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Work: Tom Paine

Identifier: WORK.1966.0041
Description: A review of "Tom Paine" from the Illinois "Weekly Gettysburgian," (September 19, 1969) describes it as "a whirlwind of impressions." The review continues: "The hero is a being of two uncomplimentary parts. One, the man who wrote that his fellows should lay the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity. The other, a gutter sensualist who, in the heart of farce, can quite seriously be represented as licking brandy from the bare foot of a colonial governor. King George III and Louis XVI are shown literally grunting their way through gargantuan feasts while their subjects starve. Paine meanwhile crowns himself king in the halls of his ego; Paine waits for the guillotine; Paine wenches and boozes...The whole production appears to be springing off into space from an improvisational base. Actors run through the theatre, actors run through the theatre, introducing themselves to the audience, and stop the play to conduct a political dialogue with members of the audience. Credit Tom OHorgan, the director of "Tom Paine" ( and the Broadway musical "Hair"), with the irresistible drive of the production...You cannot remain indifferent to Tom Paine; O'Horgan forces you to respond. And Paul Foster, the author of the play, has endowed it with striking verbal imagery; the language moves in both senses of the verb. I do not know whether "Tom Paine" can be fully realized on our large stage. It was originally conceived for a relatively small theatre; and the intimacy between the audience and the actors which this spatial limitation created was an important factor in the effectiveness of the production. Tom Paine embraces song, dance, mime, and improvisation in an attempt to manifest the frenzy of a homeless man's revolutionary dream. But underneath the turbulence of its presentation, the play shows us the man, a drunken egomaniac who, with his propaganda grab bag, made the American Republic possible....And by parallel, it shows us that we are living in a nation growing smaller, and smaller, and smaller."
--John Adams, "Tom Paine." The "Weekly Gettysburgian," September 19, 1969, p.3.