Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined 9781408182727, 9781408182697

Brecht in Practice David Barnett The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary American Playwrights Edited by Martin Middeke,

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To BeaniMarini

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am lucky to be indebted to the following, and I send them all heartfelt thanks: Jim O’Quinn, editor-in-chief of American Theatre magazine, who asked me to write the Ibsen article that started all this, which led to Mark Dudgeon, editor at Methuen Drama, Bloomsbury Publishing, saying, “There’s a book in this,” which led to Hersh Zeifman, excellent friend and scholar, providing endless suggestions without which this would have been a very short book. Many thanks, too, to the various playwrights who generously allowed me to read their unpublished scripts, and to those who graciously replied to my questions. I would like to acknowledge, too, the University of the Arts for providing me with financial support, but mostly for giving me a great place to teach; many thanks to my lively and stimulating students. Enduring thanks and love to my oldest and dearest friends who have listened to me babble on and on about this project. And deepest love and gratitude to my daughter, Phoebe, who cheers me on.

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Introduction

A classic is a text that has never finished saying what it has to say. ITALO CALVINO, WHY READ THE CLASSICS?

“Have you changed?” Torvald asks Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with mild surprise when he discovers that his wife has changed into street clothes instead of nightclothes after their return from a party; his mild surprise becomes wild surprise when he hears what she has to say. And she has since changed in ways more surprising than Ibsen could have imagined. The iconic modern plays, still saying what they have to say to us, are further engaged in a conversation with the contemporary playwrights, as well as the occasional filmmaker, choreographer, and composer, who have recreated, reimagined, and transformed the dramas that are the touchstones of the modern canon in the English-speaking world. Their new versions create conversations between their scripts and the iconic texts they address. My goal here is to continue those conversations further by engaging those replays in conversation in this book, and then, going even further, extending the conversation between this book and its readers. When Ruby Cohn, the great Beckett scholar, wrote Modern Shakespeare Offshoots (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,

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1976) she told us in her Foreword that “Rewriting of Shakespeare is known by an array of names—abridgements, adaptations, additions, alterations, ameliorations, amplifications, augmentations, conversions, distortions, emendations, interpolations, metamorphoses, modifications, mutilations, revisions, transformations, versions,” but she ends up preferring “a looser and more neutral word, ‘offshoot’ ” (3). For my purposes, Cohn’s list would have had to be lengthened to include parodies, pastiches, burlesques, satires, spoofs, lampoons and, for want of a more scholarly term, mash-ups. Faced with a similar labeling dilemma, I decided on “replay.” The plays and replays discussed in the following chapters are a wide sampling from British, Irish, South African, American, and European playwrights; in each chapter there is a brief interpretive description of the modern play in order to establish a basis for comparison with the newer plays as well as the films, operas, and ballets they have spawned. I have divided this book into two large sections: fighting modern plays and resigned modern plays. The first are those who write from their belief that art can improve the world, that their—and our— responsibility is to the family of man; these playwrights stand with Chris, in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, when he declares, “You can be better!” The first group includes not only Miller, but begins with Ibsen, continues with Shaw, Brecht, Rattigan, Granville Barker, and Hansberry. These are the optimists. The common focus of this first group is moral struggle, the need to believe that humanism, kindness, friendship, and morality can triumph over materialism and self-interest, combined with the

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implied or overt admonition about what happens when they do not. The second cluster includes playwrights who believe, with Samuel Beckett, that there is “Nothing to be done,” the first line of Waiting for Godot. This group includes Beckett Strindberg, Wilde, Chekhov, Wilder, Williams, and Ionesco. These are the pessimists. Instead of believing that the human condition can be improved by passing a law or by charitable acts, these playwrights recognize that at the core of life is a recalcitrance; art offers us insight and consolation, what Maddy Rooney, in Beckett’s early radio play, All That Fall , calls “a helping hand.” Mrs Rooney is old and fat and going along a country road to meet her even older husband at the train station as a surprise on his ninetieth birthday. When faced with the steps up to the platform she asks a neighbor for help, who replies: “Is it my arm you want then. Is it my arm you want, Mrs Rooney, or what is it?” Maddy Rooney snaps back, “Your arm! Any arm! A helping hand! For five seconds! Christ what a planet.” Just because there is “nothing to be done” does not mean, for this group of iconic playwrights, that one should do nothing. Although these plays often despair, sometimes sharing a wry wink with their audiences and suggesting that gloom and anguish has replaced the cautionary tale, they are, despite their grimness, distinctly generous-spirited, a sympathy that springs from the shared human condition. The replays of these plays are often not so kind, showing us that the grim joke or the nasty nudge may be all they can provide.

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The organizing principle here is necessarily chronological, since the movement from modern to contemporary makes that order significant. Within each of the two umbrella headings, the individual playwrights form subheadings; here, too, the order is chronological, since timing matters in any discussion of zeitgeist-based responses. Further, within each playwright’s chapter, there are discussions, again in chronological order, of the replays, including a variety of art media: films, ballets, and operas. Note that the dates following titles refer to the year of publication not production except where otherwise indicated. Chekhov and Ibsen are the current cultural obsessions and their replays expose how drastically society has changed: the dire coarsening of the social fabric, the cruel pessimism, the intensified violence, the sexual flagrancy, and the ongoing generational and gender warfare. As style, tone, and vision are altered, the tragic morphs into the ludicrously comic, proving Marx’s version of Hegel’s observation that “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Political outrage frequently weakens into a shoulder shrug. In some contemporary replays, idealism is discredited as naïve, while in others, any expression of that naiveté has disappeared; the paradigm shift here may be that cynicism has replaced not just aspiration toward the good and the honorable, but even any expectation or disappointment when that good or honorable has failed to occur. Genuine sophistication, the kind of sophistication acquired through authentic experience of the world, diminishes or even

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vanishes once that experience of the world is homogenized and globalized into familiarity through the kind of branding that before it was called branding was called cliché. Sometimes apparent sophistication has been created by virtual experience, a condition where the faux sophisticate is so cocksure as to resolve never to be impressed or moved: the been-there, did-that syndrome. These attitudes seem to inform many replays, although sometimes it is hard to distinguish that ho-hum attitude of the characters toward extreme violence and hardheartedness from that of the playwright. Is the play feeding the contemporary appetite for mayhem or is it forcing the audience/reader to acknowledge the implications of such an appetite, such mayhem. The modern plays central to Western culture keep saying what they have to say in revival after revival, and sometimes what they have to say sounds new because an imaginative contemporary production challenges ideas about race, gender, age, and even genre. But in a replay, the old play sounds new because it has been reimagined to reflect the contemporary world: humor has been weaponized as the sentimental turns mocking, the melancholy turns violent, the melodramatic turns hilarious, and the reflection in the mirror turns grotesque or angry or laughing. All of this suggests that what was a term of science has become a term of art and thus a term of culture: paradigm shift. “Paradigm shift” is one of those phrases so useful that it morphs in meaning and context according to the need, thus threatening meaninglessness by over-application. Thomas Kuhn, the physicist who originated the phrase in his enormously influential 1962 book,

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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, defined paradigm shift as a fundamental alteration or a revolutionary change in world view in which the paradigm that is perceived or proved to be deficient, is replaced; the new paradigm is not a competing idea, but replaces the old one. Once the scientific paradigm shift has occurred, a scientist cannot legitimately return to prior theories: for example, a scientist cannot ignore that Copernican cosmology replaced Ptolemaic cosmology, or that in physics, Einsteinian mechanics challenged Newtonian mechanics. Kuhnian theory of paradigm shift was in itself a paradigm shift in the way science viewed the history of science. But in the arts and humanities, many theories can exist simultaneously; a literary critic can choose from an assortment of legitimate schools of thought, and although these may become fashionable or unfashionable (Deconstruction, Marxist, Freudian, etc.), they are not necessarily disproved. The same is true in the arts; an artist can paint realistic pictures or abstract ones, and ballet can be on pointe or barefoot, although it is unlikely that any contemporary choreographer would create a dance on pointe when the pointes were not in quotation marks. “Paradigm shift” has been applied to fields as disparate as ethics and museums, and many of the shifts in the arts are outgrowths of technology, making an art form possible for the first time—electronic music, for example—as well as threatening older art forms like print books, although whether technology alters the novel or merely alters the delivery of the novel is a question still to be answered. Kuhn tells us that when a scientific paradigm is replaced, the new one is always better, not just different. In the arts, the new paradigm is not necessarily better,

