Times Theater Critic

No local production made a stronger impression last season than Robert Woodruff's staging of Jack Henry Abbott's letters from prison, "In the Belly of the Beast," at the Mark Taper Forum's Taper, Too.

It's now playing in Australia, at the Festival of Sydney, with Andrew Robinson again starring as the bitter Abbott.

"For me, it is the highlight of this year's festival," wrote Richard Glover in the Sydney Morning Herald. "Whatever preconceptions you have about prisoners and the prison system, 'In the Belly of the Beast' will change your mind.

"It is not a didactic piece, with an ideological lesson. It is a piece about a damaged human being, perhaps damaged through no fault of his own, but irreparably damaged. . . .

"With each description of what this man has suffered, the argument for his release grows stronger. But so too does the argument for never releasing him into a world where violence is not the norm, and where mercy survives, however tentatively. . . . "

Glover praised Woodruff's staging and Robinson's acting for being "confrontationist" without degenerating into rant. Their work, he said, "is alive with the feeling of held-back power."

Now that "In The Belly of the Beast" is back on its feet, where should it play next? How about the Taper mainstage?

Producer Harry Rigby, 59, died suddenly Thursday in New York, of an apparent heart attack. Rigby's forte was the nostalgia musical--"No, No, Nanette" (197l), "Irene" (1973), "Good News" (1974) and "Sugar Babies" (1979). The funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Campbell's Funeral Home in Manhattan.

The Denver Center Theatre Company needs 10 good scripts for a Festival of New American Plays to be presented in May. Supervising the festival is none other than The Times' Sylvie Drake, who is taking a four-month sabbatical to work with the theater. Mail scripts with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Literary Director, Denver Center Theatre Company, 1050 13th St., Denver, Colo. 80204.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK. From Joel Homer's upscale comedy, "Private Scenes": "If I didn't care about you, I'd still be seeing you."

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