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picture - Something You DidTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published April 18, 2008


Something You Did

now playing Off Broadway at 59E59

through April 26


Because I knew some of the people involved in the production of Willy Holtzman’s Something You Did, I was reluctant to write a review, but the harsh criticism this work has received both confused and angered me. The play – about the potential pardon of a former radical who was responsible for the death of a policeman – is a fiction based on fact (much as Philip Roth’s haunting American Pastoral was aesthetically tied to similar social themes).


Yes, the play is less a work of character development and dramatic confrontation than it is a series of even-handed arguments, but, when the arguments are written with the lively intelligence and  eloquence that Holtzman has brought to the material, and when it is directed with the behavioral warmth which Carolyn Cantor further brings to it, and when it is acted, as it is, by a cast that is clearly motivated by passion and commitment, attention should be paid. Yes, it is polemical theater, and you never doubt on which side Holtzman is on, but it is within the tradition of a still valid form of theater.


But, just as the country has moved to the right of center, and liberalism has become a fashionably dirty word, some theater criticism has been desperately trying to steer theater away from its leftist instincts. That should not stop anyone, however, from seeing that good theater, whatever its source, is good theater. And Something You Did is a serious and seriously entertaining evening of theater. One might wish that it were more artful, that it transcended its resemblance to television drama, but one could not wish, for example, for better performances than the ones given by Adriane Lenox as the policeman’s daughter who can barely repress her smoldering rage, Portia as a no-nonsense prison matron, and Victor Slezak as a radical-turned-right-wing pundit who still has the power to use with the ugliest kind of ease his male sexuality.


The play runs through April 26. which doesn’t give you much time, but I recommend it highly to anyone who is not ashamed of being labeled a liberal and who is not afraid to be manipulated by political theater if it is conceived and performed with the obvious skill and sense of engagement which informs Something You Did.


harveyperr @


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