Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1201

When A Taste of Honey opened on Broadway in October, 1960, most critics seemed more taken with the author’s age than with her play. Almost every review commented upon Delaney’s age, and a few upon her six foot height, but few endorsed the rousing success that the British critics bestowed upon the play. Most New York critics, instead, praised the cast and director, offering mixed praise for the play’s content. These critics took a wait and see attitude toward Delaney’s future prospects as a successful playwright.

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In his review of A Taste of Honey, the New York Time’s Howard Taubman stated that the play was ‘‘an evocation of disenchantment done with touching honesty.’’ Taubman cited the play’s honesty and ‘‘plainness of truth’’ as strengths of the writer, whom, he stated has a way of telling a story that is ‘‘modest, almost muted.’’ Much of Taubman’s praise, however, was directed toward the performers, especially Joan Plowright as Jo, who the critic felt ‘‘captures the shell of cynicism that the girl has grown to shield herself from her hopelessness.’’ Plowright provided a performance that Taubman called, ‘‘haunting.’’ Of the playwright, Taubman noted that ‘‘the Lancashire lass may grow more optimistic as she grows older.’’ Taubman, however, did not see Delaney’s pessimism as a deterrent, finding in her play, ‘‘the redeeming savor of truth.’’

John McClain, writing for the American Journal, also found the honesty of the characters an important element of the play. McClain stated that Delaney ‘‘has not written a drama of any great significance, but she has a beautiful ear for dialogue and an amazingly uncluttered feeling for the people with whom she has grown up in her little Lancashire town.’’ Delaney’s ability to bring truth to her characters’ voices is a strength, although that does not entirely make up for the lack of purpose in her play, according to McClain. Although Delaney’s work lacks a political or sociological agenda, McClain pointed out that the play ‘‘is written with such obvious sincerity and familiarity, and it is so well played, that it becomes a very touching experience in the theatre.’’ As did other reviewers, McClain also admired Plowright’s performance as a highlight of the play.

Richard Watts Jr. also offered a strong endorsement in his review for the New York Post. Of the characters, Watts stated that they ‘‘have a warmblooded reality about them which reveals the young authoress as a dramatist who knows how to fill a play with recognizable and vivid human beings.’’ Of the playwright, Watts praised Delaney and stating that ‘‘she knows how to create characters throbbing with life, she can build a dramatic situation with honesty and expertness, she writes a simple but vigorous prose and she has a compassion that is wry, unsentimental and always believable. Without sacrificing her status as a realist, she can bring fresh imagination to the drabness of her narrative. Her drama has perhaps its weaker moments, but it rarely ceases to be effective.’’ Watts’s enthusiasm for Delaney, having referred to her as exhibiting ‘‘compassionate candor . . . [and] frank and explicit realism,’’ was also extended to Plowright’s performance, which he calls, ‘‘deeply moving.’’

Plowright was also a major strength of the play, according to the New York World Telegram’s Frank Aston, who said that Plowright’s is a ‘‘bravura’’ performance. Once again, as did other reviewers, Aston cited Delaney’s honesty and reality in creating these characters and dialogue. But in the end, it was Plowright’s skill as an actor that carried the show, providing ‘‘a moving experience.’’

Some reviewers offered a more mixed assessment of Delaney’s...

(The entire section contains 1201 words.)

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