedy, pretending to forget who the hell he was married to in 1935 and suggesting pleasantly, that, yes, he does know a bunch of creepy subversives: you guys. Paul Robeson (Charles Weldon) virtually plays with the committee, so far ahead of them in class and political sophistication that in the end he almost seems to be excusing them from further testimony.

It is an almost Chaucerian look at human nature in a corner, and this definitely includes the committee, reduced for dramatic purposes to three. M. Emmet Walsh as the chief investigator asks questions like a dull nurse taking a medical history. Ever been a Communist?  Ever had mumps? John Lehne as the chairman plays an iron-jawed, self-infatuated Mister District Attorney sworn to protect these shores from all enemies foreign and domestic. Byron Morrow as a committeeman is your white-haired father image, sympathetic but slightly prurient.  All of Washington is there.

As director, Devane keeps the tone faultless, the action moving ahead, the actors always thinking and always in true interplay. It is a mode of how theater-of-fact, or any theater, should be done. The close quarters of the Cast, turned into a courtroom by Barry Robison, give the experience a special intensity for both actors and audience. Some of the differences between Bentley's script and this arrangement can be perhaps questioned but that can wait for another time. "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" is an absorbing evening, whatever your politics.


VARIETY, Weds, Feb. 19, 1975

The Joseph Stern-Allan Miller-Kathleen Johnson production of Eric Bentley's "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...," from the recorded testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings of "The Hollywood 10" is a refreshing bit of air on the small-theatre circuit. It shows that professional acting can still be found in the less-than-100-seat theatres.

Not only are the performances of the cast pro, so is the direction of William Devane and all the production values of this theatre-of-fact piece.

Bentley's script proves that documentary drama need not he a dull presentation of facts; he's extracted the dramatic highlights of the hearings that went on for over 10 years and given them a unity that makes for absorbing theatre.

Devane's direction shows that such type of dramatic presentation need not be static. There's a lot of physical paper-shuffling and the involvement of the actors in their respective roles gives constant movement to the physically stationary hearing-room play.

The parade of witnesses (Hollywood personalities either charged with or implicated in Communist activities during the 1940s or earlier) before committeemen John Lehne, Byron Morrow and M. Emmet Walsh is the bulk of the entire show. But it's the excellent portrayals of these people by each cast member that give the material and the personalities form and depth.

Allen Garfield's Sam G. Wood starts off the proceedings and that actor characterizes Wood's reactionary tendencies that started the ball rolling. Later, as the fiery Lionel Slander, Garfield presents a whole different character, the cornered liberal who is fighting for his professional life, yet unwilling to compromise his own integrity.

Consistently excellent performances are given by Jess Nadelman, Phillip R. Allen, David Spielberg, Allan Miller, Beeson Carroll, Jeff David, Angelo Gnazzo, Ethel P. O'Connell and Charles Weldon. Even committee assistants Marc Plastrik and Martin Sokoloff, who act as narrators, are perfect in their delivery.

The witch-hunt tactics of HUAC are inherent in the recorded testimony. If they seem exaggerated by the caustic line-readings of the actors, it's only a valid dramatic device to underscore the seriousness of the matter of innocent (or even not-so-innocent) people being railroaded by the U.S. government into professional oblivion.

Devane is responsible for some of the best theatre seen in Los Angeles for many a month.

Barry Robison's stark set is quite good and is given a depth not available on theatre's small stage by using cutouts to suggest the marble pillars of stereotype government buildings. Larry Weimer's glaringly white lighting creates a necessary oppressiveness.


Gripping Analysis of the Un-American Dream
by Dan Sullivan
L.A. TIMES Calendar, March 2, 1975

The most disappointing thing about Los Angeles theater is the scarcity of first-rate small-theater productions. We have plenty of pocket theaters but most of what one sees there are workshop productions, as uneven as the talents of those who happen to belong to the workshop — which is often in no financial position to be choosy about its members. Comparisons between this scene and Off-Broadway won't be valid until the emphasis shifts from the actor's need to be seen to the audience's right to expect a good show, whatever the size of the house.

Since a good show is the best showcase, there need be no contradiction here. And recently we have had two fine examples of what can be done once small-theater gets out of the audition bag. The first was Theater West's production of Harold Pinter's "The Lover," as silky and authoritative an exploration of that tantalizing play as we are likely to see. The second is the new play at the Cast, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?"

