The Subject Was Roses Critical Overview - Essay

Frank D. Gilroy

Critical Overview

(Drama for Students)

The Subject Was Roses was enthusiastically received by New York theater critics, who heaped unanimous praise on the play after the opening night. Walter Kerr in the New York Herald Tribune (May 26, 1964) called it ‘‘quite the most interesting new American play to be offered on Broadway this season.’’ (The review is reprinted, as are all the quoted first-night reviews by New York critics, in Gilroy’s About Those Roses or How Not To Do a Play and Succeed, and the text of The Subject Was Roses.) Describing it as a play of ‘‘alienation,’’ Kerr admired how the lifetime of frustration that characterizes the parents come out in small incidents. Both in the writing and the staging, ‘‘there is an economy of effect, a directness of tongue, together with a simplicity of gesture, that very nearly opens the door to an unexpected—but most plausible—poetry.’’ He also had high praise for all three members of the cast: Jack Albertson (John), Irene Dailey (Nettie), and Martin Sheen (Timmy).

Howard Taubman, in the New York Times (May 26, 1964), called the play ‘‘an honest and touching work. . . . With simplicity, humor and integrity [Gilroy] has looked into the hearts of three decent people and discovered, by letting them discover, the feelings that divide and join them.’’ Taubman particularly appreciated the careful way that Gilroy builds up the mood and the conflict.

For Richard Watts, Jr. in the...

(The entire section is 603 words.)