Jack Gelber Essay - Gelber, Jack (Vol. 1)

Gelber, Jack (Vol. 1)

Gelber, Jack 1932–

American playwright. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

[Although Jack] Gelber borrows some of Pirandello's techniques, he is never guilty of Pirandello's operatic plot construction, for melodrama would merely be another distortion of reality. The characters of The Connection maintain their integrity in at atmosphere of frightening authenticity; and the naturalism of this anti-play functions as a sardonic comment on anything which would falsify for impure ends the truth of things as they are.

Robert Brustein, "Junk and Jazz: The Connection by Jack Gelber—The Living Theatre" (1959), in his Seasons of Discontent: Dramatic Opinions 1959–1965 (© 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 by Robert Brustein; reprinted by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc.), Simon & Schuster, 1965, pp. 23-6.

Gelber, who did after all write The Connection, an "anti-drama" in a fecund new sense, has now written an anti-drama [The Cuban Thing] in the oldest sense, a weak, largely incoherent, boring and foolish play with literally no redeeming elements.

Richard Gilman, "Murky Soup and Trivialized Actuality" (reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc., from The Confusion of Realms, by Richard Gilman, © 1970), originally published in New Republic, October 19, 1968, p. 36.

Jack Gelber's The Connection (1959) skilfully blends jazz with Beckett's theme of waiting. The image of the drug addicts waiting for the arrival of the messenger carrying their drug is a powerful conception. The presence of a jazz quartet improvising onstage lends the play a fascinating element of spontaneity, and the dialogue has a lyricism of pointlessness that equals much of the best writing in the Theatre of the Absurd. But the play is marred by a laborious superstructure of pretence at realism. Author and director appear, and go to great lengths to convince the audience that they are seeing real drug addicts; two film cameramen who are supposed to record the events of the evening are involved in the action, and one is actually seduced into drug-taking. And, finally, the strange, spontaneous, poetic play culminates in a plea for a reform of the drug laws.

Martin Esslin, in his The Theatre of the Absurd (© 1961, 1968, 1969 by Martin Esslin; reprinted by permission of Doubleday & Company, Inc.), Doubleday-Anchor, revised edition, 1969, p. 270.