It is by Eric Bentley and it is a study of the recently departed House Un-American Activities Committee, drawn almost entirely from committee hearings. Its source is Bentley's 1,000-page book of HUAC transcripts, "Thirty Years of Treason" (Viking Compass: $5.50). But where the book's focus is general, that of the play is specific—the committee's investigation of subversion in the entertainment business, particularly Hollywood.

The point of the play is to persuade us that HUAC was a bad thing, a sort of civilian court-martial where the witness was really the defendant and the investigator really the prosecutor—and judge too. The charge, of course, was Communism.

It was a word so scary at the turn of the 1850s that it didn't matter whether a HUAC "witness" was being accused of running a Communist cell or being merely a "sympathizer." It didn't matter whether his activities were supposed to have ended in the 1930s or 1940s or continued to the present. It didn't matter that it wasn't technically illegal to be a communist, or that HUAC wasn't technically a court. In the mass mind and in the committee's mind, too (as is brought out very well in this production), it was a court. And until you proved you were innocent, you were guilty.

But since this wasn't technically a trial, since technically you were a witness, you couldn't use the weapons that a defendant in open court has, particularly the right to call his own witnesses and cross-examine those of the prosecution. The only way to clear yourself was to publicly repent—and as proof of your sincerity name those who had joined you in the conspiracy. The other alternatives were to take the Fifth Amendment (sure evidence in the mass mind that something funny was going on) or to refuse to appear at all, in which case you might be jailed for contempt of Congress (also possible if HUAC didn't like your attitude on the stand).

By bringing it all back home now that we can see the era with some objectivity, "Are You Now" reminds us how far HUAC departed from what we like to think of as American justice. It also reminds us that Congressional hearings still operate under these rules. If they were unfair then, are they any more fair now? Should we subject anyone—even Watergaters—to trial by television?

But "Are You Now" is not just a political document. It is a play—using real events, but still a play—about how different people respond to the same crisis. A disaster play, if you will. The disaster' here isn't an earthquake but a sincere handshake from one's boss at, say, Paramount, who wants you to know it's nothing personal but there's just nothing... available for you right now. The writers, actors and directors who went before HUAC knew that they faced the blacklist if their answers weren't cooperative, nay, fervent enough. How they responded to that threat is the psychological meat of Bentley's play.

It is both decent and artful of William Devane's cast to play no one as a villain here. Even when the answers are least admirable, one doesn't feel in a mood to throw stones. The actor shows you, without mush, the battle his witness has gone through to convince himself that this is, in a way, the truth. Self-deception rather than cynicism is the keynote (though Beeson Carroll's Jerome Bobbins does seem cynical, and his Sterling Hayden obviously hates what he's making himself do). Your resentment goes to a set-up which makes men fool themselves, rather than to the men.

David Spielberg's Larry Parks is particularly well-shaded. This is a sympathetic young man who wants to do the right thing but who also wants to be a "good" witness and keep his career. Finally — after a longer fight than one had realized —he capitulates and tells the committee the names it already has, regretting every syllable. Up to this point Spielberg has reminded us that this, like so many of the witnesses we've heard, is an actor, not above a bit of self-dramatization. But he is not looking at himself now. He is not looking at anybody. And it is hard to look at him. This is the stage's "private moment," used not only to illuminate but, perhaps, to absolve.

Some people, firmer in their principles or maybe just more ornery, stood up to HUAC. "Are You Now" celebrates them handsomely, but without too much fuss. Ethel P. O'Connell reads Lillian Hellman's stern letter to the committee: "I was raised in an old-fashioned American tradition and there were certain homely things that were taught to me: to try to tell the truth, not to bear false witness, not to harm my neighbor..." Jeff David's Arthur Miller tells them that he will not bring trouble on another person, and if that's contempt of Congress, so be it.

Neither of these is played as a warm and wonderful figure: David, in particular, suggests dry ice. If these two intimidated the committee, they were probably also intimidated by it. Allen Garfield's Lionel Stander is intimidated by nothing. He sees HUAC as a bunch of county-courthouse boobs, and just when we need a relief from the play's gravity he tells them so.

Last we have Paul Robeson (Charles Weldon), probably the most together person of the evening, and not interested in playing token black for anybody. Robeson is fascinated at the kind of mind that could wonder why he's mad at Uncle Sam. Didn't he play football for Rutgers? Robeson tries to spell it out, throws his hands up. "You are the un-Americans!" he says. CHAIRMAN: The hearing is now adjourned! ROBESON: I should think it would be.

