Jerry Tallmer Knocked Out by Patty Duke


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March 22, 1962, Vol. VII, No. 22


By Jerry Tallmer

I am afraid this is going to be strong language — if not so strong as some which it will arouse — but I feel violated, dirtied by “ISLE OF CHILDREN,” a slop-opera by Robert L. Joseph at the Cort. Its star is young Patty Duke, who was so incredible as the deaf-dumb-blind Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” Here she is pretty incredible too, as a voraciously charming 14-year-old (of 86 MacDougal Street, I think it was) with a heart thing that’s going to kill her a minute after the curtain comes down for the last time. She is in fact so incredible, now, that after a while you stop believing in her, and also after a while he active little voice seems to start flattening out and you stop listening to her. I mean nobody, not even Judy Garland, has more native talent than this incredible (there it is again) child: one wonders only about her fate as a woman.

Okay, so that’s irrelevant here and probably in poor taste. Only I do worry. I mean she is really something, and what the hell, I would like her to get to BE something, and not what otherwise is in the cards for her, which is in a way like what it is hammered hammered hammered into your head (and hers, in the play) is in the cards for poor tragic fey brilliant little Dierdre Striden, played by Patty Duke. (What kind of a play is it that has a heroine named Dierdre Striden in it anyway?) My God, that family MUST have talked of something, some of the time, other than Dierdre’s ticker and Dierdre’s doom. Right in front of her and all, as Holden C. would say. There is a Holden in this play, incidentally, only a little younger, played by an English boy named James Aubrey who is the only unmapped and interesting thing in the whole production. Very strange, very arhythmic, very effective. When the adults are off the stage, the scenes between these two children are remarkable (and of a higher order of writing); also Master Aubrey is responsible for the evening’s one truly poignant instant, when he throws his arms around Miss Duke to protect her from what he thinks are the severities of a loving lady tutor. Miss Duke on the other hand is responsible for the evening’s foremost moment of cheer when she imitates — ah, incredibly! — a Schrafft waitress saying: “Ya gotta bevridge cummin tuhy, Miss.” Stefan Gierasch is his usual good self in a brief bit as a bitter M.D. Jules Dassin directed and the play deserves him.

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