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and may in fact be worse. It also does not necessarily replace the previous paradigm, but compete with it. If iconic modern plays have been rewritten to reflect the spirit of the contemporary times, this may signal a paradigm shift in humanism—not just a change in style but a change in our way of looking at human life. This is not to say that, for instance, realism in drama has disappeared, far from it, but that it has been altered radically by obvious influences such as television and film, and by a fundamental impatience with realism as requiring a suspension of disbelief not easily sustainable, especially where realism has become either fraudulent, as in “Reality TV” or becomes virtual, and thus anathema to live theater. I have not undertaken anything so grandiose as a theory of all contemporary drama, having focused only on replays and not on wholly original works, but it is worth noticing that patterns of theater emerge to reveal interesting ideas about the way contemporary people in the Western world see themselves. This may reflect the way changes in scientific thought have changed humanistic thought: as ideas are absorbed into the culture—for example, the theory of relativity as metaphor rather than a scientific principle— they seem to both cause and reflect alterations in our views of life. New information about nearly unimaginable distance—deep space—and the nearly unimaginable past when time itself began, shrinks our view of ourselves; there is no human dimension in the cosmic (too huge) or in the quantum (too small). Technology has created, paradoxically, ease of global communication while devaluing human speech, as first the telephone replaced face-toface conversation, then e-mail replaced the telephone, and then

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texting replaced e-mailing, while Facebook devalues the old idea of friendship (recreating the word “friend” as a verb), and Instagram replaces words with pictures. These necessarily changed the uses of language, and this change is necessarily reflected in stage speech. Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language” suggested that as precision in language diminishes, our capacity to think precisely diminishes, since we have fewer ways of articulating our thoughts to ourselves, and thus eventually, fewer thoughts. It is worth noting that his lament about the deterioration of language as it is linked to the deterioration of the culture was written in 1946, and his essay becomes a startlingly relevant caution. The contemporary playwright’s need to re-play classic modern works reflects a paradox; on one hand it suggests a need to assert oneself over the past, to defend against those limitations—sociological and aesthetic—and break out of that confinement. On the other hand, it acknowledges the power and persistent presence of those masterworks and a dwarfing of the contemporary playwright who often seems to feel overshadowed, even humiliated by the legacy; the defense is often mockery of the old. There is a kind of anti-nostalgia at work here, simultaneously depending on the old context to define the new context. This dwarfing may be a reflection of the enormous paradigm shift in our view of ourselves: two photographs of the earth taken from space, the famous “Earthrise” and “The Blue Marble” must necessarily reduce our self-importance, although one could also argue that the immense accomplishments in science increase our wonder at human capabilities. Similarly, the mapping of the human

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genome suggests that individuality will finally be shown to be merely a manifestation of DNA, rendering words such as “personality” or “temperament” or “character” hopelessly old-fashioned. Perhaps the paradigm shift is merely a shift, literally, in point of view—the vantage point from which we look, the parallax effect whereby an object only seems to be displaced by a change in observational position: the optical illusion of the duck/rabbit drawing where the same information, the drawing, viewed from a different perspective yields different results. Or the paradigm shift may be a dramatic change in context: the cartoon of a chick just hatched from an egg, looking around in wild surmise, crying out, “Paradigm shift!” The contemporary label “meta,” a prefix turned word, is another concept that, like “paradigm shift” originated in science, specifically Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Absorbed into urban argot, “meta” now means, more or less, self-referential. In a clever article titled “Welcome to the Age of Heavy Meta,” (New York Times Magazine; October 6, 2013, 53), Devon McCann Jackson traces the transformation of the meaning of meta through its original highly specialized meaning (as in, metamathematics) through to the current uses, “our metadread of metadata,” applied to surveillance and information gathering. Often, in contemporary speech, meta is used as a stand-alone word, used to comment playfully on the complexities of things self-consciously retro. In contemporary replays, we, as audience, are often made aware of our role as audience, since the play keeps reminding us that we are watching it and that it is a play; even more extreme, the characters know they are characters and struggle against the

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bondage created by their creator/playwright. Particularly good examples of this are Jeff Whitty’s The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler and Howard Barker’s (Uncle) Vanya , both discussed in chapters ahead. Thus dramatic characters represent us, not only in the issues that confront them as in their original modern plays (existential ennui, sociological attitudes toward class, money, gender, the debated nature/nurture foundation of our selves) but also by the fact of entrapment inherent in their, and thus our, very existence. Such plays deny us the pleasures of engagement in plot (suspense, for example) while providing the pleasures of “getting it.” Even as we relish our own cleverness, we realize that we too may be characters. All this may be merely an extreme form of Pirandello’s early ground-breaking experiment in metadrama; that Six Characters in Search of an Author is frequently performed with the addition of scenes from Hamlet provides some evidence here. Rupert Goold and Ben Power’s adaptation of Pirandello’s play frames it with a filmmaker coaching his actors and then frames the frame with reality references: “a fucking gold-plated, BAFTAmunching, fuck-you-too Yentob ending!” (Nick Hern Books, London, 2008, 17). Goold takes his epigraph from Philip K. Dick, the American science fiction writer, and it seems particularly apt here: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” The uses of this book might include creating university courses out of a chapter, with the satisfaction of watching as students understand the reveal and theorize about the connections between the modern and the contemporary. Adventurous theater companies

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might build a season around one of these iconic modern plays and its replays. Or, having seen one of these plays in the theater, this book might send you forward and back, discovering how the modern and the contemporary inform each other. I imagine you are already lengthening lists, wondering how I could have left out [title goes here] or why I included this play and not that. The conversation continues.

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Prologue Georg Büchner

The German critic, Wilhelm Emrich, suggested that Büchner’s writings (totaling only 150 pages of text) foresaw the “fundamental compositional elements modern literature” (Georg Büchner und die modern Literatur, trans. Henry J. Schmidt in Georg Büchner: The Complete Collected Works, New York: Avon, 1977). It is only because Büchner’s writings were undiscovered in the nineteenth century that they did not influence the major early modern authors. Schmidt, Buchner’s foremost translator, notes that Büchner fits Neitzsche’s definition of an “untimely” author who “writes against his time and thereby influences it, in the hope of benefitting a future time.” It is exactly this benefit that modern and contemporary artists— playwrights, directors, filmmakers, choreographers—have gained, and it is exactly why Woyzeck, a brief, problematic, and thrilling play, is necessarily included in this study, despite its pre-modern date. The play stands as the introduction to both the concerns and the structure of this study.

Woyzeck, 1836 The plot of Woyzeck is based on three real-life murder cases, each concerning an impoverished soldier who stabs his mistress. The last

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of these, Johann Christian Woyzeck, was beheaded in 1824 after much public debate about his sanity and thus his responsibility for his crime, although the character Woyzeck seems to incorporate elements of each of the three personalities in the case histories. The text of Woyzeck is unstable since pages of the manuscript were found in four versions after Büchner’s death at the age of twenty-three, varying in length from nine scenes to twenty-nine. This is further complicated by the possible assumption that these versions were likely drafts as Büchner revised the script. Thus, it is not only the questions arising from translation from the German, but also the even more intriguing issue of the order of the short scenes and thus the arc of the narrative. Comparing the two major translations yields interesting results. Schmidt’s “reconstruction,” as he calls it, establishes from the start Woyzeck’s madness with his visions and terrors; these may have been caused or intensified by the “scientific” experiments he is undergoing to make extra money. His superiors, the Captain and the Doctor, each contribute to his despair. This is exacerbated by his jealousy since his common-law wife Marie with whom he has a son, is clearly unfaithful to him with the strutting Drum Major, although her poverty and her guilt make her sympathetic. After Woyzeck stabs her, this version concludes with shockingly heartless children who are excited over the discovery of Marie’s body. When Woyzeck returns to the town, his son, Christian, in the care of the village idiot, turns away from him and screams. All exit, leaving Woyzeck alone onstage. This version is the bleakest. The version by Carl Richard Mueller (in The Modern Theatre, ed. Robert W. Corrigan, New York: Macmillan, 1964) begins

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with Woyzeck shaving the Captain (Scene 5 in Schmidt) who philosophizes about the nature of time and goodness, and it is not until much later in the play, in Scene 13, that Woyzeck hears the voices he heard in Scene 1 of the Schmidt version, but here the voices tell him to stab Marie. The scene with the boy is similar, but penultimate; there is a final scene at the morgue where all the authority figures have gathered around the body of Marie, while the policeman exclaims “What a murder! A good, genuine, beautiful murder!” and Woyzeck looks on “the dogmatic atheist, tall, haggard, timid, good-natured, scientific” (19). This version is the most condemnatory of society. It is important to remember that despite Büchner’s grim view of life (“Nothing to be done”), he was also a revolutionary and therefore an optimist (“You can be better”). He was on the run from German authorities, fearing arrest for treason based on his incendiary pamphlet indicting social injustice. The two translations present distinctly different Woyzecks and represent these two world views, and the two distinct paths that shape this book: fighting plays and their replays, and despairing plays and their replays. Despite, or perhaps because of—its radical brevity, Woyzeck offers extraordinary possibilities for interpretation, with all the stripped-down richness of Theatre of the Absurd more than a century before the fact: is this a play about morality? Psychology? Politics? Religion? Economics? Sexuality? Alienation? Metaphysics? Medical research? The military? The heartlessness of the social construct? There is much in either/any version to support the multivalence of this intense and fertile play. It is also significant

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that, unlike the classical drama of his time, Büchner wrote in prose with the dialogic fragments imitating naturalistic speech as well as the character’s inarticulateness. Additionally, the play seems modern in its sympathy for an underdog while also creating a sense of superiority on the part of the audience to a character of cultural inferiority; Woyzeck an antihero for all times. So it is no wonder that it has inspired endless productions in every imaginable place and language.