John Lehne's chairman—a composite of several real ones, including J. Parnell Thomas, who himself went to jail—is from time to time a little too obviously the bad guy. What's most excellent here is Lehne's projection of the politician as actor. This one has taken his model from the firm-jawed Mister District Attorney of radio fame. The hearings from his point of view are a long game of I'm OK/You're Wrong. As at real trials, you appreciate the theatricality of it. His supporting cast is M. Emmet Walsh, who doesn't know what to think of all these Hollywood weirdos but keeps plugging along, and Byron Morrow, who believes in sweet-talking suspects instead of roughing 'em up.

Obviously the play is slanted against the committee, but if Bentley has the gist of the hearings wrong, no one has called him on it yet. My problems with this production are minor. Parks issued a firm recantation of his party alliances two years after his testimony and that should be in the play as long as a similar statement by director Edward Dmytryk is there. The ending—a quote from Brecht's "Arturo Ui"—is demagogic and artistically off-key. Let the audience decide whether the bastards are in heat again and who they are. Theater of fact should stick to fact.

Other than that, this is a responsible piece of advocacy drama and a gripping human story too. It will, I hope, transfer from the 80-seat Cast to a 200 or 300-seat house soon. Meanwhile, the number to call is 462-0265. It will probably be busy.



"Are You Now" at Center Theater
by Sylvie Drake
L.A. TIMES, date unknown

A fresh visit to "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" at the Hollywood Center Theater reveals a production that has become stronger, tighter, more integrated than ever.

The show's been running at that location for close to nine months and, before that, played several weeks at the tiny Cast Theater on El Centre. In the fall, some of the members of the local company traveled to Washington, D.C, where director Bill Devane staged a production of the play at Ford's Theater on a limited run basis.

But nowhere else—not at Ford's, not at Yale where the show originated in 1973, and not in New York where it had an inconspicuous run of several weeks at the Theater of Riverside Church—has "Are You Now" enjoyed the vigorous response it has experienced here.

This phenomenon may have everything to do with the fact that the subject matter—the relentless investigation of the Hollywood entertainment community by the House Un-American Activities Committee over roughly a decade —is on home ground. Lives in this town were, at the worst, shattered and, at the least, disrupted by those ignominious proceedings. Some people. like the late Larry Parks, never overcame the damage. Others like Jules Dassin went into self-exile. Still others, like Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller, stuck to their convictions and simply carried on.

Variety of Responses

It is to the credit of director Devane and his cast that this infinite variety of responses, all scrupulously true to the record, continues to be eloquently reflected in the performances at the Hollywood Center Theater. (We are warned early that no resemblance between witnesses and actual persons is coincidental. The language is entirely taken from the transcripts of the hearings though, granted, selectively excised and arranged by playwright Eric Bentley and further tightened by Devane.)

The production itself is documentary theater of the highest order, expertly staged and performed, with a power, a movement and a life rarely found on any stage.

Notable among changes in casting is Wynn Irwin's replacement of Allen Garfield as Lionel Stander. It is a totally different, flamboyant, almost raucous performance that brushes as close to parody as the confines of the situation will allow, but stops short of the kill. We get the sobering awareness that the fun and games are deadly serious and that real people were really being devastated by unconstitutional and self-righteous witch-huntings.

Jeff David, who continues in his impersonation of an unctuous Jose Ferrer and turns in a solemnly seething Arthur Miller, is quite remarkable in a new role: as the twitching, tense Martin Berkeley, the screenwriter single-handedly responsible for naming 162 names.

Jay Varela presents a rather straightforward Elia Kazan. William Burns, who replaces Besson Carroll as Sterling Hayden, also provides a consummately reserved and vainglorious Jerome Robbins. Tom Bower acquits himself honorably as Ring Lardner Jr. and screenwriter Marc Lawrence, while Maureen O'Toole lends the right note of sobriety to the reading of Lillian Hellman's famous letter to the committee preceding her appearance there. Sil Words' Paul Robeson is a figure to be reckoned with.

Tongue-in-Cheek Portrayal

Of the old guard. David Spielberg is, if possible, even more shattering as the crumbling Larry Parks, and Allan Miller continues his superbly tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Abe Burrows.

It is, however, to John Lehne, the embodiment of several HUAC chairmen over the 10-year period, that a great deal of the praise must go. He relentlessly pursues the composite character of prosecutor with a constancy and intensity that does much to keep the dynamics of the production perpetually reeling. David Glennon and Jack Miller ably play his sidekicks.

If you think this kind of theater carries its own drama and is therefore easy to do, think again. The more dramatic the real-life situations, the less well they translate to the stage. No, the credit must go directly to the creators of "Are You Now": Bentley, Devane and this remarkable company of actors.

