Man & Boy
By Terence Rattigan
DIRECTED BY DREW BARR
Sat. Feb. 10 at 7:30
Sun. Feb. 11 at 2:00
Mon. Feb. 12 at 7:30
An extraordinarily high-powered father, who faces scandal, disgrace, and complete financial ruin, coldly exploits his estranged son to save himself.
RACHEL FOWLER*Carol Penn
JOE DELAFIELD*Basil Anthony
THOM CHRISTOPHER*Gregor Antonescu
JAMES MURTAUGH*Sven Johnson
JAMES PRENDERGAST*Mark L. Herris
JAMIE BENNETT*David Beeston
LYNN WRIGHT*Countess Antonescu
LARA E. TERRELLStage Manager
Terence Mervyn Rattigan was born on June 10, 1911 in London, England to a prominent Protestant Irish family. His grand-father attained a significant reputation as a jurist in British India and was eventually knighted. His father, Frank Rattigan, was making a name for himself as a diplomat when a dalliance with the future queen of Greece virtually ended his diplomatic career. Despite this, he longed for his son to enter the diplomatic service or, barring that, any other traditional way of making a living, but Terence could not ignore his passion for theater. Rattigan’s interest in theater continued as he attended Harrow from 1925 to 1930 on scholarship. He then went on to Trinity College at Oxford on a history scholarship with the intention of preparing for a diplomatic career to appease his father. At Oxford, Rattigan moved with the theater crowd: he acted, wrote dramatic criticism for the Cherwell, and collaborated with fellow student Philip Heimann on a play about a love quadrangle set among Oxford students. First Episode was produced in London’s West End in 1933 and then on Broadway in 1934. Although it was not a major success, it garnered good reviews – not bad considering it was the 22 year old author’s first play.
Still, his father continued to demand that his son find “respectable” work and earn a steady salary. Emboldened by his early experiences, Terence devised a plan that would give him the time he felt he needed to become a success, and struck a bargain with his father. Rattigan would continue playwriting for two years with his father’s support. At the end of that time, should Terence fail to be able to support himself, he would begin a career as a diplomat. Things were not looking promising, as his five successive plays were failures.
Just as it looked like Rattigan would soon be heading for foreign climes, he found tremendous success with French Without Tears. The play, directed by Harold French, brought the 25 year old critical acclaim and made him the highest earning playwright in the English-speaking world. His exceptional good looks and elegant lifestyle helped heighten his image as fortune’s favorite. For the next twenty years he enjoyed uninterrupted success; with a string of hits including: While the Sun Shines, Love in Idleness, The Browning Version, Separate Tables, The Winslow Boy and others. It seemed as though Rattigan could not miss.
In May 1956, Look Back in Anger, by John Osborne, made its debut on the London stage. With its stark realism and edgy anti-hero, the work seemed to be assailing just about everything the established Rattigan represented. When a reporter asked Rattigan what he though of it, Rattigan replied that he felt the author was saying “Look, ma, I’m not Terrence Rattigan.” Though a conceited remark, there was truth in it, for the play signaled a radical change in British critical taste. John Osborne and his fellow young playwrights were applauded for their noisy condemnation of the generation that preceded them and practically overnight, the career and reputation of Rattigan crumbled, or to be more precise, imploded.
The words Rattigan rashly wrote in 1950 had come back to haunt him: “From Aeschylus to Tennessee Williams, the only theater that has ever mattered is the theater of character and narrative. …I don’t think that ideas, per se, social, political or moral, have a very important place in the theater. They definitely take third place to character and narrative, anyway.” Further artillery for his critics came from his introduction to his first volume of collected plays. Rattigan created a model playgoer, Aunt Edna, whom no playwright could afford to ignore, “a nice, respectable, middle-class, middle-aged lady with time on her hands and the money to help her pass it…She is universal and immortal, and she has lived for two thousand years.”
What Rattigan meant was that he saw no reason why serious drama should not also be entertaining and accessible to all those with any sort of intelligence. Plays could and should have different levels of meaning, with moral or philosophical depth being embedded in a coherent narrative. Yet, with his introduction of Aunt Edna, critics condemned Rattigan for pandering to low-brow sensibilities, an accusation that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Rattigan’s best plays are subtle explorations of human dilemmas and of the tragically destructive power of passion. Drawing from his own life experiences with his parents’ unhappy marriage, his attempts to love and be loyal to his mother and father, and his service as a Royal Air Force flight lieutenant, Rattigan featured complex and fully fleshed-out characters in his intricate, heartfelt plays.
