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Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?



Daily life in a drug rehabilitation center



E. Emmet Walsh.........
Kenneth Rosaly..........
Hector Troy...............
Roger Robinson.........
Bob Christian.............
Laura Figueroa...........
Lauren Jones..............
Jose Perez..................
Hal Holbrook.............
Catita Lord................
Michael Brandon........
Bruce Scott................
Lazaro Perez..............
Al Pacino...................
Jon Richards..............
David Opatoshu.........
Sam Watson..............
Mr. Winters
Dr. Werner

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Pacino got rave reviews including one describing his performanc as having "the choreography of a hood, with a poetic soul." (Jack Kroll, Newsweek)

The play didn't get such great reviews, and closed after thirty-nine performances.

A Variety poll of metropolitan drama critics named Al "most promising new Broadway actor" for his performance.

Al won a Tony Award for Best Dramatic Actor in a Supporting Role.

"I'm a notorious pacifist. Everybody who knows me says that. My favorite color is passive. Maybe that's why I can get up on-stage and do people like Bickham and Murph. They are violent, and I had to express that. Bickham kicks a door in, breaks a phone, kicks a desk. kicks a wall, pounds a desk with his fist and breaks a Puerto Rican boy's arm. Murph slashes an Indian with a knife. I guess I could be cliché and say that violence is in all of us. You can't help but feel it, just living today. I think everybody does have it in himself. It's just a matter of getting to it, like lyricism or comedy.   
But I don't necessarily think of violence when I think of Bickham. I consider him very, very lonely. The things that happen to him come from loneliness. He's a loner, a suicidal junkie at a narcotics rehabilitation center who is desperately afraid. He wants something but doesn't know what. And neither do I. He eventually kills himself, because his psychiatrist, David Opatoshu, isn't getting through to him. The shrink remains critical and aloof. That's why Bickham kisses him.
"I finally get to kiss someone on-stage and it's a guy! But it didn't bother either of us. The only thing was that I kept getting these colds at rehearsal and David kept telling me, 'Close your mouth!" Al Pacino (from Al Pacino: A Life On The Wire by Andrew Yule)




"Drug addiction and its hang-ups provide the total subject matter of Don Petersen's untidy, but spasmodically rewarding play, "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" Mr. Petersen has no real point to make about addiction, indeed he hardly takes an attitude to it. Rather this is a heightened documentary, doubtlessly romanticized but still tough, of life in a rehabilitation center for juvenile narcotics.

Mr. Petersen has many case histories to tell, and a few more to hint at. Here, for example, is the black teen-age girl who started hustling in movie houses at the age of 10 for popcorn, or the violent tough who went out to find his lost father, and discovered him as a seedy barber who showed him a dirty photograph.

Behind each one of Mr. Petersen's addicts, disturbed drop-outs from society, lies the human void of lovelessness. "Love me, love me!" shouts the young thug to his psychiatrist. It is love they all need, which is perhaps a simplification of the causes of drug addiction. However, Mr. Petersen is a playwright not a narcotics caseworker, so his simplification is permissible enough.

The rehabilitation center itself seems a pleasantly unfrightening place. We see only four of the rehabilitators - a teacher, who is good-natured, wears a turtleneck, and is determined to be unshocked and get through to the kids, a psychiatrist content enough just to do his job, a policeman who pushes
dope in return for sexual favors from the girls, and the center's principal, who is neck-high in platitudes and defeat.

All four of these are one-dimensional characters, even the intellectual boy scout who tries to identify with his pupils. Where the play does come alive is in the glimpses we get of the addicts themselves. here Mr. Petersen's writing, the staging by Michael A. Shultz and the vivid acting of the cast enable the play once in a while really to take fire.

Most important is the character of Bickham, angry, bitter and categorized by himself as a "killer." Released from the center once but brought back after an attempted suicide, Bickham, even in his quest for his barber father, seems a lost case. Does a tiger wear a necktie? No, it would be against his nature - and reform is against the nature of addicts like Bickham.

Mr. Petersen does offer a little hope. Conrad is a Negro addict, also from a broken home Conrad is determined to get away and kick the habit. He loves Linda, a little $2 hustler, and wants to marry her. He does eventually leave - to a future that is to start with living with his sister, also a junkie and a hustler, and her one-legged pimp. Does he have a chance? Does Linda? Mr. Petersen is no moralist and draws no conclusions.

Perhaps this lack of attitude detracts from the play, which is left with no true purpose other than objective documentation. yet one knows instinctively that the realities of the situation must be far worse than those depicted here by Mr. Petersen. The kids seem to be a pretty unruly bunch, but for all the withdrawal agonies they are suffering they seem in better shape than I was when I gave up cigarettes. The emphasis, as a consequence, is left on these cameo sketches and rather stereotyped confrontations. But if one forgets the harsher realities of drugs, once so memorably staged in Jack Gelber's "The Connection," you are left with some sharp, abrasive dialogue that bodes well for the playwright's future.

Mr. Schultz's direction pushes the play along wherever it can be pushed, while also very sensibly concentrating on the characterizations, and using to the full Mr. Petersen's great talent for fast, totally convincing dialogue.

Hal Holbrook, thoughtful and decent, does a good job as the understanding teacher, and his co-star, David Opatoshu, is a model of troubled professionalism as the psychiatrist. But the junkies have it all their own way. Al Pacino as Bickham is magnificent - a lumbering, drug sodden psychotic with the mind of a bully and the soul of a poet. Roger Robinson and Lauren Jones are virtually his match as the lovers. Mr. Robisnon fairly bristles with hope, and Miss Jones, acidly embittered, spits on life with a kind of life-assertive energy.

As a total play; "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" is not entirely successful. But some of its searingly dramatic individual scenes are so good that the evening deserves to be recommended.