show business.nIt seems curiously relevant that aftern”abandoning” her career as a playwrightnin the early 60’s, Hellman resumednher writing career in the earlyn70’s as a memoirist (An UnfinishednWoman, Pentimento, Scoundrel Time,nand Maybe, each of which figures innthe Luce version). In his tribute tonHellman shortly after her death onnJune 30, 1984, even Robert Brustein,nher friend and colleague, devoted preciousnlittle space to discussing hernplays—roughly one and a half paragraphsnout of 10. As he summarized it,n”It may be that her life, with its strongnalliances, combative courage, andnabrupt domestic scenes, will eventuallynbe considered her greatest theater,”nBrustein, of course, understood that itnwasn’t Hellman’s work which needednto be defended, but her character, hernreputation, and her very being. Andnhe alone seemed to have the desire ornthe ability to assume the burden. MarshanNorman’s article, “Lillian Hellman’snGift to a Young Playwright,” fornthe Sunday Times was also a tribute,nbut it read like a child’s essay on a greatnAmerican; Hilton Krammer’s epitaph,non the other hand, as it appeared in hisnown The New Criterion, seemed asninterested in prolonging the controversynthat had plagued Hellman in thenlast two decades of her life, as innresolving it.nHellman insisted on the integrity ofnher “memoirs,” even though their veracitynhad been questioned in and outnof the courts. In any event, her prosenwas impeccable enough to surmountn—or undermine—any debate that ensued.nIt was this quality that Lucenostensibly set out to capture. And tonthat end, he couldn’t have had a morenappropriate collaborator—Hellmannherself: the fact that Hellman hadnreviewed Luce’s script during itsndevelopment already distinguishesnLillian from all other biodramas thatnhave come before. It also shouldnsatisfy those critics who complainednthat Luce was too favorable in hisnpresentation.nLuce had the wisdom to pose thenmoment of the meeting, or the session,nin I96I, on the eve of Hammett’sndeath. The setting is a hospitalnwaiting room. Her beloved “Dash,”nwe are made to understand, is sequesterednin a room stage right, where he isndying. The loaded circumstancenwould put her in a reminiscent andnsentimental mood, as well as a loquaciousnone, just as it makes the otherwisenartificial context of biodramanmore plausible in this case. She begins,n”I think I’ve always known aboutnmy memory …” as she proceeds tonrecall her upbringing in New Orleansnand New York, the influence of hernfamily (both immediate and extended),non her development as a precociousnchild, certain anecdotes fromnher Hollywood days, the events surroundingnher Broadway premiere ofnThe Children’s Hour, and her stormynrelationship with Hammett. As bothnher detractors and her championsnwould agree, Hellman’s most dramahcnmoment was her teshmony before thenHouse Un-American Activities Committee.nHer appearance there is relivednin Act II with all due weight.nThree-time Tony Award winner ZoenCaldwell appears as Lillian Hellmannin Lillian, a one-woman show bynWilliam Luce. Photo by Joan Marcus.nThe challenge oi Lillian has little tondo with the recalled events, however,nmost of which would be familiar tonanyone who has read Hellman’s memoirs.nSince Hellman herself had, onntalk show after talk show, visited ournliving rooms, the real question wasnhow could an imposter pull it off.nNeither Luce nor Hellman could havenhoped for a better accomplice thannZoe Caldwell.nAside from the frighteningly effectivenmakeup, Caldwell breathes heaviernthan usual, chain-smokes, andnnnshakes her head for the palsied effect.nShe also delivers the most effectiveninnuendo and facial expressions tonpersuade us when she is being sincerenand to suggest when she is being coy.nShe never loses the character she hasninhabited, or the figure who appears tonhave inhabited her. The applausenwhich follows her reading of Hellman’snletter to the HUAC could benfor Caldwell as well as for Hellmann—at that point, it’s as if there’s nondifference.nAt the end of Luce’s scenario, Hammettndies, leaving a maudlin Lilliannwho lapses into profundity: “The pastnwith its punishments, its rewards, itsnfoolishness is there for each ofnus. . . . But the then and the now arenone.” Though the closing may seemntoo pat. Luce’s subtext suggests whatnno one else has. Hellman never reallynsurvived Hammett’s death, devotingnthe rest of her writing career not tonplays and the creative output henevoked, but to exercising her memory,nperhaps in hopes of retaining him thatnmuch more fully. Still, at best, itnbecomes a partial answer for a womannwhose life was a riddle till the end. Hernmilestone remark in 1952, “I cannotnand will not cut my conscience to fitnthis year’s fashions,” was ludicrouslynsuperseded by the most prominentnimage of her 20 years later in an ad fornBlackglama furs, boldly asking, “Whatnbecomes a Legend most?”nThe controversy surrounding LilliannHellman continued until herndeath. Perhaps the greatest testimonynto the success of Lillian is that thenreception of the show reflected perfectlynthe response that Hellman herselfnreceived. It aroused the imbroglio nonless than the woman. Once again, anHellman work was overshadowed bynthe controversy her life provoked, ccnDavid Kaufman is a theater critic innNew York City.nOld Changelingsnand New Mutantsnby Raymond J. PentzellnTo focus some thoughts on currentntrends in American theatrical stylen—as distinct from play writing—itnmay help to use a telescoping lens tonAPRIL 1986 ft?n