Teeth on Edge: Andrew Bitten on an Overly Grand Production of "The American Chekhov"

New Statesman (1996), April 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Teeth on Edge: Andrew Bitten on an Overly Grand Production of "The American Chekhov"


Lyttelton Theatre, London SE1

Rocket to the Moon

Surgeons are the swashbuckling and scalpel-waving heroes of medical fiction--dentists not so much. Although Martin Amis and John Updike have both written with painful honesty about teeth, as has the journalist William Leith, and although toothache vies with heartache in Vronsky after the suicide of Anna Karenina, dentists rarely get their literary due. An exception would be the hero of Frank Norris's 1899 novel, McTeague, who ends up a destitute murderer. My point may be that if you are going to build a work of art around a dentist-a job that, for some reason, translates from life into fiction somewhat risibly-he had better be a pretty sensational dentist.

One of the problems with Clifford Odets's Rocket to the Moon, a play from the 1930s almost as forgotten as McTeague the novel, is that its hero, the New York dentist Ben Stark, is far from exceptional. He presides over a business that is notable in the play's two and a half hours for its almost complete lack of customers, and he lacks the drive to move it uptown. In this dream, which would be financed by his father-in-law, he is obstructed by his wife, who hates her father. Belle (Keeley Hawes), at the start of Act I, is a harridan, but not such a harridan she could not be stood up to. But Ben, although a man of words, has no idea how to fight with them. As Ben, Joseph Millson is bland--blander, surely, than even Odets intended. Like the Cheshire Cat in Alice, when he leaves the stage all that lingers in the memory is-appropriately enough-his perfect, toothsome grin.

Ben needs not so much a rocket to the moon, as one up his backside. It arrives in the form of Cleo Singer, a simple secretary who could be the personification of Freud's pleasure principle. Young, comely and with the arrogance of both youth and comeliness, she takes many liberties, not only with Ben-whom she addresses by his first name--but with the truth, elaborating a grand family background for herself that even she cannot expect anyone to believe.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Teeth on Edge: Andrew Bitten on an Overly Grand Production of "The American Chekhov"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.