Written by Fred Patten, and published on the LASFS Rex Rotary, March 24, 1965. Intended for Apa L, Twenty-Third Distribution, LASFS Meeting no. 1441, March 25, 1965. Address: 1825 Greenfield Avenue, Los Angeles, California, 90025. Phone: GRanite 3-6321.
|Long Beach in 1965!||San Diego in 1966!||Salamander Press #85.|
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The LASFS Theatre Party to see Ray Bradbury's "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" wasn't nearly as much a success as the one to "The World of Ray Bradbury", unfortunately. The main reason, speaking pragmatically, was that we didn't sell all our tickets, and the remainder could not be returned. Only 33 of the 40 tickets were sold, leaving seven on which we lost money. Thus, instead of making $4.80 for Operation: Andy Capp, the club treasury is out $9.20. A depressing turn of events.
As far as the show itself went, I have mixed feelings. "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" itself was superb; better than any of the three plays that composed "The World of Ray Bradbury". Unfortunately, the two side plays with it were miserable, and had the net result of detracting from the evening's overall enjoyment. The two side plays were "A Device Out of Time", which is Bradbury's short story "The Time Machine", in which the machine is an old man's memory; and "The Day It Rained Forever" (instead of the announced "Beyond the Reef"), about a group of old men in a hotel in a ghost town in Arizona, waiting for the one day in the year on which it rains. Both of these are pure syrup and schmaltz, without any of the Bradbury virtues whatsoever; I was never even able to understand what "The Day It Rained Forever" was about after reading it as a story, and seeing the play left me more confused than ever. "A Device Out of Time" at lest made sense, even if I didn't care for it. It did have one point that I didn't get, though. It established that the play was set in 1929, that Colonel Freeleigh was 99 years old, and that he was born in 1830. Fine. How, then, could he have been a 14-year-old drummer boy at Antietam? These two plays flanked "Ice Cream Suit"; "Device" preceding and "Day It Rained" following. After sitting through about five minutes of "Device", I moaned to myself, "Oh, Ghod, it's going to be a long night." Then "Ice Cream Suit" came on, and though it must've been at least three times as long as either of the other two, I found myself asking, "Over already?" when the curtain finally came down. "Day It Rained" followed, and I had to fight to stay awake, waiting impatiently for it to come to an end. The result is that, while I urge everybody to see "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit" itself, arrive late and leave early so as not to be tortured by the other two playlets.
But "Ice Cream Suit" is worth seeing all by itself. A comedy, it has nothing to do with science-fiction whatever. It's set in the Mexican section of (presumably) Los Angeles, and tells how six young men, each too poor to afford a snappy suit to impress the girls, all chip in for one fabulous white suit -- "like the summer moon; like vanilla ice cream" -- to be worn in turn; and how it affects each of them: Gomez, the organizer; Martinez, the shy young lover; Villanazul, the street-corner intellectual; Dominguez, the Latin Lover; and Vamanos, the slob. The story was briskly charming as written, and somehow, Bradbury has given the play the aura of having been speeded up, without actually leaving anything out that I can remember. The result is livelier than ever; a play that is continuously in motion (even the sets shifting from scene to scene contribute to the overall effect of bustling motion) and that never once slows down to become dull. Well, yes, once; when Martinez in the suit finally attracts the attention of the girl he has Admired From Afar; but then, they are supposed to be shy young lovers, and the scene can't be rushed too quickly. As this is not s-f, there is no need for exotic makeup, costuming, or special effects; the play is much more "straight" in these respects than any of the playlets composing "The World of Ray Bradbury", or than "Device", in which Col. Freeleigh (Booth Colman) keeps switching costumes to become, alternately, an old man, a Chinese magician, a plainsman, and a Civil War soldier. The only technical trick is in the shifting of the scenes; the stage is briefly darkened in a quick semi-interlude, and the sets are still settling in place as the lights come on for the new scene. As I said, this contributes to the spirit of liveliness, and was a great idea on the part of whoever thought of it. Overall, then, the play is a sheer delight; better even than the television version, because this one had much more essence of pure Bradbury in it. Indeed, it is interesting to compare "Ice Cream Suit" with "Device" and "Day It Rained" in this respect; all have the Bradbury word-poetry, the verbal imagery, the soul-speech that so identifies a Bradbury work. The difference is that "Ice Cream Suit" has an active plot to buoy up all the verbiage and to carry it flowing along, while the other two are basically static dialogues (and in the case of "Device", essentially a monologue), and without anything really happening, the plays soon bog down and the mass of words just keeps building up until it finally smothers you. A pity. I would think, though, that "Ice Cream Suit" would be perfect for the movies; the basic plot could easily be padded out to regular movie length without noticeably slowing down the action, and I would imagine that it would make a delightful musical. If it ever is, keep your eyes open for it.
The Saturday night party at the Labyrinth was a success for anyone who liked to play games. Mostly bourree; there were so many playing at the main table that a waiting list set up a game of their own at one of the smaller tables. I got into a game of Diplomacy that lasted for most of the pre-play period, from 7:00 to 10:15. After the play, I was so tired that I came straight home with the Schultheisen; Al says he stayed at the party until after 4:00 a.m., and it was still going on when he left. I guess we can call it successful.
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Ever since Alfred Hitchcock made it big several years back with his own television series and his suspense magazines, several "Alfred Hitchcock presents" anthologies of mystery stories have been appearing at fairly regular intervals. The hardbound editions of these are published by Random House, and usually carry an obscure note "gratefully acknowledging the assistance of Robert Arthur in the preparation of this volume." Besides such adult anthologies as Stories for Late at Night (which has some s-f mixed in with the mysteries), Random House has also begun a series of "Alfred Hitchcock presents" mystery collections for children. I've been briefly noticing and mostly ignoring these for a couple of years now, but last weekend I took a closer look at a stack of them in the bookstore, and I discovered t hat among the "Hitchcock" books is one frankly credited to Arthur. This is Robert Arthur's Ghosts and More Ghosts, Random House, 1963, 211 pgs., #3.95. it is advertised as "10 Stories of Ghosts, Haunts, Spooks, Spells, and Witchcraft for Young People", and is designed as a children's book, with large type and uncredited illustrations (good ones); but it is the first Robert Arthur collection that I know of, and the stories are all adult fantasies. There are none from UNKNOWN, but there are a few from WEIRD TALES and the general pulps; most of them date from the early '40's, though some are copyrighted as late as '62, and most if not all have been reprinted in F&SF over the years. They are all slick fantasies, not inappropriate for the young-teen readership, but written for adults; and as far as I can tell, they have not been edited down in any way. Included are "Garvey's Ghost", "Miracle on Main Street", "Postpaid to Paradise", "The Thing Invisible", "Don't Be a Goose!", and others you may remember, including two Murchison Morks stories. An Arthur collection has been overdue for some time now, and these are all good stories; it's a pity that the children's format will keep it from being noticed by the s-f and Arthur fans, and will probably keep it from being reprinted is a cheap paperback edition.