Despite major script revisions made by playwright Israel Horovitz in his play, "Park Your Car in Harvard Yard," during the show's four-week tryout in Baltimore, the New York critics have given his new work a lukewarm reception at best.
The play, set in the fishing town of Gloucester, Mass., debuted last Thursday at the Music Box Theater on Broadway. Although a few critics praised the script, the general consensus seems to be that "Park Your Car . . ." is too long, too redundant, too predictable, too contrived and too routine.
Designer Ben Edwards' shabby yet homey set won practically across-the-board kudos. Director Zoe Caldwell received an assortment of negative and positive reviews.
Most critics gave actor Jason Robards glowing notices for his depiction of an aloof, elderly New England English professor who has not long to live.
MA Judith Ivey as his drab, loudmouthed housekeeper received her
fair share of excellent notices, but Frank Rich of the New York Times commented in his column, "Ms. Ivey, who can be a gutsy comedienne, seems entirely phony here, from her thick accent (New England) to her blubbering efforts to express grief over the rather suspicious number of past family deaths with which Mr. Horovitz hopes to elicit sympathy for her long-suffering character."
Saying "The evening's only stab at drama is a series of completely unconvincing revelations," he also adds, "It is hard to believe that 'Park Your Car . . .' was written by one of this country's most prolific professional dramatists."
Clive Barnes of the New York Post says, "I suppose there is a story lurking behind this vehicular excuse to parade the formidable, if here only modestly exercised, talents of Judith Ivey and Jason Robards. But such story as there might be tends to keep itself to itself."
On the other hand, veteran reviewer John Simon of New York magazine gave the play a largely favorable review. While allowing that the work may be manipulative and the twists predictable and wildly contrived, he says, "the dialogue tickles, provokes, soothes and entertains. There is stage life in these characters, each exuding plenty of droll savor. Especially so when they are enacted flawlessly by the likes of Jason Robards and Judith Ivey."
Howard Kissel of the Daily News says, "Though the play never rises above the trivial, Robards and Ivey are a constant delight."
Jeffrey Lyons of CBS Radio was disappointed but liked the performances. In his commentary he observed, "'Park Your Car in Harvard Yard' has me saying park your car near the Music Box Theatre and go in and watch this play and give it time to develop. Then you'll only wish the play had matched the performance of its luminous stars."
"Park Your Car in Harvard Yard" is scheduled to run at the Music Box through Feb. 1, 1992.