[Marxism] Charles Marowitz, Director and Playwright, Dies at 82

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 11 19:41:15 MDT 2014

(Charles Marowitz was a long-term contributor to Swans Magazine.)

NY Times, May 11 2014
Charles Marowitz, Director and Playwright, Dies at 82

Charles Marowitz, who brought a thorny iconoclasm to a versatile theater 
career as a director, playwright, teacher and critic, died on May 2 in 
Agoura Hills, Calif. He was 82.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Jane 

Irrepressible, highly literate and fiercely opinionated, Mr. Marowitz 
led an unusual theatrical life in both England and the United States, 
occupying seats in a variety of relationships to the stage.

In the 1960s and 1970s, he directed a number of shows on the West End in 
London, including Joe Orton’s scabrous farce “Loot” and Sam Shepard’s 
dark musical play about celebrity and rock ’n’ roll, “The Tooth of 
Crime.” But he was probably best known as a director for his avant-garde 
and often unsettling adaptations of Shakespeare, Ibsen and other 
generally revered writers.

A natural and gleeful contrarian, he reimagined “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” 
as absurdist collages, reassembling the plays’ speeches in a different 
order. In his “Hedda Gabler,” applying a hyperbolic Freudian sheen, he 
had Hedda riding her father’s back and whipping him like a beast of burden.

The first production of the London company he founded with Thelma Holt, 
the Open Space Theater, was “Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” John Herbert’s 
tough-minded 1967 drama dealing with homosexuality in prison; Mr. 
Marowitz turned the theater itself into a prison, posting actors playing 
guards at the theater doors and frisking patrons as they entered.

“The motive behind much of what I do as a director is a profound 
dissatisfaction with the psychological and naturalistic vogue which 
since the beginning of the century has been associated with, and to a 
certain extent glorified by, Stanislavsky and, in America, codified by 
the Method,” Mr. Marowitz wrote in one his many theater books, “The 
Other Way: An Alternative Approach to Acting and Directing.”

As a playwright, Mr. Marowitz wrote a handful of mysteries, most notably 
“Sherlock’s Last Case,” a turgidly if ingeniously plotted tale that was 
especially notable for its unpleasant depiction of Sherlock Holmes as an 
egomaniacal petty tyrant. The play reached Broadway in 1987, with Frank 
Langella in the leading role, received mixed reviews (drubbed by Frank 
Rich in The New York Times, it was called “elegant” and “full of 
insights into an enduring and fascinating character” by The Daily News) 
and ran for 124 performances.

Followers of the popular, as opposed to avant-garde, theater would most 
recall Mr. Marowitz from his criticism. He wrote for many publications, 
including The Times, for which he chronicled the London theater scene 
for many years. An advocate of the brave, the challenging, the 
experimental, he could be witheringly dismissive of the commonplace and 
hard on artists he admired, holding them to a high standard. He often 
wrote with incisiveness, wit and disdain at the same time.

“There are two kinds of bafflement in the theater: the kind that 
fascinates as it perplexes, and the kind that just perplexes,” he wrote 
in The Times in 1969 in an essay about Mr. Shepard’s play “La Turista,” 
which had recently opened in London. “If a play doesn’t make quick 
sense, but enters into some kind of dialogue with our subconscious, we 
tend to admit it to that lounge where we entertain 
interesting-albeit-unfamiliar strangers.

“If it only baffles, there are several courses open to us: we can assume 
it is ‘above our heads’ or directed ‘to some other kind of person,’ or 
regretfully conclude that it confuses us because it is itself confused. 
However, the fear of being proved wrong is so great today that almost 
every new work which isn’t patently drivel gets the benefit of the 
doubt. ‘La Turista,’ at the moment, is basking in a glow of uncertain 
approval which is maintained only by suppressing the ennui it 
unquestionably engenders.”

Although many sources say Mr. Marowitz was born in 1934, he was born in 
Manhattan on Jan. 26, 1932, according to his birth certificate. He grew 
up on the Lower East Side, where he attended Seward Park High School. 
His parents, Yudel Marowitz, who was known as Harry, and the former 
Tillie Rosenkrantz, were Jewish immigrants from Poland who worked in the 
garment industry.

Drafted into the Army, he served in Europe during the Korean War, mostly 
editing a base newspaper. After the war, he moved to London and attended 
the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where he would later teach.

In the early 196os, Mr. Marowitz collaborated with Peter Brook in Royal 
Shakespeare Company productions of difficult works like “Marat/Sade” by 
Peter Weiss and “The Screens” by Jean Genet. In 1964, they created an 
experimental season of Theater of Cruelty, based on the ideas of Antonin 
Artaud, who advocated an artifice-shredding theater that attempted to 
stimulate an audience’s fundamental fears.

In the company they put together was a little-known actress named Glenda 
Jackson, whose fame was propelled when she was cast in a skit to play 
both Jacqueline Kennedy and the call girl Christine Keeler (whose 
liaison with the British secretary of state for war, John Profumo, 
helped bring down the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harold 
Macmillan). Shockingly for the time, she appeared onstage naked.

Mr. Marowitz’s brief first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his 
wife, the former Jane Elizabeth Allsop, whom he married in 1982, he is 
survived by a son, Konstantin, known as Kostya.

Mr. Marowitz, who acknowledged that he was an acerbic and not entirely 
tolerant personality, returned to the United States in 1981 and moved to 
Los Angeles, where his “Hamlet” was presented at the Los Angeles Actors 
Theater (now the Los Angeles Theater Center). That production began an 
association that lasted until 1989, when he organized a panel on the 
future of theater that caused a ruckus because it included only 
English-speaking participants.

In the months before The Los Angeles Herald Examiner folded in 1989, he 
served as its theater critic. He founded a new troupe, the Malibu Stage 
Company, in 1990 and was its artistic director for a dozen years; the 
board of directors removed him in 2002 after he reportedly had insulted 
several of its members.

“Maybe I don’t suffer fools gladly,” he said at the time, according to 
The Los Angeles Times. Nothing in his contract, he added, said “I had to 
be a sweet fellow.”

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