Enid Bagnold Alan Rich - Essay

Alan Rich

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[A Matter of Gravity] is not so much a play … as a series of patches from several plays that connect only in having the same cast in each. One patch concerns an elderly woman, crusty and conservative (in all but her apparent passion for heavy green eye shadow), going somewhat to pieces at her grandson's marriage to a girl of partially black parentage: proposition, conflict, and, need we add, reconciliation. Another concerns the housemaid of said grandmother, a slovenly sort, but given to levitation, and the grandmother's decision to join the maid in a mental institution so that she, too, can learn to levitate. (I am not making this up.) A third concerns the breakup of two homosexual matings, one male and one female, identical in their May-December configurations and in the clumsy self-delusions of both Decembers….

There is no pace to Ms. Bagnold's play, no movement, no action overt or inward. More depressing yet, from a writer of her wonted exquisiteness, is the lurid witlessness of some of her individual lines…. "I'm so rich it's like having cancer." Or, from another character: "Sex is an old carrot, used by God to get children." What—beyond the easy, momentary titter—can any of this mean?

Alan Rich, "The Old Ladies Show Their Muddles," in New York Magazine (copyright © 1976 by News Group Publications, Inc.; reprinted with the permission of New York Magazine), Vol. 9, No. 7, February 16, 1976, p. 71.