April 20, 1994, Wednesday
Theater in Review Hide Your Love Away The Ballad of Brian Epstein
By BEN BRANTLEY
Actors' Playhouse 100 Seventh Avenue South, at West Fourth Street Greenwich Village
By Kevin Scott; directed by Leonard Foglia; set by Michael McGarty; costumes by Markas Henry; lighting by Betsy Finston; sound by One Dream Sound; dialect coach, Ralph Zito; production stage manager, Bruce Greenwood; executive producer, Steven M. Levy.
Presented by the Eclectic Theater Company, in association with the Liverpool Production Company and Peter Breger.
WITH: Amy Hohn, Sarah Long, Albert Macklin, Stephen Singer and Justin Theroux.
"Hide Your Love Away: The Ballad of Brian Epstein" is not only the clunkiest title of an Off Broadway play this season, but it is also, unfortunately, a misnomer.
No one hides much of anything in this wearyingly confessional fantasy about the last night in the tortured life of the man who managed the Beatles.
Written by Kevin Scott and directed by Leonard Foglia, this is a play in which revelations, usually centered around retrospective monologues, slosh out of people like cocktails in overfilled tumblers. ("Before I met the Beatles, I met a man in a public lavatory," begins one of them.) Seldom has so much hysterically delivered exposition been packed into one evening of theater.
Set in the office of Epstein's London town house during an imagined star-studded party in August 1967, the play is a dense compendium of information, both factual and speculative, about the life of the self-lacerating band manager, who died of a barbiturate overdose at 32. Much of the material, particularly that involving Epstein's anxiety about the possible defection of the Beatles and his unrequited love for John Lennon, will be familiar to anyone who has read the less hagiographic books about the Beatles or seen Christopher Munch's film "The Hours and Times."
Fans of David Angus's contained, ironic portrait in Mr. Munch's movie won't recognize Epstein here. As portrayed by Albert Macklin, he is a campy, quip-slinging hybrid of Bertie Wooster and Oscar Wilde, shattered heart worn on Savile Row sleeves.
As various characters try to pull Epstein from his suicidal course, Mr. Macklin goes from shrill to shriller. Epstein may indeed have been like this, but none of it seems very real.
By the time Epstein announces, "People wonder how I kept at it when every label in London turned us down: I was in love," one feels one has wandered from swinging London into the purple realms of a Douglas Sirk melodrama.
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