Negotiations are afoot for a TV special and possibly a film of this production—but if you haven't seen it onstage yet, don't wait. Audiences are thinning out and it may not be with us for very much longer.


Witch-Hunt in New Surroundings
by Sylvie Drake
L.A. TIMES, Tuesday, April 1, 1975

The new residency of "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been," at the Hollywood Center Theater on Las Palmas (where it has moved from the tiny Cast Theater), is fresh evidence that nothing succeeds like success.

The Eric Bentley play—or nonplay—which deals rigorously with the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of the Hollywood entertainment community in the late '40s and early '50s, is similar evidence that nothing fascinates as much as a witch-hunt, particularly when it was conducted in your own backyard and all the principals arc well-known friends and neighbors.

In a manner of speaking, of course. But it is no coincidence (as we are told) that all resemblance between the characters in this drama-of-fact and the real people they represent is quite intentional. Bentley wrote none of the dialogue. The characters wrote their own in those turbulent days when the most un-American thing around was the House Committee itself. What the playwright did do is organize it into a workable piece of documentary theater, the more arresting for the fact that nothing is injected to detract from its own built-in power, most effective when least adorned.

No Trace of Personal Passion

Which brings us to the Joseph Stern-Kathleen Johnson-Allan Miller production under William Devane's admirably neutral and uncompromising direction.

It boasts a cast of splendid actors, each of whom displays an uncommon capacity for listening and reacting and a sobriety in performance that, again, allows the material to speak for itself without infusion of personal political passions.

The dramatized hearings focus chiefly on four "witnesses": Larry Parks (Philip R. Allen), Abe Burrows (Allan Miller), Lionel Stander (Allen Garfield) and Paul Robeson (Charles Weldon). But the choice morsels in between give the piece its diversity and bite. It is impossible not to respond to the displaced "patriotism" of Sam G. Wood (Robert Karnes), the advance and retreat of Edward Dmytryk (Jess Nadelman), the affirmative confusion—precisely—of Sterling Hayden (beautifully done by Beeson Carroll), the vainglories of Jose Ferrer (Jeff David), the spirit of Ring Lardner Jr. (Philip R. Allen) and the unshakable integrity of Lillian Hellman (Irene Robinson).

What emerges is a composite portrait of the effects of fear on honorable people, of profoundly confusing times, with values so turned up on end—persecution passing for patriotism, compromise for valor, valor for betrayal—that only the strongest, such as Hellman, managed to maintain a rational balance. How many among us, I wonder, could face blacklisting, loss of jobs, friends and status with unswerving equanimity?

A Deep Sense of Loss

Which is precisely what this play addresses itself to. The idea is not to judge but to understand. The longer and more developed testimonies arouse at the least compassion and at the most admiration, depending upon the resilience—moral, physical or psychological—of the individuals caught in this trap.

We observe the involuntary buckling of the cornered Parks with a deep sense of personal loss. Miller, in his depiction of Abe Burrows, never forgets that the man's complex and often hilarious rationalizations are genuinely human if desperate contortions. Slander's stand of total insurrection is quite mad and marvelous: he may be going down but he'll go fighting all the way. And Robeson's superior reasoning powers are a pure joy as he effortlessly outwits inquisitors bogged down in conventional thought and sloganeering.

Since Bentley did not write the dialogue, neither is he responsible for the sanctimony of this committee synthesized (for dramatic purposes) to a body of three. John Lehne (as chairman), Byron Morrow (as committeeman and—to a degree—ombudsman) and Paul Jenkins (as investigator) are the self-righteous challengers engaged in the vigorously misguided assault.

The simple courtroom set by Barry Robison and stark lighting by Bob Dye are excellent attributes to the production, which has transposed itself without any loss of punch into its larger quarters,

If less is more, Bentley and this production of "Arc You Now" are proving it every Friday (8:30 pm), Saturday (7 and 10 p.m.) and Sunday (7:30 p.m.) at 1451 N. Las Palmas in Hollywood (464-9921)—and may it be ever thus.


VARIETY, Tuesday, April 1, 1975

With move into larger theatre, the Joseph Stern-Kathleen Johnson-Allan Miller production of Eric Bentley's "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been..." is bigger and better than ever - and that's going some.

The superb production directed by William Devane is tighter and carries a more telling wallop than at the CAST theatre, where this version originated and where it was totally devastating.  With addition of a second intermission, HCT edition carries more punch in the right places and allows audience to digest the implications of the terror of the House Un-American Activities Committee caused the Hollywood Ten.

