This disc contains excerpts from the Broadway presentation of An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May (1960). The show, which opened October 8, 1960, received unanimously stellar reviews from critics and audiences alike. The stage performance was in many ways a precursor to the British and subsequent American television program Whose Line Is It Anyway? The premise of both concern ensemble improvisations of scenarios as suggested, at least in part, by the audience. As he had done on their previous debut LP Improvisations to Music (1958), pianist Marty Rubenstein occasionally accompanies the two with incidental ambience. Within their dialogues, Nichols and May unleash a dry, acerbic, and consistently intellectual humor. Their dialogues are deeply rooted in astute observations of the absurdities that perpetually bombard the modern everyman. The succinctly titled "Telephone" is a classic bit of spontaneity that finds Nichols attempting, futilely, to obtain a phone number and place a call to one "George Kaplan...that's 'K' as in knife...." There are numerous examples of the amazing and flawless timing that exists between May and Nichols. This is especially evident as May's three distinct personas interact with Nichols. The three-part "Adultery" examines a surreptitious rendezvous between a man and a woman as might be portrayed by an American, an English, and a French couple. While the similarities are striking, the differing contrasts are even more arresting. The poignant "Mother and Son" pits an aerospace engineer named Arthur against his overbearing, nagging, and nervous mother. The guilt that Arthur feels in failing to call his mother on a regular basis turns into a psychological examination as the pair revert back to a relationship they had when Arthur was emotionally dependant on the happiness of his mother. The freshness of interaction between Nichols and May remains as timeless to modern ears as it must have to the audiences that packed Broadway's Golden Theatre during the fall of 1960. The cinematic qualities that both actors bring to the various scenes throughout An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May foreshadow the illustrative careers they would respectively garner.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer