Hellman v. McCarthy OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

  • NY TIMES

  • AP

  • TM

  • S & C

  • THEATRE IS EASY

Opening Night:
March 14, 2014
Closing:
April 13, 2014

Theater: Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex / 312 West 36th Street, New York, NY, 10018

Synopsis: 

The greatest literary feud in modern American history began on January 25, 1980 when literary critic Mary McCarthy appeared as a guest on The Dick Cavett Show and declared that "every word [playwright Lillian Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" Hellman went ballistic and sued McCarthy for libel, sparking a law suit that spanned more than four years. Hellman v. McCarthy is a roller coaster ride filled with comedy and pathos.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Hellman v. McCarthy

    A Literary Catfight, With Context by Cavett - ‘Hellman v. McCarthy’ at Abingdon Theater Company

    Charles Isherwood

    March 26, 2014: “It’s a little odd playing yourself,” Dick Cavett says, after doing so quite convincingly in the new play Hellman v. McCarthy, an Abingdon Theater Company production that opened on Wednesday at the June Havoc Theater. Mr. Cavett then jokes, “The funny thing is I was the second choice for the role.” In fact, it’s hard to imagine this new play by Brian Richard Mori without Mr. Cavett’s astringently funny presence, which adds layers of charm and verisimilitude to a slender dramatic reconsideration of a famous literary feud. Back in 1979, when The Dick Cavett Show was a frequent PBS pit stop for celebrities looking to promote their latest projects, or merely to keep a hold on a sliver of the public spotlight, Mr. Cavett invited the novelist and critic Mary McCarthy for a cozy chat that would ignite something of a literary furor when she was asked which writers she believed were overpraised.

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  • ASSOCIATED PRESS REVIEW OF Hellman v. McCarthy

    Review: Angry Wit Infuses 'Hellman V McCarthy'

    Jennifer Farrar

    March 27, 2014: Ask a leading question and hope for a juicy answer. That timeless tactic worked well for erudite TV talk show host Dick Cavett, especially when he sparked the famous American literary feud in which successful playwright Lillian Hellman sued fellow writer Mary McCarthy for calling her a liar. McCarthy's instantly famous assertion about Hellman was uttered casually after a bit of hopeful prodding by Cavett on a January 1980 airing of his PBS show. Calling Hellman a dishonest writer, McCarthy further embellished with "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'" In Hellman v. McCarthy, which opened Wednesday night off-Broadway at the intimate Abgindon Theatre, playwright Brian Richard Mori creates a lively theatrical imagining of how the two women, especially Hellman, might have behaved behind the scenes while the libel lawsuit ran its course until Hellman's death in June 1984.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Hellman v. McCarthy

    Hellman v. McCarthy

    David Gordon

    March 26, 2014: Perhaps the most meta experience onstage this season is the opportunity to watch Dick Cavett play a version of himself from 35 years ago in Hellman v. McCarthy, a new play by Brian Richard Mori at the Abingdon Theater Company. The 90-minute drama might be about the feud between the titular literary lionesses — Lillian and Mary — but it's the presence of the Emmy-winning talk-show host that is simultaneously the most noteworthy and strange element in Jan Buttram's production. The long-standing disagreement between Hellman, the writer of such plays as The Little Foxes and The Children's Hour, and author/literary critic McCarthy ignited on Cavett's PBS talk show in 1979. McCarthy, here played by Marcia Rodd, while on Cavett's show to promote her latest novel, famously told him that every word Hellman (Roberta Maxwell) said was a lie, including "and" and "the." This led to the sickly Hellman suing McCarthy for a cool million in a libel suit that only got settled (and dropped) when Hellman died in 1984.

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  • STAGE AND CINEMA REVIEW OF Hellman v. McCarthy

    Off-Broadway Review: HELLMAN V. MCCARTHY (Abingdon Theatre Company) - See more at: http://www.stageandcinema.com/2014/03/23/hellman-v-mccarthy/#sthash.vnCxvdAf.dpuf

    Paulanne Simmons

    March 23, 2014: In 1980, in a television interview with Dick Cavett, novelist and literary critic Mary McCarthy made an especially biting comment about her longtime adversary and fellow writer, playwright and memoirist Lillian Hellman, saying that “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’” Unfortunately, Hellman was watching the show that night, and the next morning she initiated a $2,500,000 lawsuit that would remain unresolved until her death four years later. The feud was the source material for Nora Ephron’s Imaginary Friends, a play with songs (music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Craig Carnelia). The 2002 work imagined Hellman and McCarthy reunited in hell. Even with Cherry Jones as McCarthy and Swoosie Kurtz as Hellman, Ephron’s first theatrical work was considered by most to be wonky, and the Broadway production closed after 76 performances.

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  • THEATRE IS EASY REVIEW OF Hellman v. McCarthy

    Hellman v. McCarthy By Brian Richard Mori; Directed by Jan Buttram

    Eleanor J. Bader

    March 24, 2014: When Brian Richard Mori’s Hellman v. McCarthy begins, the auditorium lights are still on and most of the people in the room are chatting with their friends, dates, or neighbors. Two stagehands are visible, presumably putting the final touches on the set and shouting directions to one another. A minute or two passes before the audience gets it -- they are being readied to watch legendary talk show host Dick Cavett conduct a live, on-camera, interview. And lest they forget, as soon as Cavett walks on, they’re reminded that his nearly 50-year career has included stints on ABC, CBS, PBS, USA and CNBC. Now 78, Cavett plays himself in Mori’s compelling drama. Indeed, when he steps onstage his command is obvious. There’s witty banter and corny schtick alongside clever jokes and self-deprecating commentary. He then introduces that evening’s guest, writer Mary McCarthy (played with arrogance and smug self-satisfaction by the terrific Marcia Rodd) best known for penning Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957) and The Group (1963). Cavett has invited McCarthy onto the program to discuss her latest effort, a book called Cannibals and Missionaries that is scheduled to be released shortly after the show’s October 1979 taping. The Q&A is fairly predictable, at least until Cavett asks McCarthy which contemporary writers she thinks are overrated. Without missing a beat she names three: Pearl S. Buck, John Steinbeck, and Lillian Hellman. Not only does she dub the latter a “windbag,” she announces -- with imperious hostility -- that “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”

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