Paul Jenkins, new as the chief investigator, is a little more menacing as he drives question after question with les sarcasm than did predecessor M. Emmet Walsh.  This straightforward approach is far more effective.  Robert Karnes, also new to the cast, does a good job as Sam G. Wood.  But Irene Robinson is weak as playwright Lillian Hellman.

Remainder of the cast seem to have grown in their roles.  Where they were excellent before, some reach an exceptional brilliance in the new quarters.  Charles Weldon, particularly, as Paul Robeson.

Still outstanding among the parade of "witnesses" are Allen Garfield as Lionel Stander, David Spielberg as Larry Parks, Allan Miller as Abe Burrows, Beeson Carroll's Sterling Hayden, Jeff David's Arthur Miller and Phillip R. Allen's Edward Dmytryk; also, committeemen John Lehne and Byron Morrow.

Still giving excellent performances in smaller roles are Marc Plastrik, Martin Sokoloff, Jess Nadelman, Angelo Gnazzo.  Show is a must-see.


Yes, We Were
by Marvin Sosna, Editor
NEWS-CHRONICLE, Thousand Oaks, Mon, April 21, 1975

What is a theater review doing on the Opinion page?

Better to ask where the line is between opinion and drama. It has grown hazier with every passing contemporary shock.

Perhaps it no longer exists at all.

Is a play like "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been..." a theatrical piece? Or a political essay? Both?

Either way, it's a smashing experience. It evokes the ghosts that haunt our inner conscience with memories of exceptional cowardice on a national scale, a time when few dared to stand and those who did wound up on their knees, either willingly or because their economic legs were amputated.

"Are you Now Or Have You Ever Been. . ." is the verbatim history of the ravaging of an industry — the arts, in this case, and most especially motion pictures. It began as a ploy by studio management to break a hostile union organizing attempt aimed at ousting the companies' own "sweetheart" unions, and it ended in the political sewers. The company executives whispered the word "Communists" into the ears of congressmen, and it was all over but the counting. In a decade of hearings, writers, composers, actors, directors, dancers, musicians—an array of talent that would have made any studio envious—was swept off in a mudslide of unconfirmed rumor, gossip, malice, self-serving lies, with enough truth to paste it all together.

The key question in it all was: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party?" In the less-law-leery days of the Fifties, the question was not illegal, nor was membership in that political party of and by itself illegal.

But being asked was enough to have it assumed that the answer was "yes," and being answered that way, or assumed, was enough to end a career that depended on box office admissions from a myriad of movie theaters in places where people may have voted Republican or Democratic, thereby electing a crook or a killer, but never a Communist.

So much for background.

As a play, "Are You Now" is less of a script than a summary. It is taken from the actual testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, by friendly and unfriendly witnesses alike, in public and in private. It reads like an indictment of the investigatory process and it brings to mind similar excesses of zeal in seeking out facts on scandals ranging from corrupt labor unions (Jimmy Hoffa and his use of Teamsters' pension funds) to corrupt hoodlumism (Frank Costello and organized crime), foregoing for the moment any allusion to the Ervin Committee's Watergate probes. There was over all of them the stench of the Inquisition and the smoke of the Salem witch hunt.

But "Are You Now" doesn't play as dry dialectics. It builds into a drama, comprised as it is of excellent dialogue from the mouths of screenwriters and actors and politicians all accustomed to dealing with words. It holds its audiences in the grip of hope, like those who see a movie twice and look for the hero to somehow escape the second time. There is no hope in it, none at all. The good guys go to jail or exile, and the crum-bums thrive. The Constitution is mocked and warped to suit the needs of whichever bully wants to use it as a shield or a club, and the law is left a victim by it all.

Moreover, one is convinced that, even if you saw it the second time, it would come out the same way — on stage or off.

The actors in this re-enactment are top grade. They live the humiliation, agony, venality, stupidity and political frenzy of those times. There is simply no "better' or "worse" in this cast, which is a strange assessment of any play; the same goes for the script by Eric Bentley, for it was not really his word or his thought but those of the hearing officers and witnesses from whom he excerpted the dialogue.

But surely Bentley's skill in editing is enviable, and his faithfulness to the mission is unmatched. That would have to go, too, for director William Devane, who put it all together, with such cruel truth. Yet, how could he have done otherwise with that material and those actors playing those roles?