Feeling unappreciated, Rattigan stopped writing for the theater for several years and concentrated on his work for the movies. Director Delbert Mann made a brilliant version of Separate Tables in 1958 starring Burt Lancaster. The movie garnered the playwright an award from the New York Film Critics Circle, as well as an Academy Award nomination. Separate Tables received seven Academy nominations including Best Picture, winning a Best Actor statuette for David Niven and Best Supporting Actress award for Wendy Hiller. Rattigan was nominated again for an Academy Award for David Lean’s Breaking the Sound Barrier in 1953. In 1959, Rattigan won the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for The Browning Version. Rattigan also saw his play The Sleeping Prince come to the screen as The Prince and the Showgirl in 1957 starring Laurence Olivier (who also directed the film) and Marilyn Monroe (who also produced). Rattigan also wrote the screenplay to the remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips in 1969 and adapted the 1973 feature The Nelson Affair from his own play.
In 1962, Terence Rattigan was diagnosed with leukemia. After two years of doing little more than waiting for his eminent death, Rattigan rather unexpectedly recovered. When Rattigan began taking part in life again, his life was not as he remembered. He found himself completely out of touch with the Swinging Britain of the sixties. He spent his final years living in Bermuda, but did live to see himself welcomed back into the British theater community with his knighthood in 1971, the beginning of his artistic renaissance with a series of new stagings of his works, and the positive reception of his final play, Cause Célèbre, only months before his death on November 30, 1977. In death, Rattigan became a national figure, revered as he was in his youth, at the height of his popularity, by the press and public alike.
Man and Boy opened at the Queen’s Theater in London in 1963 where it ran for only 54 performances. When it opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York later that same year, it again endured a very short run. Charles Boyer played the role of Gregor Antonescu, originally written for Rex Harrison, who was scared off by the homosexual element. The role of Antonescu was charmed-up at the behest of the producers and Boyer, who wanted the character to be more sympathetic. The reviews of the performance were mixed, praising Boyer’s performance as the appallingly amoral Antonescu, but criticizing Rattigan’s writing; one reviewer wrote of the play, “Boyer is back on Broadway and that should be a cause for rejoicing by all women over 29. Now, if only the play he has chosen was a cause for rejoicing for the rest of us.” Fate itself seemed to be against the play; when Broadway was darkened after receiving word of President Kennedy’s assassination, the marquis of the theater where Man and Boy was performing remained lit, an unfortunate oversight.
One of only five plays written during Rattigan’s exile from the theater circle; it is likely that Man And Boy was an attempt to make a comeback with a statement about the amorality of big business. Set in depression-era New York City, Rattigan used the downfall of 30’s business moguls such as Ivar Kreuger as inspiration for the doomed empire of Gregor Antonescu. Rattigan drew from his own life in exploring the filial relationship between a tyrannical, irredeemable father and soft-hearted son. His father was, by all accounts, an incorrigible womanizer, whom Terence had always resented and simultaneously tried to appease. The homosexual theme was also drawn from personal experience; he was a closeted homosexual until his death in 1977. He was taking a chance with a play that explored very personal themes; when the play failed, it is easy to imagine Rattigan’s disappointment, and it was a probable factor in his break from playwriting for the next seven years.
In 2005, a revival of Man and Boy opened at the Duchess Theatre to critical acclaim. Starring David Suchet as Gregor Antonescu, the play was done without any of the pity inducing changes to Antonesu’s character that Rattigan had reluctantly added to the original production. Noted by critics as being pertinent to today’s business climate, with the disgraces of Enron, Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black all in recent memory, Man and Boy at long last received the recognition it deserves.
First Episode, 1934 co-written with Philip Heimann
The Belles of St. Clements, 1936, screenplay
After the Dance, 1939
French Without Tears, 1936, also screenplay
Gypsy, 1937, screenplay
Quet Wedding, 1940, screenplay
Follow My Leader, 1940
Grey Farm, 1940
in collaboration with Hector Bolitho
Uncensored, 1942, screenplay
The Dawn Will Dawn, 1942, screenplay, (also called The Avengers)
Flare Path, 1942
While the Sun Shines, 1943, also screenplay
Love in Idleness, 1944 (also as O Mistress Mine 1946)
The Way to the Stars, 1945, screenplay based on FLARE PATH (also called Johnny in the Clouds)
The Winslow Boy, 1946, also screenplay in 1948, a television play in 1958, and a film re-make in 1999
Brighton Rock, 1947, screenplay
Bond Street, 1947, screenplay
Playbill: The Browning Version, 1948, also a screenplay in 1951, a television play in 1959, a television re-make in 1985, and a film re-make in 1994. And Harlequinade, 1948
Adventure Story, 1949
Who is Sylvia?, 1950, also screenplay
The Sound Barrier, 1952, screenplay
The Deep Blue Sea, 1952, also screenplay
The Sleeping Prince, 1953, also screenplay
The Final Test, 1953, screenplay
Separate Tables, 1954, also a screenplay in 1958, and 1983
Variations on a Theme, 1958
Ross, 1960, also a screenplay and television play in 1970
Joie de Vivre, 1960
Man and Boy, 1963
The VIPS, 1963, a screenplay, (also called International Hotel)
The Yellow Rolls-Royce, 1965, screenplay
Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1969, screenplay
Bequest to the Nation, 1970, screenplay (also called The Nelson Affair).
In Praise of Love, 1973
Cause Célèbre, 1977