Notable productions Ingmar Bergman created an experimental production in Stockholm in 1969, with months of open rehearsals; according to the Ingmar Bergman archive, if Persona was Bergman’s most experimental film, Woyzeck was Bergman’s most experimental stage production. The American actor, Joseph Chaikin returned to the stage to play the title role in 1975. Richard

Foreman

whose

Ontological-Hysteric

Theatre’s

productions are noted for their radical theatrics, also chose Schmidt’s translation Woyzeck and created an entirely black and white production with it; he told Jonathan Kalb (American Theatre/ May 1990, 25) that Schmidt’s version seemed to “jump logical steps,” avoiding the smoother coherence of other translations. His goal was to create a world of “zombies.” JoAnn Akalaitis’ stunning New York Shakespeare Festival production in 1994 used Schmidt’s translation although altered it with her own concepts: lighting created terrifying shadows while thundering boots on a wooden floor suggested Woyzeck’s growing paranoia. Robert Wilson’s

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2002 Woyzeck, a collaboration with songwriters Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, used German Expressionist lighting effects and created a grotesque cabaret.

Replays Alban Berg, Wozzeck, 1925 Alban Berg’s brilliant atonal opera, Wozzeck, was premiered in Berlin in 1925, having been created during the First World War. It is performed in three acts, fifteen scenes, each using a specific musical form: suite, rhapsody, march, rondo, fantasy, fugue, scherzo, and so on. Perhaps the most thrilling element of this musical interpretation of Buchner’s script is that the orchestra and the voices pull in opposite directions, producing excruciating tension. The Vienna State Opera production (conducted by Claudio Abbado; DVD from Films Inc Video 1994) is lavishly staged, creating a sweaty claustrophobia that suits this world. Berg chose to resolve the plot by having Wozzeck drown himself in the lake— the water is illuminated by blood-red lighting—instead of going into the water to search for the knife or to wash off the blood, as he does in other versions. Carrie Cracknell’s 2013 production of Berg’s Wozzeck, with the English National Opera is a contemporary version of a modern opera, which is in turn a modern version of a nineteenth century play. Cracknell sets it in Britain with Wozzeck suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder as a returning veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and thus extends Buchner’s antimilitarism.

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Werner Herzog Filmproduktion, West Germany, Woyzeck, 1979, directed by Werner Herzog This film starring the formidable actor Klaus Kinski also emphasizes the militarized nature of Woyzeck’s world and his victimization by it. Unhampered by issues of translation and unhampered by the confines of a stage, Herzog uses cinematic techniques to dazzling and terrifying ends. The legendary director includes twenty-three scenes, starting with the camera panning over a lovely and peaceful countryside, with a wide, still pond. Into this landscape comes Woyzeck, being whipped along in a quick march by an officer and forced to do grueling and humiliating exercises. Marie’s murder by the pond is performed in slow motion and the camera holds images of Kinski’s tormented face for unbearably long minutes, in complete silence except for background music. Details like the fly that lands on his face ratchet up the realism. When Woyzeck returns to find the knife and wades into the water, he vanishes into the darkness, and the film concludes with the doctor admiring “the beautiful murder.”

Handspring Puppet Theatre, Woyzeck on the Highveld, 1993 This South African company, best known for their War Horse, uses large puppets made of wood, manipulated by visible people. Their Woyzeck on the Highveld is a signature piece, revived frequently on world tours; here Woyzeck’s characters are translated into rodmanipulated puppets, and Handspring’s signature technique

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is particularly apt, since Büchner’s play is so clearly about dehumanizing and manipulation. This literalized metaphor is extended in the piece by silhouettes and animated film projections. Translating Woyzeck into a South African bleak industrial landscape further extends the metaphor to racial politics (although it is not so simple: the vaudevillian circus barker is played by a live actor who is black, and the animal he shows off to his audience is not a horse but, in keeping with Africa, a rhinoceros, an intricately and delicately made puppet). The Woyzeck puppet, like the Marie puppet, is carved from roughly hewn wood with hollow eyes; there are shocking moments when the puppet seems to meet our gaze. The language of the piece is sometimes spoken as dialogue and sometimes typed into a projection onto the back wall: “There is no hope that anything will ever be any different. It’s very boring.” This Woyzeck ’s terrible anomie is utterly contemporary.

Naomi Iizuka, Skin, 1995 (in Out of the Fringe: Contemporary Latina/Latino Theatre and Performance, New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2000) Judging by the stage directions, Woyzeck’s visions and aural hallucinations control this script. Iizuka creates a Southern California nightmare, filled with surreal images of desert and ocean and airports, which seem even crazier and crueller than Büchner’s. As the horror progresses, his madness grows, and Scene 18 finds Woyzeck, here called Jones, dancing with the Virgin Mary who burns him with her electric touch. Scene 19 begins at night,

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with deafening, painful sounds: “then the Police slide out of the dark like they have been forever there, invisible, waiting for a sign” (187). Iizuka’s Navy Man is the equivalent of the Drum Major and the Manager is like the Captain, urging Jones, to “slow down,” although the issue for him is not the lack of morality of the poor as it is in Büchner’s play, but the welfare money paid by the taxpayers. Mary, Jones’ girlfriend has a daughter who is utterly abandoned by the end, while Angel seems to be the Andres figure, an inadequate friend. After Jones stabs Mary to death, he vanishes into the night, saying, “I wanted to/I wanted to peel off my skin/I wanted to peel off my skin, and fold it up, and put it in a box. I wanted to disappear” (198). And he does. The play ends with Mary’s Girl talking about the mother she has lost. Iizuka has found a way to match Buchner’s horrifying heartbreak by writing a replay, which, like so much contemporary art, is imbued with surreal cinematic images.

Simon Stephens, Motortown (London: Methuen, 2006) Woyzeck’s puzzled desperation becomes far more vicious in Motortown, a play where the similarity to Woyzeck was remarked upon after its premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2006. Here the Woyzeck figure is a British soldier called Danny, as uneducated and unfocused and violent as Woyzeck, whose brother, Lee, autistic or brain damaged in some way, is Karl the Idiot updated. Marley, Marie updated, mocks Danny’s sexual performance. Danny

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seems to be a psychopath, and that may imply that his actions are a result of his inherent aggression rather than a product of the Gulf War. It could also be argued that psychopaths found a comfortable environment in Iraq from which he has recently returned, and which he says he misses; what he blames is the society he has returned to. It is this society, a deteriorated England that is Stephens’ subject; in an interview in TimeOut (Nadia Abrahams, April 9, 2006) the playwright discussed what seems to him an obvious connection between the returning soldiers who are “violent, chaotic or morally insecure” and the similarly violent, chaotic, and morally insecure world that is, in Stephens’ opinion, contemporary Britain. It is worth noting the similarity of this critique of the contemporary British culture that produces Danny’s to Büchner’s critique, since he was living and writing in the context of European revolutions and peasant uprisings where political goals were inevitably unclear. Büchner wrote in a letter to his family, in 1835, “The dramatic poet is in my eyes nothing but a writer of history” (Schmidt, 314). Paul, a gun dealer who sells Danny the weapon he will use to kidnap and then kill Paul’s fourteen-year-old girlfriend remarks on the meaningless of life: “God. Law. Money. The left. The right. The church. The state. All of them lie in tatters. Wouldn’t you be frightened?” (35). Both plays are informed by their playwright’s disgust.

Punchdrunk Company, The Drowned Man, 2013 Punchdrunk, a company specializing in audience-immersive productions in London provided The Drowned Man which makes

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oblique reference to Woyzeck. Whether the peripatetic, voyeuristic, choose-your-own plot has anything to say about Buchner’s play is debatable; most of the London reviews were about the experience of being at the show and about the trendy company rather than the show’s content.

A brief list of exotic replays Woyzeck becomes a Black soldier in the racist south in Jeff Cohen’s Whoa Jack (unpublished, 1999) and a silent tango-ing figure in a South Korean production by the Sadari Movement Laboratory (2008). In a visually stunning and athletic production from VestPort in Iceland (2010), Woyzeck is first underwater then flying through the air. Even more recently, he is a Depression-era Appalachian in “Dark Hollow,” a production built on folk songs by Elizabeth Chaney. Added to these are Mats Ek’s choreography for a Woyzeck ballet called Kalfaktorn (The Batman) and a variety of films, one by the Hungarian Szasz Janos (1994), and one by Francis Annan, the first English language film of the play (2010). This is the merest sampling of the wildly imaginative replays that Woyzeck has inspired.