The cast: Phillip R. Allen, Beeson Carroll, Jeff David, Allen Garfield, Angelo Gnazzo, Paul Jenkins, Robert Karnes, John Lehne, Allan Miller, Byron Morrow, Jess Nadelman, Irene Robinson, David Spielberg, Charles Weldon, Marc Plastrik and Martin Sokoloff.

The theater: Hollywood Center Theater, 1451 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood.

Oh, yes, about the Watergate hearings:

Some spectators at "Are You Now" come away with the uncomfortable comparison of investigators in the Fifties pursuing Communists in Hollywood and investigators in the Seventies pursuing crooks in Washington, There are a couple of differences, right off the bat, though.

Nobody was defending the accused in Hollywood; nobody was offering them lecture fees in four figures, buying their books sight-unseen, giving them expensive defense counsel or making deals for light terms in white-collar prisons. Quite the opposite: they were scorned, hissed, shunned, blacklisted and, finally, ruined.

And, secondly, they, of course, were guilty of no crime, nor even conspiracy to commit any crime, nor to cover it up.


When the Red Scare Hit Hollywood
by Barbara Isenberg
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Thurs, Sept. 18, 1975

Having pruned 30 years of transcripts from House Un-American Activities Committee hearings down to a 1,000-page book, "Thirty Years of Treason" (Viking, $20), drama critic and historian Eric Bentley next set about turning that massive document into a play.  The result is "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been," a powerful and engrossing drama which leaves little doubt in its audiences' minds as to how the committee ravaged the entertainment industry.

The Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers hearings notwithstanding, HUAC's Hollywood investigations were among its most widely publicized and remembered On the assumption that Communists and sympathizers had managed to infiltrate the motion picture industry, the committee in the late Forties and early Fifties subpoenaed scores of actors, writers, and directors to its hearing rooms.

HUAC's interrogation of 15 of these celebrities forms the body of Bentley's play which, despite only limited success in earlier runs at the Yale Repertory Theater and New York's Riverside Church Theater, has played to near sell-out crowds in Los Angeles for six months. A second company of the show, featuring most of its original Los Angeles cast, opens a five-week run at Ford's Theater in Washington on Monday while a Los Angeles company continues indefinitely at the Hollywood Center Theater.

The dialog of "Are You Now" comes directly from HUAC testimony, abridged but not added to, and no resemblance between each witness-and the actual person is coincidental. The names are familiar, and as the witnesses come forth, some only briefly, others in lengthy testimony, their words draw us into their crises. Whatever we may feel about actor Larry Parks' ultimate cave-in, for example, we anguish with him as he is worn down to the point where, his hand over his face, his voice breaking, he names names the committee later tells him it already had.

It is probably not coincidence that the theater set resembles a courtroom as much as a hearing room, for witnesses were in truth defendants seeking to prove themselves innocent of charges from often faceless accusers. Guilt then came not only by association but by inference or innuendo, and even a mention during the hearings could lead to industry blacklisting. Russia had the bomb, the Korean war was on, and, as a committeeman says during the play, HUAC was "an expression of the will of the American people."

So, as the committee members sit immobile through the play's three acts, their main movements the shuffling of papers and taking of notes, the 15 witnesses file one by one across the stage to defend and explain themselves There, seated at a large and empty table, each must confront or avoid answering what the committee chairman calls "The $64 Question," the question "any real American would be proud to answer: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

There, too, each witness must ultimately confront his own conscience, and how each does so is what makes "Are You Now" such compelling theater. We watch Abe Burrows dance evasively about the questions through humor and double-talk, Lionel Slander label the committeemen themselves subversives, fanatics, and ex-Bundists, and Arthur Miller disdain them. Lillian Hellman, the only woman in the play, coolly reads aloud from a letter in which she said she could not hurt others to save herself, could not and would not "cut my conscience td fit this year's fashions." The acting is uniformly excellent. Most of the original cast has gone to Washington for the five-week run, but the Los Angeles replacement cast handles itself with the same professionalism and skill as did its predecessor. The players interpret rather than merely recite testimony, heightening the drama of the language without exaggerating it. The three committee members, representing a composite of the many committeemen who filled those chairs between 1947 and 1956, are equally effective as they deliver such self-righteous lines as "We don't want to smear anyone's name here" with little flourish, much indignation and an occasional incredulousness that the witnesses do not define patriotism the way they do.

