The coils of bureaucracy; Nuts Melodrama by Tom Topor. Directed by Stephen Zuckerman. Large forces at work
The plight of an individual caught in the toils of legal and medical bureaucracy provides the central circumstance of "Nuts," at the Biltmore Theater. The frightening crisis faced by Claudia Faith Draper (Anne Twomey) results from the detemination of a New York City attorney (Gregry Abels) and a Bellevue Hospital psychiatrist (Paul Stolarsky) to prove Mrs. Draper mentally incompetent to stand trial on the manslaughter charge on which she is convinced she can prove her innocence.
The young divorcee has been confined to the Bellevue psychiatric wing because of her hostile behavior subsequent to arrest. The authorities claim to be protecting her. She insists they are trying to deprive her of a citizen's individual rights. At an informal judicial hearing, Claudia and her newly acquired attorney (Richard Zobel) must convince a Supreme Court judge (Ed Van Nuys) that she is not "nuts".
Claudia is the disrespectful prostitute-daughter of respectable suburban parents. The hearing involves her understandably bewildered mther (Lenka Peterson) and a stepfather (Hansford Rowe) who harbors a repulsive guilty secret. Claudia's sardonic abrasiveness, as well as her recent life style, militate against a decision in her favor unil Mr. Topor begins tilting the script in her favor. Having extracted the maximum shock effect from the situation, and having abetted Claudia's demolition of her superficially drawn antagonists, the dramatist supplies her with the emotional plea that climaxes "Nuts."
The playing under Stephen Zuckerman's direction exploits the theatricalism of the text. In a tense, highly charge performance, Miss Twomey conveys the disconcerting honesty and humor as well as the anger of the threatened woman. Mr. Van Nuys gives an amusingly quirky portrait of hte non-non-sense judge. Tom Schwinn has designed a cheerfully airy setting as the combat zone in which Claudia Draper battles to extricate herself from the oppressive embraces of bureaucracy.