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1 Henrik Ibsen

Chekhov and Ibsen are the two modern playwrights proving irresistible to contemporary theater-makers and contemporary audiences, with endless productions, both starry and small, reverential and experimental, and endless new translations, and endless replays. Each represents a different strain in contemporary society; if Chekhov speaks to our sense of helplessness and selfdoubt, Ibsen speaks to our sense of social outrage, especially in the arena of gender politics. Young audiences and readers are repeatedly amazed to find Ibsen speaking for them more than a century later, and although there is today a considerably raised consciousness of gender inequality, far above nineteenthcentury perceptions of both women’s roles and women’s rights, Ibsen continues to express thoughts and feelings contemporary audiences respond to. For example, speaking in support of property rights for married women, Ibsen’s remark still seems startling apt in light of today’s legislative controversies as well as shedding light on life for women in developing nations such as Saudi Arabia and Congo: “To consult men in such a matter is like asking wolves if they desire better protection for the sheep.” Nora

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and Hedda—one in her eagerness for self-discovery and one in her dire self-disgust—still speak to us. Thus it is not surprising that Ibsen’s early plays are not only constantly remounted but also often replayed. Although there is renewed interest in The Master Builder, an ambiguous study in the male ego and artistic entitlement, it has not yet caught the imagination of contemporary authors.

A Doll’s House, 1879 Since its shocking premiere more than 130 years ago, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House has continued to be one of world literature’s most controversial and theatrically tempting plays. One translator after another updates the play (from fusty Victorian English to the vernacular of the moment), one director after another updates the play (the setting, the costuming, the casting), one actor after actor embodies Nora and Torvald for their times, and one contemporary playwright after another writes a replay. One door slams shut, another opens. In his 1878 “Notes for a Modern Tragedy,” Ibsen wrote, “A woman cannot be herself in contemporary society,” pointing out that men and women “do not understand each other, but in practical life the woman is judged by man’s law as though she were not a woman but a man.” This socio-political basis would seem one possible explanation for the fact that A Doll’s House has endured as an interesting work of modern drama, although surely its power derives from its fineness as a script, a playable play

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offering an actor a summit role; Ibsen’s masterful structure as the text leads us inexorably through turns of plot and one revelation after another. Perhaps most satisfying and most tempting is the ambiguity of character: both Nora and Torvald turn out to be considerably more complex, and thereby more human, than mere spokespersons. Torvald defines his wife according to his times and according to his needs: “First and foremost you are a wife and mother” and thus provokes, over and over, in different countries, languages and eras, Nora’s reply, “I am, first and foremost, a human being.” She ultimately leaves her husband and sleeping children, slamming the door behind her (Shaw declared this sound effect, “the door slam heard round the world”). There is no shortage of straightforward, faithful productions of the play: Torvald may be the most frequently dumped husband in the history of marriage. But even where realism and floor-length dresses still hold sway, Nora changes. As gender politics go, so goes Ibsen. Most noteworthy among the long list of notable productions is the 1886 “amateur” production in a Bloomsbury drawing room, when Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl) played Nora and Bernard Shaw played Krogstad.

Notable productions Renowned actors essaying the role of Nora on film give us cultural evidence of the play’s permanence, and reveal the shift in the culture if not in hemlines:

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1959: in James Costigan’s adaptation for television, Julie Harris is a meek Nora, all wistful eyebrows and tremulous voice, to Christopher Plummer’s patriarchal, patronizing Torvald. In the 1950s, Father, after all, knew best. 1973: directed by Patrick Garland, Claire Bloom’s Nora is largely actress, skilled at becoming whomever she’s required to be until finally turning firm and stern (“Sit down.”). Anthony Hopkins’ Torvald seems to be both verging on violent and thoroughly selfcongratulatory. The same cultural moment that yielded Helen Reddy’s 1971 lyric, “I am woman, hear me roar,” also gave us a film version of A Doll’s House, directed by David Losey and starring Jane Fonda, whose celebrity feminist reputation added spice to her Nora, with David Warner as her Torvald. 1992: In a superb television version directed by David Thacker, Juliet Stevenson’s Nora is all self-discovery and brave-new-world wonder, while Trevor Eve is bewildered and tearfully emotional. Sensitivity session. 2012: Carrie Cracknell, the director of the London Young Vic’s much admired production, created, with Nick Payne, a new short film called “Nora” (available on YouTube). She recasts her stage Nora, Hattie Morahan, as an executive; we watch her frantic morning departure from home as her two little children eat breakfast and she delivers them to the babysitter, then as she continues on to an important presentation at a meeting at work. She eventually returns home, abandons the children and wanders away. Her dialogue consists of mainly “I’m so sorry.”

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Directors, too, can’t resist the pull of the play. A few major examples illustrate the temptation to replay. In 1981, Ingmar Bergman began his trilogy A Project for the Theatre, in which the renowned film director deconstructed A Doll’s House (followed by Julie, which was based on Strindberg’s Miss Julie and is discussed in the Strindberg chapter of this volume, followed by Scenes from a Marriage a stage adaptation of Bergman’s own film). In his Nora (in A Project for the Theatre. New York: Continuum, 1999), the characters are in hell where “the damned are condemned to torture one another” (“Winners and Losers” by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker in A Project for the Theatre, 9). Although Bergman does not rewrite Ibsen, he reconfigures; in his production he has all the characters onstage all the time, thus changing the dynamic among them. Everyone watches Nora going through her dramatic journey; Bergman explains: “she’s bored and tired and unhappy. [. . .] my Nora is very aggressive” (9). In the final scene (#15), dressed in a dark coat and carrying a small suitcase, Nora enters their bedroom and awakens a startled, naked Torvald who is, once again, surprised to see her dressed. The contrast is pointed. Bergman specifies that Nora delivers her lines “Brutally ” and “Bitterly,” and in the famous “I could tear myself to pieces” speech, Bergman’s directions require that she punch him repeatedly as hard as she can. In another interesting change, Bergman has Mrs. Linde become the villain, triggering the play’s catastrophe out of spite and envy. Lee Breuer’s Doll House (Mabou Mines, 2003) has become known as the “little men” production where the women and the children were played by “normal” sized actors, squashed into

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a miniaturized house, while the male characters were played by little people—who are no less tyrannical for their lack of height. This was accompanied by creepy/jokey music plucked from an oldtime silent movie melodrama, thus making a comment not only on sexual politics, but also on theater’s love affair with Ibsen. This production was filmed in 2008. Thomas Ostermeier, the provocative German director turned Nora into Medea in the 2002 Berlin Schaubuhne production, bringing radically contemporary and violent images and blaring pop music to Ibsen’s text, although here Nora prefers to murder her children rather than abandon them. She wore a Lara Croft supergirl costume, becoming her own avatar and Dr Rank was a cigar-smoking angel with wings. Perhaps the two most exotic entries in the global Doll House sweepstakes were the 1998 production in Beijing and the 2006 production in Delhi, demonstrating that Ibsen’s play is not only for all times but all places. According to Playbill’s China correspondent, Wang Ling, Ibsen has been a major influence on modern Chinese drama since early in the twentieth century. He reports that this production, presented by The Central Experimental Drama Troupe, set the scene in 1930s in China, rather than in nineteenth-century Norway. According to The Hindu’s reporter, Leela Venkataraman, the Indian production of A Doll House was presented in honor of International Women’s Day. It was an adaptation for dance and puppets by a group called Sadhya, with the dancers costumed in nineteenth-century European clothes, and the production concept placed the figure of Ibsen in the still centre around whom the female

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dancers performed “in adulation of his support for the cause of gender equality.” At the International Ibsen conference held in Skien, Norway in September 2010, there were three performances of the play: a Turkish version of A Doll’s House called Nora Nure. Nure is a figure in traditional Kurdish stories, and the play is designed to have the two characters as counterparts representing Eastern and Western, ancient and modern, and thus to reveal their similarities. Also on the program was an Egyptian dance performance by Lamousika called “Nora’s Doors,” a meditation on the famous door-slamming exit and on the situation of women in Egypt. The third, a Norwegian production, used the original script but the venue was extraordinary: the living room of Ibsen’s family home in Venstop.

Replays Second- and third-wave feminists have seized upon Ibsen and, unwilling to let first-wave feminists speak for them, insist on reworking A Doll’s House for themselves in contemporary settings.

Elfriede Jelinek, What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband and Met the Pillars of Society (Was Geschah, Nachdem Nora Ihren Mann Verlassen Hatte Oder Stutzen Der Gesellschaften) 1979 in Plays by Women: Ten (London: Methuen, 1994) Austrian author Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004; she is best known in the English-speaking world for her

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novel, The Piano Teacher ; her work emphasizes female sexual desire and capitalist society’s marginalization of women. Her 1979 play, What Happened . . . was written as a sequel to A Doll’s House to commemorate the play’s centennial; in it, Nora frees herself from her privileged-class role as a wife and mother to become a factory worker. When Jelinek’s Nora “changes” out of her tarantella costume and dons street clothes, she walks out of the last scene of Ibsen’s play into the first scene of Jelinek’s. This new play has a dual time frame: Germany of the 1920s, undergoing the economic collapse that led to the rise of Hitler’s National Socialism, and the late 1970s, a period of accelerated economic development in West Germany as well as the emergence of Germany’s feminist movement. Jelinek here seems to imply ideological continuities between National Socialism and the contemporary German Wirtschaftswunder, (economic miracle) and she uses Nora to demonstrate those dangers.

