“American artists have grown conspicuously uncomfortable in recent years about portraying the American Dream as anything other than a snare and a delusion, and they are still less likely to look to their own lives for proof that it is both real and desirable. Hence it is both surprising and revealing that the best-loved of all theatrical memoirs–and indeed, one of the best American memoirs of the twentieth century–should be a book by a man who not only lived the dream but also believed devoutly in its essential truth…”
Archives for August 2010
Dave Dudley sings “Six Days on the Road”:
“He had a logical mind uncomplicated by the intellectual’s deference to dialectic for its own sake.”
William Haggard, The Arena
Mrs. T and I are giving ourselves an eight-day-long vacation, starting this morning. Yes, we’re going away, and no, I’m not going to say where. I’m only just starting to get the hang of taking time off after a lifetime of overwork, and one of the things I figured out after our most recent coop-flying experiment is that vacations should not be conducted in public. So we’re going to keep ourselves to ourselves this time around. If you should happen to see us tooling town the road, feel free to say hello–but be so kind as not to tell anyone else, O.K.?
In case you’re wondering, I filed Friday’s Wall Street Journal drama column last week and pre-posted the usual almanac entries and theater-related stuff. Beyond that, though, I intend to have nothing to say about anything, whether here or on Twitter. I need a rest–badly.
Our Girl and CAAF will be taking up the slack this week. I’ll return next Tuesday. Have fun while I’m away.
James Taylor sings “Country Road”:
“To a surrounded enemy you must leave a way of escape.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In the first of two reports from Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, I review revivals of Lillian Hellman’s Another Part of the Forest and George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara in today’s Wall Street Journal. Here’s an excerpt.
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Of Lillian Hellman’s eight original plays, only one, “The Little Foxes,” is still performed regularly. The others, if not quite forgotten, are much less well known, and it’s been decades since any of them was last seen on Broadway. So what have we been missing? To find out, I went to Wisconsin to check out American Players Theatre’s production of “Another Part of the Forest,” the 1946 play in which Hellman turned back the clock 20 years on the main characters of “The Little Foxes” to show what made them such despicable beasts. Though “Another Part of the Forest” was filmed in 1948 and continues to be revived on occasion–the Peccadillo Theater Company performed it Off-Off-Broadway earlier this summer–I can’t recall the last time it received a major staging anywhere in America. I went mostly out of curiosity, but stayed to cheer: “Another Part of the Forest” throws a dramatic punch comparable in weight to “The Little Foxes,” and APT is performing it with terrific authority.
In “The Little Foxes,” which takes place circa 1900, Regina (played here by Tiffany Scott), the stone-hearted scoundrel whose greed knows no bounds, is without question the star of the show. This time around, though, she yields pride of place to Ben (Marcus Truschinski), her brainy but no less cold brother, and Marcus (Jonathan Smoots), the patriarch of the Hubbard family, a fathomlessly cynical Alabama shopkeeper who turned himself into a millionaire by betraying the Confederate cause, in the process driving his wife (Sarah Day) half-mad with shame and guilt. Not surprisingly, his children are prepared to do anything to feather their own nests, both to one another and to anyone else sufficiently imprudent to try to stop them.
The only real problem with “Another Part of the Forest” is that the younger characters are already pretty much set in their ways when the curtain goes up: Regina and Ben are monsters and Oscar (Eric Parks), their younger brother, is a brainless boob. Since we already know them from “The Little Foxes,” “Another Part of the Forest” plays like “The Further Adventures of the Horrible Hubbards” instead of shedding light on the evolution of their mature personalities. That said, the plot is so watertight and the dialogue so full of bristling malice that it’s hard to begrudge Hellman her desire to play a second game with so many of the same pieces…
I’m no less pleased–if hardly surprised–to report the success of David Frank’s wonderfully transparent production of Shaw’s “Major Barbara,” in which an arms manufacturer (Mr. Smoots) persuades his peace-loving daughter (Colleen Madden) to give up her position with the Salvation Army and embrace the gospel of high explosives. (Yes, Shaw was being ironic, but anyone who knows anything about him will realize that “Major Barbara” hints, however unconsciously, at his own tendency to worship at the altar of power.)
Mr. Frank, APT’s artistic director, is working with a cast so full of company veterans that it verges on being a permanent ensemble–Sarah Day, who plays Lady Undershaft with irresistible relish, has been with APT for a quarter-century–and the enviable stylistic unanimity of this production is doubtless due in part to that fact. Everyone is on the same high-comedy wavelength and all of the acting is easy and unforced….
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Read the whole thing here.
Buddy Rich plays “Love for Sale” in 1970: