Theater: Hell's Isolation Ward

Inadmissible Evidence. Words perpetually fill the theater; only rarely does one hear a voice. John Osborne has a voice. Splenetic, stinging, scornful, grieving, whining, raging—he does not go gently into the sour day and sourer night. Evidence is almost all voice, a torrential dramatic typhoon in which one man is incessantly lashed by that despair that Kirkegaard called "the sickness unto death."

Osborne's anti-hero is Bill Maitland, a London solicitor hung up on booze, barbiturates and the bleak self-knowledge that he is "irredeemably mediocre." He is pushing 40, a tooth-shy, flea-bitten leopard, all...

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