Charles F. (OyamO) Gordon, A Selfish Sacrifice (typescript, 2004, premiere Denver Center, 2005) A Selfish Sacrifice finds Nora now called Aku (blatantly named Femi in the original version of the script), the wife of the Nigerian Ambassador to the United Nations. Torvald is now called Akin, but was first named Kofi in the original script (an obviously impossible name in a play obliquely about the United Nations). When Aku joins her husband in New York, she discovers how different her life as a Nigerian woman is from the lives of American women. This seems to provide a contemporary socio-political equivalent to the

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nineteenth-century’s audience shocking experience of the play’s protofeminism. OyamO explained (via e-mail) that the title, “Selfish Sacrifice was about choices that cancelled each other out: It was selfish of her to leave the family to pursue her life, but it was also a sacrifice; she sacrificed her joy of her children and a secure marriage to a loving, if insensitive husband, because she needed her freedom to have the kind of life she felt she deserved, the kind of life she could never have achieved with the typical male. . . . my sympathies lie with the women in this macho world.” When I asked OyamO about the significance of Akin being a convert to Islam and Aku a Christian, he replied: “I did not want to leave out the kind of religious and tribal tensions that plague Nigeria. Did he convert to Islam to make his life easier in Nigeria? Did he feel that Christianity was just another sort of animist religion? Did the Islamic man’s attitude toward women attract him? In any event I thought it would be much more interesting to see what happens between an Ibo Christian and a converted Yoruba who left a vibrant, colourful religion to join an austere, strict religion that was forced, initially, upon Africa in the centuries following the founding of Islam in the 7th century A.D.” He adds, “The irony of Akin having converted to Islam and then having to flee from the North must not have escaped his mind. Nor could he dismiss the fact that Aku saved his life at great risk of her own life; he was helplessly ill and she literally put him in a wheelbarrow and carried him to safety to her friend’s house.

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Aku seems to have missed the real significance her actions: a woman saved his life; she abandoned him and her children to save her own life.” Much of the dialogue seems merely to paraphrase Ibsen’s; for example, Nora’s disappointment when Torvald fails to be heroic is expressed by Aku to Akin this way: “I dreamed. I thought you’d say, ‘I am the guilty one.’” (89). A new and unforeseen revelation is Aku’s confession that her wrongdoing was not the forgery to obtain the money for the trip that saved her husband’s life, but rather that her son is not her husband’s son: “I did what I had to do to get the money for medicine and food.” Nana replies, “Life is just doing what’s necessary” (93). It is interesting that her having traded sex for money has her overstep a moral line—something Aku must know is on some level wrong if “necessary”—while Nora’s forgery seems to be something she may not consider “wrong” but merely illegal, indicting the law rather than the act.

Rebecca Gilman, Dollhouse (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2005) Rebecca Gilman’s intriguing updating of A Doll’s House sets the play in a condo in upscale Lincoln Park, Chicago, in 2004. Nora is called “No-No” by her husband Terry, and she more or less sums up the play when she tells him, near the end, “Your nickname for me is a scold. . . . A scold for a wayward child” (104). Krogstad has become Raj Patel whose financial difficulties are now caused by an investment venture involving illegal stem cell research. When I asked Gilman (via e-mail) whether that character’s

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failure/moral collapse suggests the similar failure/moral collapse of the American Dream, the immigrant son undone by greed, Gilman replied: I wasn’t thinking of Raj’s experience as emblematic of the immigrant experience. Rather, I was looking for a way to make him an outsider in this world—as Krogstad is in the original due to class. I felt that the other characters would regard him as a grabby intruder based on their own xenophobia. Gilman’s play is likely to make contemporary audiences squirm as the playwright indicts contemporary materialism. She explained that, “So much of the dialogue in Ibsen’s play is about money. Torvald and Nora are the yuppies of nineteenth-century Bergen. I think Ibsen was very aware of how much they valued physical comfort and things.” Gilman’s most shocking alteration comes when, after the door slams behind her, Nora comes back into the house. I asked Gilman whether this surprise (proving that doors slam both ways) was intended to convey ambiguity or just the very contemporary attitude: “nevermind, just kidding.” She replied: I was going for a surprise and ambiguity with her re-entry. I felt that, given the contemporary setting, Nora’s leaving at the end was not the radical act that Ibsen intended. It was Ibsen’s intent to shock the audience and I was hoping for some shock value with her return. I felt like a contemporary adaptation had to ask the question of how far feminism has come since Nora first left Torvald, and the answer I arrived at was: not far enough. Given our options, I’m afraid that sometimes women choose comfort

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and security over real freedom. This modern-day Nora returns to the safety of established gender norms. If Ibsen challenges the viability of marriage as an institution, Gilman indicts that institution as, literally, a safe house, a way for women to ignore the challenges of empowerment and self-realization Ibsen’s play offers. Gilman’s play scorns the women who have defaulted, retreating from twenty-first-century opportunities back to the material comfort of nineteenth-century male protectionism. The following exchange sums up the enormous distance crossed since the nineteenth century (and seems to stir Hedda Gabler into the mix): Terry

[aka Torvald] Well, if this isn’t what you wanted then tell me, please, what do you want? Because nobody

Nora Terry Nora Terry

put a gun to your head. If you’re not happy— [sarcastically] Being a wife and a mother— Then what else do you want? To be a human being! It’s the twenty-first century, Nora. Go ahead! (105–6)

His challenge and her failure to meet that challenge replays A Doll’s House very neatly, replacing an easy kneejerk feminist protest with a sly and cutting riposte: the blame shifts as the world changes.

Theresa Rebeck, Dollhouse (New York: Playscripts, Inc., 2006) Unlike Rebeck’s more familiar work (Spike Heels, The Understudy, Seminar), Dollhouse isn’t funny—at least not on the page. Because the playwright holds a PhD in Victorian melodrama, the allure of the

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nineteenth century masterbuilder must have been great. Here Nora’s identity seems shaped less by mores embedded in the culture than by the psychology of the individual personality. Rebeck’s Nora tells Evan (her Torvald), “You don’t want to know me” (73) and her wish to have a marriage based on “souls” seems less a matter of public debate than a private concern. And in this way, her Dollhouse comments on contemporary society rather than on Ibsen: psychology has replaced socio-political activism in the play as it has in the Western world generally. This continues when we see that Rebeck’s Nora responds to and consciously acknowledges Dr Rank’s feelings for her; this seems to uncomplicate her as a flirt and a manipulator. Everything in the contemporary world has become explicit. That Nora does not work, especially with a live-in nanny, seems, of course, much more unusual now than it did in the nineteenth century. That she did not work secretly to pay off the debt removes the issue of moral courage from the play and from the character study; she merely took the money she inherited from her father to replace the stolen money, and thus has remained in the dollhouse, never discovering the thrill of economic self-sufficiency as Ibsen’s Nora does. Rebeck gives Nora an exit line that sounds like it flew out of a morning talk show: “when I’m more of a person, when I’m stronger—when I’m wiser than I am now—I will come to you, I promise, and . . . we will see where we are.” His very contemporary reply is, “I may not wait,” followed by her “I doubt that you will. And you should. Because I will be worth waiting for” (77). Then this selfimportant brat slams the door behind her. It is noteworthy that these two contemporary female playwrights are no longer on Nora’s side; the feminist issue makes more rigorous

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demands today, and Nora does not automatically win sympathy merely by gender claims. Ibsen’s notes to A Doll’s House in which he speculates about the logical consequences of the repression of women provide this chilling glimpse into our world. “These women of the modern age, mistreated as daughters, as sisters, as wives, not educated in accordance with their talents, debarred from following their real mission, deprived of their inheritance, embittered in mind—these are the ones who supply the mothers for the next generation. What will result from this?” (quoted by James McFarlane in “Introduction,” Four Major Plays, New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, p. ix). The contemporary replays seem to answer Ibsen’s question, not only with their versions of his characters, but with the plays themselves, and the answer to his question is a discouraging “not much.” As is often the case with these fighting plays, the replays lack the passion of their great precursors.