A few testimonies, such as those by Arthur Miller and Sterling Hayden, are not sufficiently developed, while the closing sequence by Paul Robeson is too long. Actors also double and even triple up on some parts—one actor plays Larry Parks' lawyer Louis Mandel as well as playing Martin Berkeley and Arthur Miller—causing initial confusion for the audience. Moreover, the show has been playing in small theaters in Los Angeles and it will be interesting to see if its intimacy can be maintained in Washington's much larger Ford's Theater.

Inevitably there is a problem of audience manipulation, for while dramatist Bentley neither inserted his own language nor transposed words from HUAC testimony, he did edit and select them. Despite further editing by the play's director, actor William Devane, to tone down some of Bentley's polemic, it remains difficult, for example, to accept the play's closing sequence.

At the conclusion of testimonies by the 15 witnesses, the committee chairman steps out of his role and moves to center stage to inform us of HUAC's demise earlier this year. This out of character announcement, followed by an even more out of character quotation from Bertolt Brecht implying HUAC could happen again, does make Bentley's political point but does so at the expense of theatrical consistency.

But outside of these reservations "Are You Now" is marvelous theater and telling history. In portraying how due process o law can be handily suspended for what appears to be a greater good, it is as much an indictment of over-zealous investigations generally as it is of the House Un-American Activities Committee specifically.


The Hearings at Ford's
by Jean M. White
WASHINGTON POST, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 1975

Last night the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) reopened hearings in Washington, not in the Hill but on the stage of Ford's Theater.

In a documentary drama drawn entirely from HUAC transcripts from the late '40s and '50s, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" - the title drawn from a question that echoes out of the past when repeatedly asked of witnesses during the congressional investigation of Communists in Hollywood - probes what happened to writers and actors caught up in the anti-Red public hysteria of the times.

At its best, "Are You Now" is less political statement and more a study of what happens to people under pressure, of different shades of courage, of cowardice, of honesty, of integrity.

This is the raw material for powerful drama, and the restaged HUAC hearings offer an evening with absorbing, moving and often disquieting moments.  But it is not a play, much less a good play.  What we have are some compelling scenes and a disturbing reminder of a less-than-shining, distasteful period in our past.  But theater-of-fact does not give us the rewards of a goody play with rising action, movement and character interplay.

With this caveat out of the way, "Are You Now" can be dealt with as a documentary drama that makes exciting theater.  It is staged and performed with intelligence and distinguished by some splendid acting by a thoroughly professional cast.

There is the moment when Larry Parks, seen in a beautifully modulated performance by David Spielberg, reaches his breaking point under committee badgering to name others whose careers he knows will suffer as much as his, knowing at the same time he will be denounced as a fink and stool pigeon.

And then there is a dramatic confrontation between the committee questioners and Lionel Stander.  As Stander, Will Irwin brilliantly captures the irreverent defiance of this colorful character actor.

The names of the witnesses on parade are those of the famous of stage and screen: a cold, disdainful Arthur Miller; Lillian Hellman, who "will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashion"; Elia Kazan, Jerome Robbins and Sterling Hayden, who came forth to seek absolution and were willing to name names.

One problem is that these dramatic confrontations are enacted in a stage vacuum.  They are removed from the public and political climate of the years of HUAC hearings.  We need that context to understand how he HUAC Committee could have conducted its badgering investigations, to understand an atmosphere in which the mere mention of a name without supporting evidence could blight lives and careers, to understand another fear of being branded an informer and what moved other to rush for public mea culpas.

For those who felt strongly about the HUAC and its investigations, "Are You Now" will strike with painful impact.  For others, there are compelling moments of confrontation and insights into people under pressure.  Exciting as it can be at times, the documentary does run too long, exhausting its impact and its audience..


Reminding America That It Has Warts
by Everett Jones
POTOMAC SCENE, Friday, Sept. 26, 1975

"Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?," a new play by Eric Bentley, opened Monday night at Ford's Theatre in Washington, where it will run through Oct. 26. With a superb cast and first-rate direction by William Devane, the play is by turns fascinating and terrifying, and it depicts a shameful and repellent episode in U.S. history. That the management of Ford's has chosen this work to open its Bicentennial season is altogether fitting. America has its warts, and it is well for us to be reminded of the fact.

Bentley's play is documentary theatre at its best. The lines the characters speak were taken directly from transcripts of the Hollywood hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) between 1947 and 1956. Ostensibly, HUAC was set up to investigate subversive (i.e., Communist) influences in America. Actually, HUAC represented the forces of reaction and its primary aim was to repress the voices of social progress and to persecute as revolutionaries those who had supported the much-needed reforms of the 1930's and early 1940's.

