Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
When Andre Previn suggested to Tom Stoppard that the playwright create a work for actors and symphony orchestra, one conclusion could be drawn unquestionably and immediately. It would be unlike anything else.
To suggest this uncommon creation in reasonably common terms, think of Kafka as though he was writing in the style of Gertrude Stein and Lewis Carroll.
Revealed Tuesday night in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in the first of six performances, "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" has the creative strength of stimulation. There is nothing boring, nothing obviously old hat about it. It is well indeed that producer Roger L. Stevens insisted on presenting it as it had been performed only once before in London, with full orchestra, Previn conducting.
Stoppard's contribution is a one-act play in which the central characters are confined to a mental hospital in the Soviet Union. Ivanov is clearly mad, imagining himself part of a great symphony orchestra. He has utter contempt for all musicians except himself, a genius of the triangle.
Alexander is increasingly pained to have such a cellmate. He is a political deviate confined for his thoughts. "I have no symptons," he tells the mental doctor, "I have opinions." The doctor replies: "Your opinions are your symptoms."
Characteristically with Stoppard, both characters have the same family name. When the hospital's colonel arrives, he mistakes their symptoms, finds both free of delusions and political heresy and orders them released.
In a final twist of the story, Alexander's son, who has had a role in his confinement, is shown as a Disney-like innocent: "Everything will be all right," sings the child.
With central characters which recall Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in their paradoxical exchanges, Stoppard is in the form which has brought him so much admiration, the whimsical thinker who sees life not as a progression of pure logic but as a parade of questions, seemingly unrelated but of the same, vast, universal carpet.
Stoppard veteran John Wood is Ivanov, with Eli Wallach expressive as his baffled cellmate and Remak Ramsay as the doctor. There are three, white, circular performing areas, down front and upper right and left within the traditional orchestra seating. Bobby Scott, Carol Teitel and Carl Low complete the speakers. Stoppard and Previn joined them for cheers from the full house.
"EGBDF" is a luxurious four de force permitted only to such verbal and musical originals as Stoppard and Previn.