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A Man for All Seasons received a yawning review from the New York Times when it opened on Broadway this fall. But, poking around in the NYT archives, I received a lesson in changing times and tastes. Maybe more than tastes . . .

Then (1961):

“A Man for All Seasons” is written with distinction. It combines in equal measure the dancing, ironic wit of detachment, and the steady blue flame of commitment. With its commingling of literary grace, intellectual subtlety and human simplicity, it challenges the mind and, in the end, touches the heart. For it is not only about a man for all seasons but also about an aspiration for all time . . . .

Because the nature of Sir Thomas More deepens rather than alters and because his emotions are merely suggested in the quiet sparkle of his mind, the role is enormously exciting.

—Howard Taubman, NYT , Nov. 23, 1961

Now (2008):

Is it heresy to whisper that the sainted Thomas More is a bit of a bore? Even Frank Langella, an actor who can be counted on to put the pepper in mashed-potato parts, doesn’t find much variety in the monolithic goodness of the title character of “A Man for All Seasons,” Robert Bolt’s 1960 biodrama about More’s road to martyrdom during the reign of Henry VIII . . .

Cromwell is easily the most intriguing soul onstage. Now there’s a character Mr. Langella could sink his teeth into. Surely, it would be more rewarding than being the fixed if towering center of a shrine.

—Ben Brantley, NYT , Oct. 8, 2008

De gustibus non disputandum est.



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