Theater: Anatomy of the Absurd

About five minutes after an off-Broadway play called The Apple, by Jack Gelber, begins, a character picks up a spatula, slings blobs of paint at a transparent plastic canvas, and then kneads the goo together with a rolling pin. Peering around this cunningly messy parody of abstract art with a confiding leer, the actor announces to the playgoers: "I'll admit why I'm here—therapy."

In this far-out play, the therapeutic verges on the emetic. A homosexual dances with a spastic, coyly protests: "No, you can't take your clothes off. Absolutely not!" A man in a...

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