Hedda Gabler, 1890 In a letter in 1890 to Count Moritz Prozor, Ibsen wrote that his intention in Hedda Gabler was to show “human beings, human moods and human destinies, seen against a background of contemporary social conditions and attitudes” (quoted by David Thomas in Hedda Gabler, Methuen Drama p. xxxiii from Oxford Ibsen, vol. vii, p. 90). It is just those social conditions and attitudes—as they have changed through time—that make Hedda Gabler so tantalizing a play to reimagine. Whatever hope the

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conclusion of A Doll’s House offered, by the time, eleven years later when Hedda Gabler appeared, it had vanished. Both Nora and Hedda are women trapped in a repressive, patriarchal society, but where Nora seems to be an optimistic, curious, psychologically strong and adventurous person, Hedda is pessimistic, bored, psychologically unstable, and a murderous, suicidal thrill-seeker, thus further indicting the society that bred her. Interpretation is always the determining factor, whether it is the director’s or the actor’s or the reader’s or the spectator’s: sometimes Hedda is a tigress, sometimes a spoiled brat, sometimes a passive pawn shaped by her father (or her idea of her father) or merely an ordinary bourgeoise shaped by a provincial society easily intimidated by status. In any of these, she is unlikable, and yet we are moved by her desperation and death, the stupid, self-aggrandizing waste of such a spirit confined in such a small space. That her suicide turns ludicrous, judged inadequately by the two inadequate men who drove her to it, is the play’s final unhappy mockery; Hedda’s death is a tragedy manqué; she fails even at self-dramatization. Hedda is a summit role, requiring an actress of power and subtlety, and the play has inspired not only innumerable stage productions in many languages, but a number of film versions, including three silent movies: an American film in 1917, an Italian film in 1919 and a German film in 1924; Ingrid Bergman appeared in the 1963 made-for-television version, and in 1972 the BBC gave us Janet Suzman in the role, followed by Glenda Jackson in the filmed version of the 1975 RSC production directed by Trevor Nunn. The starry list of English-speaking stage Heddas includes Mrs Patrick Campbell, Eleanora Duse, Eva Le Gallienne, Peggy Ashcroft, Joan

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Greenwood, Claire Bloom, Irene Worth, Diana Rigg, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth Marvel, Kate Burton, Isabelle Hupert, Annette Benning, Fiona Shaw, Judy Davis, Harriet Walter, Martha Plimpton, Mary Louise Parker, Cate Blanchett—a list no doubt already lengthened since this went to press.

Replays The serious dramas that reimagine Hedda Gabler are similar to each other in their lugubrious feminism, often spelling out what Ibsen allowed us to see for ourselves as they struggle to make playable theater out of what are, essentially, essays interpreting the original. In his biography Michael Meyer cites a Norwegian psychologist as having “persuasively argued that Hedda is in fact a self-portrait, and that she represents his own repressed and crippled emotional life. [. . .] if Hedda is his self-portrait, it is almost certainly an unconscious one—not that that makes it any the less truthful; rather the reverse” (Ibsen, New York: Doubleday, 1971, p. 648). This analysis (in Meyer’s chapter called “Portrait of the Dramatist as a Young Woman”) expands the original play, and seems akin to the often-quoted line of Flaubert’s: “La Bovary, c’est moi,” implying the universality of the character’s dilemma; it is worth noting they are not so different from one another: Hedda and Emma both feel intense dissatisfaction with the weak and limited men who constrict their lives, they are both tarnished by their bourgeois, materialistic aspirations, they are both desperately bored, they both lack maternal instinct, and, finally, they both commit suicide.

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Maria Irene Fornes, The Summer at Gossensass, 1998 (in What of the Night? New York: PAJ, 2008) Fornes, the Cuban-American feminist playwright, takes up a different biographical angle in The Summer at Gossensass. The title comes from the fact that in the summer of 1889, while vacationing in Gossensass, Ibsen, who was then sixty, became infatuated with an eighteen-year-old girl and she was the basis for the character of Hedda. Fornes’ doleful and tedious play recounts the history of the first English production of Hedda Gabler in London. One of the lesser-known English-speaking Heddas was the American actress Elizabeth Robins (1855–1936) whose passionate quest was to acquire the English translation of Hedda Gabler and to perform the lead role that had just been co-opted by a celebrity production starring Lily Langtree. When Robins did finally perform the play in London, her notices were raves, but none of this brilliance is visible in Fornes’ play, nor does she provide any context for audiences who are likely never to have heard of Robins. Robins, who became known throughout her illustrious stage career as “Ibsen’s High Priestess,” was, like Fornes, an ardent advocate for women’s rights. This historical moment is rendered nearly opaque by dialogue like this: Marion:

Do you think she fell from grace?

Elizabeth:

Yes.

Marion:

Yet you care for her.

Elizabeth:

Yes.

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Marion:

As if she were a real person.

Elizabeth:

Yes. I can’t help caring for her. As if she were real. She’s bad, and yet I care for her. (52)

Fornes’ dialogue alternates between comments that are oddly repeated as though everyone onstage were slightly deaf, and long pedantic explications of Ibsen’s play. In Fornes’ eagerness to create characters who are ardent about feminist theater (as she did in her better-known work, Fefu and Her Friends) and thereby construct a feminist play, Fornes misses the complexity of both the historical Elizabeth Robins and the fictional Hedda.

Philip Kan Gotanda, The Wind Cries Mary (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2004) The same labored social commentary damages Gotanda’s replay, The Wind Cries Mary. Set in San Francisco in 1968, Gotanda reconfigures Hedda as a Japanese-American woman called Eiko, married to a Caucasian man. She is poised uneasily between two worlds—the demure “Oriental” woman, and the newly emerging Asian woman—all in the midst of the campus protests that fuelled both the antiwar and minority rights movements. The title, The Wind Cries Mary comes from the lyrics of a 1967 song by Jimi Hendrix, evoking the 1960s with its drug culture, burgeoning feminism, and academic sociology. “Mary” becomes both Eiko’s nickname and code for the LSD pills she concocts in her private laboratory (odd, since “Mary” usually referred to

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marijuana in street slang). Dr Nakoda, the Judge Brach figure, speaks unspeakable dialogue, such as, “A woman such as you will be able to give herself permission to soar in an arc of total and complete participation” (33) while Miles, the Lovborg figure, says this about his new manuscript that will be burned: “I begin to decipher the codes—you have to see through the ventriloquism of history . . . I’m creating a kind of emergency kit for today’s living . . . that we might all get to live a life of uncompromising simple and large truths. . . .” (37). Despite Gotanda’s “Author’s Note” attached to the published script in which he explains that he has “tried to avoid a sense of parody of the ’60s,” the tone of the dialogue and the constant hard rock music specified in the stage directions, all heard from the distance of half a century, creates a mockery of as well as a sense of the characters’ archaic and dangerous naiveté. And that is the problem: had this play been written in 1968, it might have shown us that juncture in American social life, but written in 2004, The Wind Cries Mary merely cashes in on the easy wisdom of hindsight. For instance, at a student rally at Berkeley, the character Miles is “incoherent— babbling on and on about how one day it’s going to be hip to be Asian in America—white kids in suburbs eating raw fish, black inner city kids idolizing Japanese ball players” (65); it is easy to predict what has already happened. Eiko’s suicide is accomplished not with a pistol but a ritual seppuku knife and thus carries the same ambiguity that Hedda’s self-destruction does: although Eiko triumphantly leaves her legs unbound (traditionally Japanese women would tie their legs together before the act of seppuku so as to prevent immodest

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sprawling), the play’s questions linger: how liberated is it to use an ancient traditional means for suicide, and what kind of a victory is it to kill yourself.

Caroline Kava, Hedda Gabler (unpublished; Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Philadelphia, 2009) This replay tries to solve the “what’s Hedda’s problem?” problem by positing a lesbian relationship, with Lovborg as a woman. It has some plausibility: maybe that’s why Hedda hates being married, maybe that’s why she is obsessed with her military father—envious imitation rather than Electra complex—as she is similarly obsessed with his pistols. Restricted by nineteenth-century skirts and corsets and further trapped by her pregnancy, she needs to control something or someone, since she clearly has no control over her own life. The 2009 production by the Mauckingbird Theatre Company seemed a shallow explanation of a complex character, since lesbian Hedda is no more self-aware than heterosexual Hedda, missing the subtlety Ibsen revealed: despite her flirtations with Lovborg and the Judge, Hedda seems to be asexual, unable to access that aspect of her humanity. All these dour replays lack characters we can identify with, thereby defeating the very point of updating a classic. The following replays are far more successful; they are all funny meta-dramas, where, typical of the contemporary sensibility, the inclination toward tragedy veers into an inclination toward farce (Hegel again), while serious ideas—about feminism, humanism, and theater—are embedded in the comedy.

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David Henderson, A Woman Scorned: The Hedda Gabler Story, or, Post Napoleanic Bourgeois Frustration (YouTube, 2008) This funny and oddly perceptive two-minute, seventeen-second adaptation presented on YouTube by Treehouse Films is a Legopiece Theatre Production. The characters and the set are constructed of Lego pieces and the film is both evidence of and testimony to the play’s iconic status. It is also worth remembering, in relation to both this piece and Heddatron (discussion follows), Ibsen’s remark that he intended to show “human beings, human moods and human destinies, seen against a background of contemporary social conditions and attitudes.” Reduced in this YouTube production to tiny toy figures, the characters deliver the play’s plot (always assuming that we know the original) with amusing variations on the signature lines: Lego Hedda to Lego Aunt wearing a purple witch hat: “What an awful hat!” and Lego Hedda to distraught Lego Lovborg after his discovery that his manuscript has been destroyed: “There, there, dear. Have a pistol.” When Hedda leaves the room, we hear her play the opening bars of “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” on the piano before we hear the gunshot. During her curtain bow, Lego Hedda’s Lego head falls off, and she crashes into the wall as she tries to exit, thus commenting on her suicide as an inefficacious escape since she is still trapped onstage. In this current era of metadrama, the toy Hedda is trapped by Ibsen’s play, and every miniscule element makes a comment on the fame of the play as well as the ongoing nature of “Post Napoleonic Bourgeois Frustration,” thereby both interpreting the play as well as entering the conversation Ibsen began about the position of women in society.