In "Are You Now," we hear the verbatim testimony of Ring Lardner, Jr., Larry Parks, Lionel Slander, Sterling Hayden, Jose Ferrer, Abe Burrows, Elia Kazan, Jerome Robbins, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Paul Robeson, et al. When many of these people appeared before the committee, they panicked and turned informers. Some of the witnesses (read defendants) calmly but treacherously betrayed friends and colleagues. Many who testified found their careers ruined, both the informers and those who declined to co-operate. It was a contemptible affair altogether, and a black page in our country's history.

A number of the witnesses conducted themselves admirably. Lionel Slander laughed at Ihe inquisitors. Two of our foremost dramatists, Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller, retained their honor and their dignity. Miller refused to answer questions. In articles he \vrote he lashed out at the betrayal of free speech being perpetrated by HUAC. Miller wrote: "...I saw accepted the notion that conscience was no longer a private matter, but one of state administration:" . Declining to emulate the informers. Miss Hellman stated: "I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions..."

Paul Robeson eloquently and with great dignity, repudiated the committee, its purposes and its tactics.

Bentley does not pass judgment on the behavior of the witnesses. His play is an absorbing account of how different people react when they are the defenseless victims of an inquisition. One gets the impression from the piece that HUAC was itself notoriously un-American.

The Hon J. Parnell Thomas, (1895-1970), had the honor to head HUAC from 1947-1950. He later had the further distinction of being convicted of padding his pay roll and was sent to prison in 1950.

The remarkably able cast is too numerous to list.

The set design is by Barry Robison, and the lighting is by Robert Bye.

Ford's has begun its new season with a theatrical thunderbolt. Don't miss it.


FEATURE ARTICLE


A Play About HUAC Stirs Hollywood
by Stephen Farber
THE NEW YORK TIMES, Sept. 7, 1975

The most remarkable theatrical event in Los Angeles this year is a new production of Eric Bentley's play "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been," taken directly from transcripts of the Hollywood hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee between 1947 and 1956.

What makes the Los Angeles production a special event, however, is that here the audiences include movie personalities who were either directly or peripherally involved in the HUAC hearings. Members of the Hollywood Ten — the group of writers and directors who went to jail for refusing to testify before the committee —have seen the play and been free with their comments afterwards.

Novelist and screenwriter Albert Maltz, a member of the Hollywood Ten looks back at the controversy and comments, "The Committee was trying to introduce the same kind of thought control as in Nazi Germany or in the Soviet Union. This is why I still feel the same bitterness toward the informers — not just because they were saving their own jobs by destroying other people, but because they were supporting American Fascism. Of course it could happen again. The past can repeat itself. That is why the play is important."

Dalton Trumbo, probably the best-known of the Hollywood Ten, sees the past somewhat differently: "Albert Maltz and I are at opposite poles on the subject of informers. There are four or five informers whom I consider beneath human contempt. But over the years I have been at parties with some of the others, and I have shaken hands with them. They've paid for what they did. Their children know that they informed, and that may be the worst punishment.

Mrs. Adrian Scott, widow of one of the Hollywood Ten, describes her reaction to the play: "I feel that my husband was killed by the blacklist. So I don't forgive the informers. I went to the play prepared to resist any sympathy generated for Larry Parks. But, in spite of myself, I was very moved. Shortly after that, I happened to meet Betty Garrett, who is Larry Parks's widow. I felt very close to her. 1 don't think I would have felt that sympathy if I hadn't seen the play."

"Are You Now" also presented some moral problems for its actors, particularly for David Spielberg who plays Larry Parks. Parks died on April 13, two months after the play had opened; and in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Dorothy and Lloyd Bridges — good friends of Parks's — referred to the "final indignity" of the production (though they had not seen it), and hinted that it may have contributed to Parks's death. "I got paranoid," Spielberg recalls. "But Parks's sons, Garrett and Andrew, assured me that the play had nothing to do with his death." They had seen the play just the week before their father died.

Garrett Parks, who works as a stage manager in Los Angeles, reflects, "My brother and I were very moved by David's performance. I came away very proud of my father, proud of his humanity. I know the subject is still very painful to a lot of people, and it was to us. But it happened, and you can't run away from it. The hearings are a part of history that America should not be proud of. I'm glad the play was done."


Production Staff
Producer - Joseph Stern
Stage Manager - Allen Williams
Company Manager - Carolyn Bye
Graphic Arts - George Yasuda
Technical Director - Leon Collin
Photography - Kevyne Baar

Return to the list of Past Productions