…and always will.
Archives for September 11, 2009
In this week’s Wall Street Journal drama column I report on a production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night at American Players Theatre’s new Touchstone Theatre, plus a revival by Arlington’s Signature Theatre of Claudia Shear’s Dirty Blonde. Here’s an excerpt.
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The recession has swept through America’s regional theaters like swine flu through a kindergarten. A handful of prominent troupes, including Wisconsin’s Madison Repertory Theatre and Massachusetts’ North Shore Music Theatre, have closed up shop altogether, while others are working overtime to stay in business. You can see the fear in their safety-first programming (more musicals, familiar classics like “A Streetcar Named Desire” and small-cast comedies like “Private Lives”) and slimmed-down schedules (I can’t begin to list the companies that are putting on fewer shows this season).
So it’s big news when a leading American company bucks the trend by opening a new theater. Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, which already presents five plays each summer in its 1,150-seat hilltop amphitheater, is now putting on a second series of productions in its new Touchstone Theatre, a handsome 200-seat indoor house whose prairie-flavored modern architecture and woodsy surroundings pay graceful homage to Frank Lloyd Wright (Taliesin, his home, is a mile or so away). In contrast to the Shakespeare-Shaw-Coward classical repertory performed in the Up-the-Hill Theater, the Touchstone plans to specialize in contemporary fare, and its initial group of offerings includes two major postwar plays, Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” and Harold Pinter’s “Old Times.”…
I found APT’s production to be more convincing than the 2003 Broadway revival, though I suspect the fact that it was being presented in a 200-seat thrust-stage house instead of an 1,100-seat proscenium-stage Broadway theater had something to do with its effectiveness. “Long Day’s Journey” is, after all, a five-character, one-set play, and even though four of the characters are members of a theatrical family, their intramural sniping is easier to take–and to sympathize with–when presented on the unexaggerated scale enabled by the Touchstone Theatre and encouraged by John Langs, the director of this production. This is the first time I’ve seen “Long Day’s Journey” in a small house, and I’m inclined to think that it should always be done that way….
Claudia Shear rang the bell in 2000 with “Dirty Blonde,” which ran for 352 performances on Broadway. Now it’s being revived by Signature Theatre, the Washington, D.C.-area company that won this year’s regional-theater Tony Award. With “Restoration,” Ms. Shear’s latest play, set to move from the La Jolla Playhouse to Off Broadway this spring, I thought it would be interesting to see how “Dirty Blonde” had held up–and I’m pleased to report that it’s still a gem….
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Read the whole thing here.
“After all, one knows one’s weak points so well, that it’s rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them & invent others that (one is fairly sure) don’t exist–or exist in a less measure.”
Edith Wharton, letter to Robert Grant (Nov. 19, 1907)