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It may also comment on the twenty-first century’s reduction of those “human” lives and longings, showing that we merely trendily toy with the issues that should be immense but are now trivialized. This rich little production also holds up for our consideration, via YouTube, the destiny of live theater in this age of the virtual.

Elizabeth Meriwether, Heddatron, 2006 (New York: Playscripts, 2008) As another version of the virtual human, in a far more complex variation on the Lego characters, Heddatron gives us robots. Meriwether’s wild and entertaining multitiered plot involves a contemporary pregnant woman named Jane, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, described in the Cast of Characters as “a trapped animal.” While she folds laundry she watches television until a copy of Hedda Gabler falls from the ceiling. Before Part One ends, she will have disappeared, kidnapped by a tribe of robots who inhabit a forest in Ecuador; in the center of the forest is a traditional set for a production of Hedda Gabler. Meanwhile, in another part of the stage, elsewhere and elsewhen, Ibsen (described in the character list as “Blanche du Bois in muttonchops”) is set upon in his 1890’s kitchen by his crabby wife and a sexy kitchen maid; then Strindberg turns up. Overseeing these bizarre goings-on is an Engineer, creator of the robots, who is being interviewed by a film student. Woven through all this theatrical mayhem is Nugget, Jane’s ten-year-old daughter who intermittently presents her school report called “Hedda Gabler, colon, Well-made play, question mark” (10). In every production, according to reviews, the little girl steals the show, although the dazzling robots provide some stiff competition.

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Ultimately, after many complications, the stage is transformed into a robot-ruled rainforest where Hans, the enormous Lovborg robot, keeps Jane captive, doomed to perform Hedda Gabler over and over again, not unlike the conclusion of Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust where Tony Last is forced to read Dickens aloud, eternally, in the Amazon jungle. Like so many of these contemporary reimaginings, Heddatron comments not only the socio-political issues Ibsen raised, but also on the very idea and causes of Hedda Gabler’s iconic status. Nugget addresses that question within the play: Hedda doesn’t want to be understood; [. . .] If you’re a robot and you figure out you’re a robot—are you still a robot? (57) This is the ultimate meta-question that raises the idea of Singularity, the term of art identifying the point at which robots acquire self-awareness and act on their own. Midway through the play, Engineer explains Singularity in this way, positing a toaster that one day realizes that it’s a toaster: “What would you do with your body if you knew it had been built just to be used by someone else? You’ve got this so-called self-awareness, but there’s nothing about you that’s really your own—” (34). Singularity clearly stands in for feminism here, and Heddatron uses robots to demonstrate, in radically contemporary and oddly moving ways, the ongoing problem central to Ibsen’s drama.

Jeff Whitty, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2008) In

another

metavariation

on

the

human-all-too-human

conundrum, and in another moving and hilarious replay, Jeff

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Whitty’s Hedda discovers not that she is not a toaster, but that she is a fictional character. She is astounded to learn that people buy tickets to see her kill herself; her husband explains: Shooting yourself in Norway, in America, in England, in France! At THIS theatre, BANG, at THAT theatre, BANG—and always, the applause! The rapturous applause! For YOU. Giving you life— giving US life! (12) The play’s action is located in some kind of hellish theatrical afterlife where as long as audiences want to see them, characters remain alive, doomed eternally to repeat their roles. Hedda’s quest is to alter her destiny so that she can stop shooting herself over and over again; this takes her to the Fiery Furnace of creativity. She is joined by a variety of fictional characters, including Medea who keeps murdering her children, and a slew of recognizable stock figures from old time movies, series television, and musical comedy; this group includes a lady detective who calls in a report of Ophelia’s drowning to the precinct and an Annie who is fed up with tomorrows. Three out-dated, stereotypical characters from the past assume major roles in Whitty’s comedy: Mammy, a black slave, and Steven and Patrick, two “theatre queens,” who were “created in the glorious year of 1968.” They are forerunners: “We’re baby steps. We’re the pioneers” (54). There are several Jesus characters, one from biblical movies, one from musical theater, and one, who seems to be genuinely Biblical, gently explains “We are not the imaginations of our authors. We are the imaginations of our audience” (35), building an interesting

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theological as well as theatrical comment: Jesus continues with this charming description of the theater-making process: One person says, “Let me show you a life,” and then an audience gathers to say, “Yes, yes, show us a life.” And [. . .] feels more compassion for the imaginary person in the play or book or film than for the loved one sitting alongside them! It’s hysterically improbable but so LOVELY. And this world HUMS from their empathy! (35) Whitty thus acknowledges the power of theater as a humanizing force while acknowledging the importance of the audience, as any meta-art must: in the world of meta, there has to be somebody to get it. In the “Subdivision of the Eternal Audience” all the productions going on all over the world, throughout all time are all visible: “a King Lear in Swahili, beside a cruise-ship version of A Chorus Line, and next to that is a third-grade production of something about a pony . . .” (55). A replay is by its very nature a celebration of theater; like so many contemporary replays, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler is startlingly comic while acknowledging and exploring the sources of and pleasures of the tragic. Whitty provides us with the amusement of being in on the joke and catching the allusions while investigating, as good plays always do and always have done, what it means to be human. Hedda asks, “Is this how it feels to be real? To live your life dreaming of some deus ex machina that’s never going to come? (55). Enter Beckett. The essential difference between a person and a character is fundamental to these three replays (Lego Hedda, Heddatron, The

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Further Adventures) while reminding us that realism seeks to erase these differences—a quaint and old-fashioned wish. These contemporary plays provide us with avatars that simultaneously trivialize and laud our humanity. Perhaps the most pointed comment on the contemporary world comes in Whitty’s play from Mammy, when Jason, the chainsaw massacre killer, turns up in his hockey mask, wielding his weapon: “OH LAWDY! What kina world be dreamin’ someone like dis up?” (26). An indictment more than a question. Such an indictment emerges as fundamental to replays, a contemporary condition suggesting that we get the plays we deserve; how can playwrights create successful tragedy if we are unable to take our selves seriously?

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2 George Bernard Shaw

To include Shaw among the fighting plays is to state the obvious, since his crusading spirit is evident in so many of his many works; that said, it is perhaps surprising to choose Pygmalion as the representative work. Others, like Saint Joan and Major Barbara and Heartbreak House seem more overtly radical and provocative in their views. But considering Pygmalion as a feminist polemic in light of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler is instructive, both as a way to read Shaw’s play and as a way to consider the power of comedy; Eric Bentley summed up this notion with his remark, “What Ibsen is to the tragic, Shaw is to the comic.” Further, because of Pygmalion’s fame and its even more famous replay, My Fair Lady, it seems an apt inclusion. The very fact of using wit and satire to indict a social system seems distinctly contemporary; Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert might well be considered Shaw’s lightweight heirs.

Pygmalion, 1916 Shaw’s Pygmalion just about defines “hard act to follow.” The play seems timeless, an especially difficult feat for social comedy,

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especially a feminist comedy nearly one hundred years old, and even more especially for one centering on the crackbrain idea of reinventing the alphabet. In the play, phonetics professor Henry Higgins bets his colleague Colonel Pickering that he can transform a “guttersnipe,” a poor flower girl named Eliza Doolittle, into a Duchess. Pygmalion is about the way the English class system reveals itself through accent, and how changing the way one speaks the language changes the way society regards you. This does not mean, it turns out, that the personality is transformed, but merely the presentation of self. Unlike the authors and filmmakers who tried to follow his hard act, Shaw refuses to bow to the cute, the sentimental, or the silly. The extreme personalities of his characters express a psychological/ philosophical position each by his/her very nature, just as characters do in ancient myth. The Pygmalion myth, known primarily from Ovid, is about a sculptor who creates a female statute and then falls in love with his creation; the statue then comes to life and becomes a woman, and thus one interpretation of the myth is that it is about the obsessions of the artist. Like Pygmalion the sculptor, Shaw the playwright creates a woman, Eliza Doolittle, one of the many female characters in his vast canon who are vivid in their insistence on selfhood. Much has been said about “the male gaze” and the inherent sexism of the male artist in relation to the female model/creation, and Professor Henry Higgins is the Pygmalion within the play who, like the mythic sculptor, is contemptuous of women. Thus the intervention of Venus is required—or in this case the intervention of Shaw—to teach him a lesson. But Higgins is

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an insensitive misogynistic bully who cannot fall in love with his creation since he is already in love with himself. So Shaw’s title is not an explanation of his play, nor merely an arrow pointing us toward the myth, but it is a provocation to argument—the Shavian specialty. The play really needs no updating since the contemporary idea of the makeover, the reinvention of oneself into someone of improved social status and thus a presumably happier life, is a dominant obsession in contemporary society (clothes, dieting, cosmetic surgery, self-help programs, to mention the most obvious). Pygmalion reveals the superficiality of superficial changes; Eliza glamourized into a Hungarian princess remains Eliza. In Act Five she is as outraged by snobbishness as she was in Act One. It is the flower girl who reveals the truth of her personality: “He’s no right to take away my character. My character is the same to me as any lady’s.” It is not that education changes her fundamental nature, but it gives Eliza the ability to achieve independence and confidence, to see through the sham of the world with its cruel condescension and ludicrous stratifications, and in this way to triumph. But Shaw’s play (unlike most of its contemporary replays) does not confuse the patina of a superficial education with authentic teaching; in his “Preface” Shaw writes that Pygmalion with its worldwide success “is so intensely and deliberately didactic, and its subject is esteemed so dry, that I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic. It goes to prove my contention that great art can never be anything else.”

