Broadway is still on strike, so I flew to Chicago last weekend to see the Victory Gardens production of Nilo Cruz’s A Park in Our House and the Court Theatre’s revival of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw. Read all about it in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Cruz, who was born in Cuba in 1961, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for “Anna in the Tropics,” a sumptuously old-fashioned play whose high drama and luxuriant language delighted me when I saw it on Broadway. “A Park in Our House,” written in 1996, works the same rich vein of poetic naturalism. Set in Cuba in 1970, it shows what happens when Dimitri (Lance Baker), a Russian scientist, spends a month with a family whose members are suffering from the effects of life under Castro. The father (Gustavo Mellado) is a government apparatchik who no longer believes in the system he serves and has been rendered impotent by his subservience, while Pilar (Marcela Muñoz), his daughter, is a nubile, idealistic teenager who fancies herself a “romantic revolutionary” and longs to live in Moscow but settles for sleeping with Dimitri. She is too naïve to fully understand what the adults with whom she lives know from hard experience, which is that her country is a prison of the heart, a place where fear and distrust seep into every human transaction and even the unconscious mind is tainted….
Mr. Cruz knows how to make his dialogue sing and shine, and the six members of the cast of “A Park in Our House,” co-produced by Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista, a local Latino company, are no less adept at making the most of the gorgeous speeches he has put in their mouths….
Joe Orton was the Great Anarch of postwar farce, and had he not been bludgeoned to death in 1967 at the cruelly early age of 34, he would now be universally acknowledged as a major playwright. Instead, his posthumous reputation is based on only three full-length plays, the last of which, “What the Butler Saw,” has just been revived by the Court Theater, the University of Chicago’s much-admired professional ensemble. I have some problems with this production, but it works–the opening-night crowd laughed itself silly–and if you’ve never seen any of Orton’s plays, it’s a plausible place to start.
To read the whole thing, go buy a copy of this morning’s Journal. This used to be where I recommended that you subscribe to the paper’s online edition, but now that Rupert Murdoch has announced his intention to make the subscription-only Online Journal free at some point in the near future, I’ve cut that out! (If you’re already a subscriber to the Online Journal, you’ll find my column here.)
UPDATE: A fellow blogger advises me that it is already possible for nonsubscribers to read my Journal reviews by clicking on the Online Journal links that I provide in this space each week. How about that? Act accordingly!