Brooks Atkinson

Definition

Theater

  • (1894 - 1984) The drama critic for the New York Timesfrom 1926 until 1960 (except during World War II, when he was a warcorrespondent in China and Russia). Atkinson was respected for hispenetrating reviews and was credited with the ability to make or breakshows. He received a Tony Award for distinguished achievement in thetheater and when he retired the Mansfield Theatre on Broadway wasrenamed the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in his honour (1960).

    Atkinson could be effusive in his praise, as when describingBeatrice Lillie in Oh, Please (1926) as "anincomparable comedienne in the highly intelligent vein of CharlieChaplin", or saying of Ethel Merman's performance inGypsy: "her personal magnetism electrifies the wholetheater." At the same time he was no respecter of reputations,noting of Charles Laughton's Galileo in 1947: "Hispompous acting and his overbearing attitude towards the drama reducedepic theater to the level of exhibitionism." He also savagedLaurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh's performancesin Romeo and Juliet in 1940 (which had been highly praisedin Chicago): "Much scenery, no play. Although Miss Leigh andMr Olivier are handsome young people, they hardly act the parts atall, and Mr Olivier in particular keeps throwing his part away."Reviewing a British actress named April who had opened on Broadwayhe noted sharply: "Oh, to be in England, now that's April'shere."

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