|ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN (1975)
a production of Joseph Stern, Kathleen Johnson & Allan Miller
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Kathleen Johnson ~ Allan Miller
ARE YOU NOW OR
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN
by Eric Bentley
directed by William Devane
A MESSAGE FROM
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.
sense of the continuing relevance of the Fifties can well be
suggested by two quotes from Committee Chairmen of that decade.
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)
Phillip R. Alen
Phillip R. Allen
Assistant No. 1
Committee Assistant No. 2
Sam G. Wood
Ring Lardner, Jr.
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)
M. Emmet Walsh
Assistant No. 1
Committee Assistant No. 2
Sam G. Wood
Ring Lardner, Jr.
Robert Karnes, Jeff David, Wynn Irwin, Tom Bower,
Martin Shakar, Marc Lawrence, Ed Rombola & Louis Vuolo
WINNER, 1975 L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award:
Direction (William Devane)
Featured Performance (David Spielberg)
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
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
by Kevyne Baar
Click on any photo to see it larger
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
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
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
Gripping Analysis of the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Better to ask where the line is between opinion
and drama. It has grown hazier with every passing contemporary
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
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
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,
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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..
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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."
Producer - Joseph Stern
Stage Manager - Allen Williams
Company Manager - Carolyn Bye
Graphic Arts - George Yasuda
Technical Director - Leon Collin
Photography - Kevyne Baar
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