Elizabeth Swados Harold Clurman - Essay

Harold Clurman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To call a Greenwich Village "barroom" show Nightclub Cantata may sound a bit uppity but as a matter of fact the name conveys the exact nature of its content…. There are numbers like the spoof on an acrobatic stunt act which fits a nightclub performance. For the rest, with a few exceptions, the show has a seriousness which justifies the designation of "cantata." On this occasion, [the Greenwich Village "barroom"] has been turned into an existentialist café.

The show's overall tone, "Conceived, composed and directed" by Elizabeth Swados is gritty, brave, somber and exhilarating withal. It reflects the best part of a youth which has for some time now lived in a discouraging world, a youth of few illusions, a youth emotionally and physically tattered, but yet eager to continue its life without renouncing joy, despite an experience and foreknowledge of anxiety, deception and pain. One has only to scan the list of the writers whose poems or prose Elizabeth Swados has set to her music: there is Nazim Hikmet, a Turkish poet who died in prison; contributions by Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, Frank O'Hara, David Avidan, an Israeli who writes in Hebrew; by Delmore Schwartz, Muriel Rukeyser, Isabella Leitner and Ms. Swados herself.

The collective import of the words spoken or sung, and for the most part, distinctly heard, is that one must endure life and even "dance" in it, though it be heavy and rough as a "fat rock." The...

(The entire section is 464 words.)