Martin Gottfried

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497

["The Last Sweet Days of Isaac"] is terribly intelligent and supermodern, very funny, pertinent and impertinent…. The problem is its problems—it ran into a great many of them, obviously tried to repair them, just as obviously couldn't, and decided to settle with what it had. I suggest you settle for that as well because it often succeeds at something nobody else has yet tried.

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What Gretchen Cryer … tried to do was apply the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and the visual realities of primary artists to current American existence (television existence, sound tape existence, photographic existence) she kept her thoughts "linear" (as McLuhan would say), working in terms of dialogue and specific thoughts. This essential conflict—sort of trying to combine time with space—was never resolved, though you can sense that Miss Cryer thinks it could be and so do I: Finally, not knowing how to apply this unmixed mixture to the stage (itself still another dimension), she struggled.

The struggle was amazingly successful considering its novelty and if you haven't followed a word I've said, remember they're first steps for me too. This is a terribly new mode of sensation but I believe it is into the truth….

"The Last Sweet Days of Isaac" is about personal contact, the first half set in the middle box (where a couple is trapped in an elevator in ultimate physical contact), the second half in the end boxes (the couple being connected only be television screens, perhaps the ultimate in some new kind of abstract contact)….

Though [the first] half is very funny, it is almost as often coy, alternately taking itself seriously and parodizing itself. The mood as well as that problem are very much like [Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's] "The Fantasticks."… Also, Miss Cryer has a problem common to many of us, being unable to commit herself to a set of beliefs because there is too much silliness in sets of beliefs. She wants to go with the radicals but she sees too much inconsistency, intolerance and naivete in their words and ways. In short, she is too bright to be a good soldier….

The second act heads straight to the heart of electronic communication, the couple now separated in jail cells, having been arrested in a peace demonstration, one watching and the other being on television. Miss Cryer begins this act with a funny, affectionate parody of peace-marchers and their police oppressors, ending it in a confusion of electronic relationships. The act is noticeably the victim of cutting and ends the show quite abruptly, though its austere quality is extremely appropriate….

Miss Cryer [possesses] an intelligence, a high-spiritedness and a questioning idealism. Between Miss Cryer's thinking and her cool, primary modernism, "The Last Sweet Days of Lsaac" is an especially important theatre event.

Martin Gottfried, "The Theatre: 'The Last Sweet Days of Isaac'," in Women's Wear Daily (copyright 1970, Fairchild Publications), January 27, 1970 (and reprinted in New York Theatre Critics' Reviews, Vol. XXXI, No. 11, April 27, 1970, p. 292).

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