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the Complete Review
the complete review - diary

How's That for Telling 'Em,
Fat Lady ?

Simon Gray

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Title: How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ?
Author: Simon Gray
Genre: Diary
Written: 1988
Length: 236 pages
Availability: How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ? - US
How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ? - UK
How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ? - Canada
  • A Short Life in the American Theatre

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Our Assessment:

B : diverting but not engrossing

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ? is yet another theatre-diary by Simon Gray (see also An Unnatural Pursuit (see our review) and Fat Chance (see our review) ). This one details Gray's American travails, as he describes his experiences with the Los Angeles and New York productions of The Common Pursuit and a Dallas production of Dog Days (see also our review)
       The Common Pursuit production in Los Angeles was at the Matrix -- which, as Gray explains at the beginning, is a 'waiver' theatre, so small that Equity rules don't apply and everyone works for free. This allowed the play (and actors) to be showcased -- which seems to have paid off, as much the same production then did get a New York run. Despite working for nothing (at least in LA) there were some fine talents involved, including late replacement Nathan Lane (not yet quite so famous in 1986) and Kristoffer Tabori (then near the zenith of his career (which culminated with his starring role in the fondly remembered mini-series adaptation of Paul Theroux's The London Embassy -- and guest appearances on the likes of sit-coms such as The Facts of Life)).
       Lane replaced another actor, who hadn't quite worked out. Gray has decorously but regrettably altered the name of this poor chap, but otherwise he's fairly upfront with the good, the bad, and the ugly. And a lot of the stage-related stuff is pretty ugly -- disastrous sets and lighting, actors getting things wrong, etc. etc. But then that's where most of the fun is.
       Still, the theatre details -- the daily rehearsals, the criticisms and corrections -- can get rather tiresome. There's little sense of either play (especially for anyone not familiar with them) or much theatre magic.
       What is fun is most of the rest. Gray is quite the character (he doesn't sound like a great deal of fun to work with -- as he himself admits), and from his daily quaffing of two glasses of champagne after rising late-mornings (along with other alcoholic excesses) to his attempts to get a video hooked up in his hotel rooms (or to rent some video tapes) to his attempts to quit smoking many of his experiences and habits are quite amusing. In particular, they are well related: Gray does write well and sharply, and has a fine wit.
       The best parts are the small (and occasionally snide) asides and observations. The New York taxi-driver joke that lends the book it's title isn't the best of these (though apt), but there is worthwhile stuff here. Gray strikes the right tone with his dry wit and self-deprecating manner throughout, and the book is an amusing look at an Englishman playing at theatre in the United States -- but it's not as revealing (or informative) as one might hope. Still, it's a decent piece of entertainment.

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How's That for Telling 'Em, Fat Lady ?: The Common Pursuit:
  • Review of The Matrix production (from The Los Angeles Times)
Simon Gray: Other books by Simon Gray under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       British author Simon Gray (1936-2008) wrote numerous plays, as well as works of fiction and non-fiction.

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