Gretchen Cryer Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Gretchen Cryer 1936(?)–

American playwright, lyricist, and actress.

Cryer writes unconventional musicals which reflect the particular concerns of the late 1960s and 1970s—the right to free speech, the growth of the media and its effect on interpersonal communication, and women striving for self-direction in a male-dominated society. It is generally felt that her work can be appreciated as both social commentary and entertainment and that she has helped female playwrights achieve equality and respect.

Cryer has collaborated most often with composer Nancy Ford; they are currently considered the most prominent female writing team in American theater. Their first major work, Now Is the Time for All Good Men, is a look at the generation gap and the disparity between liberal and conservative viewpoints. Their next play, The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, is an inventive, humorous musical divided into two related sketches about a dreamy young man who wants to make every moment "a perfect work of art," since he thinks every minute could be his last; he tape-records his life as a bequest to posterity. In the second sketch, a young Isaac is in jail for protesting the war. He communicates with the girl in the next cell through a television set, and possibly dies at the end of the act, choked to death by his camera strap. This "metaphor on McLuhanism," as Cryer called it, was recognized as the play's weak point, but Isaac was lauded by most critics, who praised the relevance and freshness of her concept and lyrics.

Cryer and Ford are perhaps best known for I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road, a long-running musical with feminist considerations at its core. The play presents male chauvinism as something to be laughed at rather than challenged. The musical's message, that changes in relating to men are normal and common among women, touched responsive chords among audience members, many of whom felt it gave them a new perspective on their lives. Cryer was criticized for relying on feminist rhetoric and clichés too strongly and for not probing deeply enough into the situations women are facing. However, as with her other works, it is believed that Cryer has transferred personal concerns into universally entertaining theater.