Michael Weller Clive Barnes - Essay

Clive Barnes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Moonchildren" is a joyously funny (yes, funny-funny, as funny as the Marx Brothers) and yet unaffectedly profound play….

Mr. Weller's play traces, with a little more affection than remorse, the final year of a group of students about to embark on the mystery of graduation….

Vietnam and peace marches, love and grades, the entire aquarium-moment of student life is captured here. Mr. Weller's story—witty, absurd and touching—is not about any particular age group. He relates this period of transition to a special time—to his own special time—but it has a relevance to everyone who has grown up with strange people in a strange place.

Mr. Weller is punctilious in not having a story because he has settled on a theme. He gives us sketches of life on the turn, and it is not too fantastic to compare this with Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard." The structure is almost identical, and the mood may have more in common than we can at present suspect….

Mr. Weller's skill is two-fold. He writes dialogue that is both believable and yet surprising, which is no easy trick. He also relates a man to his setting. There are a hundred and one stories in this play, but what is important is that every single character rings totally true….

"Moonchildren" is the rare kind of play that you go to, and you laugh a lot. But, rarer still, the next day your laughter has an aftertaste of immortality. Lines, scenes and attitudes stick with you and you suddenly realize that that harmless pile of jokes, interspersed with a few shards of reality, has really meant something to you. (p. 51)

Clive Barnes, in The New York Times (© 1973 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 5, 1973.