- Paperback: 235 pages
- Publisher: Northwestern University Press; Reprint edition (April 1, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810107430
- ISBN-13: 978-0810107434
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,981,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rallying Cries Paperback – April 1, 1987
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It is indeed a fascinating story, a tale of an all-powerful Washington committee quite casually ignoring the First Amendment in a flagrant display of racism and headline-hunger. And the names of those called to give testimony before The House Un-American Activities Committee reads like a roll call of the finest actors, writers, and directors of 1940s and 1950s Hollywood. The dialogue is drawn from the testimony as noted in Congressional records. It has all the makings of a great drama.
Unfortunately, it is a dud. Oh yes, the testimony is interesting, often quite powerful. Trouble is, Bentley has no gift for construction. A few people--and indeed seldom the most interesting ones; Robeson is certainly memorable but Bentley has no time for the likes of Ayn Rand or Walt Disney--tell their various tales before a committee while a narrator makes an ineffective effort to keep us advised of who, what, and when and what happened when the dust finally settled. The play does not so much begin as simply start; it does not so much end as simply stop. I was quite surprised that any one could take this material, impressive as it is even its rawest state, and arrive at this truly odd construction.
But at least ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN has the benefit of some really impressive dialogue, words literally lifted from life. This cannot be said of the other two plays included in the volume: THE RECANTATION OF GALILEO GALILEI and FROM THE MEMOIRS OF PONTIUS PILATE. In both instances the dialogue reads very much like something a high school writer might have created for an English project: a mixture of forced and throw way. In the instance of GALILEO I might also note that Brecht got there earlier and to considerably greater effect.
Now, plays are not really intended to be read; they are intended to be seen on stage, and sometimes a play that reads badly can explode into an unexpected life when it is costumed, appropriately lit, acted, and directed. But I've had a fair amount of experience with drama, and quite frankly I don't think this is the case here. In my opinion, these are just three really lousy plays. If you are interested in the HUAC and McCarthy era, you would really do better to read something that at least offered a little context. As for the other two plays, the less said the better.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer