Michael Weller Clive Barnes - Essay

Clive Barnes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Fishing" is a perceptive picture of a generation or at least one aspect of it….

Mr. Weller's ear for dialogue is as convincing as ever, and his good-natured wit (his characters are rarely waspish; irony or violence is the nearest they get to nastiness) is always appealing. Despite a slow, rather poor beginning, and a joking, pseudo-melodramatic ending that doesn't quite come off, the play is neatly constructed. You get to know the people and they are interesting.

The author's theme is one of survival. "Keep on," a character says at one point, "stay alive." They often talk casually of death, but do not wish it. I am not sure what kind of development this marks from "Moonchildren"—lateral perhaps—but Mr. Weller's writing, if not his dramaturgy, is more secure than ever….

Mr. Weller does not seem to write gratefully for characters outside his central group—it was the same in "Moonchildren"—and the … monumentally stoned gravedigger and … the dying fisherman can never quite redeem for the author the basic shallowness of the characterizations.

After the first few moments of awkward angling, I thoroughly enjoyed "Fishing." It is certainly a revealing play. In 100 years time, if anyone is around, it will tell them something about us. Or some of us. (p. 41)

Clive Barnes, in The New York Times (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 13, 1975.