Jonathan Reynolds Essay - Critical Essays

Reynolds, Jonathan

Reynolds, Jonathan 1942(?)–

Reynolds is an American playwright.

Jonathan Reynolds is a new and lively humorist whose first plays [are] a pair of one-acters called "Rubbers" and "Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top of the Seventh."… Best—or better—first. "Yanks 3" is a very funny monologue … [by] a pitcher for the Yankees who is making a brilliant comeback after eight bad years—a monologue interrupted from time to time by his catcher and his manager, by heckling Detroit baserunners, and, in a vision, by his girl…. [As] the action starts we see Duke Bronkowski throwing one strike after another. So far, the game is a no-hitter. Then, slowly, his nerve and concentration go, and with them, of course, his control…. As Duke's spirit slowly and steadily disintegrates, his wisecracking cynicism rises to the surface. In his soliloquy (much of it played straight to the audience), he gives us a rundown on his life, his prejudices, and his observations, and … the increasing desperation that is all but driving him out of his mind…. The soliloquy is full of sharp, funny lines, allusions to television coverage ("Rizzuto must be going crazy out there"), and verbal free swinging at any number of targets. The play moves easily into fantasy and back again; two relief pitchers warming up in galleries along the sides of the auditorium start pelting Duke with balls, and the catcher throws him a basketball….

"Rubbers"… is a play about the women's movement…. The action amounts to a multiple filibuster—some of it entertaining but a lot of it forced…. This action, for all its funny lines, goes on far too long…. (p. 67)

Edith Oliver, in The New Yorker (© 1975 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.), June 9, 1975.

During "Rubbers," which takes place in the Assembly Chamber of the New York State Legislature, I didn't stop laughing from start to finish.

Reynolds has the healthiest irreverence I've seen on a stage in years. "Rubbers" concerns a typical day of lawmaking among his inanely insane solons. The pivotal event is a Marx Brothers donnybrook over a bill to allow the public display of contraceptives in drugstores. As both Republicans and Democrats gang up on the bill's author, a liberal lady from Brooklyn, we meet the entire ideological and ethnic range of this noble body, from the Italian whose fiery orations include the singing of "That's Amore" to the erudite black who invokes the shades of Disraeli and Gladstone to the senile relic who mumbles incessant mementos of his "very best friend," Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt. This lunatic debate rises to an unhinged climax of sexo-political dementia….

"Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top of the Seventh" is about an aging pitcher who's hurling a great comeback game but blows it because of his inner terrors…. This little play is a Walter Mitty fantasy in reverse—Duke is a falling star who's about to be tossed back to the junk heap of ordinary humanity.

Jack Kroll, "Solons and Scroogies," in Newsweek (copyright 1975 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), June 16, 1975, p. 81.

Rubbers and Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top of the Seventh, is the funniest double- (or single-) header of the season, bar none. Certainly the first item, Rubbers, made me laugh more than anything all year: I had to abandon my usual dignified inner laughter and primly seated posture for fallings out of my seat accompanied by unseemly hollers and howls…. Whether you look at it as satire, absurdism, or simply comédie humaine, Reynolds's play comes as close to tickling you to death as a management not wishing to pay damages to families of deceased spectators can allow. Oh, the beginning may be a bit slow, and the ending not quite as apocalyptic as it seems to think it is, but there is a great bulging middle that fairly explodes with satirical or merely demented laughter. Yet, even at their insanest, the jokes manage to zigzag to a target; to Reynolds's credit, very few laughs exist in a vacuum—unless it be the inside of a politician's skull. But remember: not only these beastly politicos, but all of us are political beasts whom some of these shafts find out. (pp. 64-5)

Yanks 3 Detroit 0 is substantially less funny than Rubbers because it is basically a one-or-two-gag farce with a predictable ending; still, the author manages to wrest almost as many variations from his modest instrument as Bach could from an organ….

This, too, is a far from guileless little comedy, but Rubbers is a concise compendium of every conceivable kind of humor, the heterogeneous components miraculously harnessed into perfect coexistence. For Jonathan Reynolds, chaos dances like a trained bear. (p. 65)

John Simon, in New York Magazine (© 1975 by NYM Corp.; reprinted by permission of New York Magazine and John Simon), June 16, 1975.