The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Indian Blood

I want to make one thing clear to these boys here. If you're going to eat with adults, you'll have to eat like adults. Which means no gravy pools in the middle of your mashed potatoes. And no pushing your peas onto your forks with your fingers. and no picking up bones, and gnawing on them like the jackals in Kipling's Jungle Book. --- Eddie's father's instructions to the boys at the Christmas dinner table,

Indian Blood
Pamela Payton-Wright and Charles Socarides in the world premiere of Indian Blood by A.R. Gurney
(Photo: James Leynse)
To imagine an erotic encounter between Injun Joe from Tom Sawyer and Glinda the good witch from The Wizard of Oz is not a stretch for 16 year-old Eddie (Charles Socarides). It was, in fact, rather easy for him to let his mind wander during Latin class and proceed to draw the provocative picture of those two unlikely and, as he saw them, nude lovers. Ratted on by Lambert (Jeremy Blackman), his nerdy second cousin who attends the same class and whom Eddie takes a particular pleasure in taunting, he is severely reprimanded ("Sic semper pornography") by the school-master Mr. Kenyon (Matthew Arkin).

Eddie's behavior results in his being suspended from school for three weeks. It also results in a few relatively uneventful but auspicious days for Eddie amongst his well-to-do, closely-knit family in Buffalo, New York, Christmas 1946. For many of us, Eddie's encounters with his parents and grandparents in which the legendary lore of his family's Indian connection is facetiously threaded, reflect a remote and rarified existence, one that is marked by its overly functional as well as it dysfunctional aspects.

Indian Blood is Gurney's memory play of growing up in a privileged society and in a family where the older generations were quite visible, venerable, and made lasting impressions. Written with a generosity of spirit and told from a refreshingly unsophisticated perspective, this retreat into the past specifically commemorates the playwright's father's family. As noted in the program, Gurney has previously "tried to get into the heads of my mother's family" in a play called Ancestral Voices. He's dramatized Indian Bloodwith a lovingly articulated simplicity that's nicely directed by Mark Lamos with an eye for its purposefully quaint pretensions.

The play begins with vintage postcards of post-World War II Buffalo projected on a show curtain but is performed with only a minimal use of either projections or props. Think Thornton Wilder's Our Town by way of The Long Christmas Dinner, invigorated by a slightly rebellious narrative that faintly suggests Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Eight excellent actors, some doubling and one tripling, portray twelve characters.

Although Socarides, as Eddie, the play's story-teller, doesn't have the good fortune to be as eccentrically defined as the older generations, he is totally engaging without being overly solicitous for our affection. Standout performances abound and vie for our attention. What a pleasure it is see the wonderful Rebecca Luker in a non-singing role as Eddie's refreshingly non-critical mother. Not quite true, as Luker sings Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" at the family Christmas gathering. She is particularly subtle in expressing her feelings and her grievances to her stiff-necked, unwittingly preoccupied and prejudiced husband Harvey, as played with bankable waspishness by Jack Gilpin. Pamela Payton-Wright is wonderful as Eddie's irrevocably spoiled and doted upon grandmother, as is John McMartin, as Eddie's grandfather, a man with a devilish twinkle in his eye and a dubious tale to be told.

Arkin uses some sly strokes to create Mr. Kenyon's straight-laced attitude toward his unruly student and a slightly less straight countenance as the (Grand) Mama's boy Uncle Paul. Katherine McGrath has three characters, including the servants, to invest with affectionate aplomb. There is not much to love about that "squealer"" Lambert, as played with an infuriating zeal by Blackman. His general nastiness finally provokes a rough and tumble fight with Eddie at the family's Christmas Eve dinner (vigorously staged by B. H. Barry). There may not be a significant dramatic arc in this civilized portrait of a family legend and of the legacy it leaves to the next generation. But the amusing conversations and confrontations between Eddie and his elders appear to be filling in parts of the larger mosaic that Gurney has been steadily creating.

A.R. Gurney's interest in and focus on chronicling the experiences of the American WASP. His canon of gin and tonic comedies about that privileged society includes The Dining Room (1982), and The Cocktail Hour (1989), which seemed to confirm that he is most at home in the northeast corridor of America. However, he has also taken some daring departures from his oeuvre; for example, his 1998 one-act play The Guest Lecturer delved into the roots of classic ancient pre-Hellenic comedy prior to Aristophanes, and in 1999, Far East which he took us 6,000 miles from his customary setting.

Aside from his most commercially successful and popular plays, Sylvia and Love Letters, Gurney has also been motivated to engage us with his humor-propelled political comedy, Mrs. Farnsworth (2004). With the premiere of Indian Blood, Gurney can be said to have come full circle. He is once again defined by his anthropological sociological explorations, as he is by the play's subject/point-of-view character. Some may find this a bit stylistically flimsy, but it is, nevertheless, a charming play and a rewardingly nostalgic retreat back to Gurneyland.

Indian Blood
By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Mark Lamos
Cast: Matthew Arkin, Jeremy Blackman, Jack Gilpin, Rebecca Luker, Katherine McGrath, John McMartin, Charles Socarides, Pamela Payton-Wright.
Set Designer: John Arnone
Costume Designer: Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Designer: Howell Binkley
Original Music & Sound Designer: John Gromada
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes without intermission
A Primary Stages production at at the 59E59 Theaters (212 ) 279 - 4200.
From 7/25/06 to 9/02/06; opening 8/06/06
Wednesday through Saturdays at 8 PM with matinees Saturdays at 2 PM and Wednesday matinees on August 16, 23, & 30 at 2 PM.
Single tickets are $60 and are available Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on performance Friday August 4.
Stage Plays
The Internet Theatre Bookshop "Virtually Every Play in the World" --even out of print plays

Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from