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Replays Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, My Fair Lady, 1956 For this beloved musical adaptation for the stage, Lerner’s book followed Shaw’s play, using his dialogue and often encapsulating the argument in the lyrics; Professor Higgins sings the premise in the first song: “An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him/The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him.”

Warner Bros., USA, My Fair Lady, 1964, directed by George Cukor The filmed version, starring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, opens the scene up, taking the viewer to various London locales and to the races at Ascot, mocking the restraint of the upper classes with slow-motion choreography as they sing about their excitement in an uninflected, measured song, while wearing Cecil Beaton’s dazzling costumes. In both the musical stage play and the film, the plot’s conclusion is far more romantic and audience-pleasing; Higgins and Eliza are tentatively reconciled at the end after he confesses in song that he has “grown accustomed to her face” and she, having put him in his place (surely we can hear Shaw’s voice in Mrs Higgins’ “Brava Eliza”) returns to the house and, echoing the opening dialogue, they seem to begin all over again. But Shaw’s essay that he called the “Sequel” to the play, is very firm: Eliza and Professor Higgins do not succumb

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to the romantic wishful thinking of the audience (and of the authors of the replays) and Eliza does indeed marry Freddy and finally set up a florist shop.

Simon Gray, Butley (London: Penguin, 1972) There are similarities to Shaw’s play in Gray’s play, although Butley is a tenuous inclusion here. The central character, Butley, is an English literature professor who has contempt for women, especially his female students, but his self-loathing makes him quite unlike Henry Higgins who has an unshakably high opinion of himself. That it is set in a college is a convenient but phony way to convey Shaw’s “intensely and deliberately didactic” intention. It is Butley and his downward journey, not his student and her upward journey, who is the central character. Alan Bates starred in the stage production, first in London, then in New York, and then also starred in the film version, directed by Harold Pinter in 1997.

Willy Russell, Educating Rita, 1981, revised 2003 (London: Bloomsbury, 2007) Educating Rita is strikingly similar in plot to Pygmalion, in that the professor character, here called Frank, does tutor Rita, raising her up from her low origins as an uneducated hairdresser to a sophisticated, cultured woman, but the dissimilarities make Russell’s claim never to have read Shaw’s play easy to believe; the debt to Simon Gray’s Butley may be the stronger claim, since Russell’s Frank is a self-loathing, self-defeating drunk, a halfdeluded failed poet.

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Rita’s roommate, Trish, contributes to the reinvention of Rita by insisting that she alter her voice, creating acting opportunities for the actress playing Rita and creating laughs for the audience. This is quite different from the dazzling effect of Eliza’s newly modulated voice that causes a sensation, both at the high-society parties it has been created for and for the audience in the theater. Trish’s function as an unseen character is to demonstrate that despite being cultured, she is not happy; her suicide proves, as if it needed proving, that education is not the key to contentment as Rita believes it is. Steve Lewis’ “Commentary” in the Methuen edition, notes that “Scouse,” the Liverpudlian dialect Rita speaks, is Russell’s own dialect. Since the playwright had also worked as a hairdresser, having left school at fifteen, the play’s autobiographical element makes him more Rita than Frank, more the student than the teacher. The mixture of the author’s (via Frank) showing off his literary knowledge and his satire of same, creates an uneasy humor in the play. Like Eliza, Rita cannot go back; her new, expanded, happy, and independent self has replaced the discontented, bored woman she was; but unlike Eliza, the trajectory of Rita’s development, her eager absorption of knowledge, and her easy renovation of her life from working class to middle class, makes assumptions about education that are quite unlike Shaw’s. The play panders to very middlebrow attitudes toward higher education, part of a “middle class morality,” with its goal of conformist comfort, that Shaw, like Pygmalion’s Alfred Doolittle, clearly despises. The film version of Russell’s play (Acorn Pictures, UK, 1983, directed by Lewis Gilbert), stars Michael Caine and Julie Walters.

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Russell, in collaboration with Gilbert wrote the screenplay, adding many characters and opening up the action beyond Frank’s college office. The film creates sympathy for Frank by showing us various students who are insufferably pretentious and Frank’s girlfriend who is having an affair with the chairman of his university department. It also compromises that very sympathy for Frank by emphasizing the self-pitying drunk he becomes. He is transparently in love with Rita, but here the happy ending is not an easy romantic conclusion, but instead reveals that they are both changed people; she is polished and looking forward to the next adventure of her life, while he, having been banished to Australia, has sobered up and flies off to his exile.

Films Two early European films of Pygmalion so displeased Shaw that he was reluctant to let Gabriel Pascal direct an English version, but relented when Pascal promised total fidelity to the script. Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard starred in that 1938 film, and Shaw won the Oscar for the screenplay, perhaps the only person who has won both the Nobel Prize and an Academy Award.

Mannequin, Gladden Entertainment Studio, USA, 1987, directed by Matthew Gottlieb A romantic comedy about a window dresser who becomes obsessed with a mannequin (Kim Cattrall) who comes to life; he saves her from destruction by people who do not know she is “real.”

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Pretty Woman, Touchstone Pictures, USA, 1990, directed by Garry Marshall One of the most popular romantic comedy movies of all time (judging by ticket sales) in which a rich businessman (Richard Gere) hires a prostitute (Julia Roberts) as an escort for social functions, and during the course of her makeover—manners and speech as well as dress—he falls in love with her.

She’s All That, Film Colony, USA, 1999, directed by Robert Iscove A teen movie directly based on Pygmalion where the plot is triggered once again by a boys’ bet (as it is between Professor Higgins and Col. Pickering); this time the issue is whether Zach (Freddie Prinze Jr) can make any girl into a prom queen. He does.

The Princess Diaries, Walt Disney Pictures, USA, 2001, directed by Garry Marshall Another teen romantic comedy in which an unpopular girl (Julie Andrews) discovers that she is the princess of a fictitious country. There is another hairdresser, another makeover, another embarrassment during a state dinner, and another happy ending. That so many of these knockoffs are aimed at young people with their dreams of finding true love adorned with money and glamour, indicates how far from Shaw these reimaginings have strayed, and how the tough-mindedness of the original has been compromised for crowd-pleasing happy endings.

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Even more preposterous knockoffs are the porn film, The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976), and a Bollywood movie, Santu Rangili (1976). Pygmalion also inspired episodes of various TV sitcoms, including as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Family Guy, and The Simpsons. None of these replays and knockoffs even approach Shaw’s clarity of wit and adamant social commentary.

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3 Bertolt Brecht

The through-line of social concern that emerges from these first three playwrights in this group of “fighting plays” is the status of women. All these playwrights are male, and each examines the lack of female freedom, especially in relation to motherhood. In A Doll’s House, the issue is clear, underscored by the now-famous story of Hedwig Niemann-Raabe, the German actress who in 1880 refused to play the ending Ibsen had written (“I would never leave my children”) and forced him to write a happy ending which he agreed to rather than recast the role. Nearly a century and half later, the Young Vic production in 2012 in London and again in the show’s transfer to New York the following year, included a real baby in the cast, which considerably ramped up the reality and intensity of Nora’s abandonment of her children, provoking considerable audience controversy. That women are mothers becomes an obvious way to illustrate women’s lack of freedom—emotional as well as legal—and this topic continues to be examined in Brecht’s Mother Courage.

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Mother Courage and Her Children, 1939 As with other major Brecht plays, the history of Mother Courage and Her Children pivots on the antirealist style called “alienation effect,” the signature dark vaudevillian style of Brecht’s Epic Theatre conceived as a way of making audiences think rather than just feel; the theatrical challenge is how to move us and distance us simultaneously. That challenge is intensified as some of the world’s best-loved actors—Judi Dench, Fiona Shaw, Olympia Dukakis, Diana Rigg, Meryl Streep—play Mother Courage, one of modern dramatic literature’s least lovable characters. This has created interesting and knotty performance problems, since our positive responses to these actors threatens to endear Mother Courage to us and thereby deprive the play of its point and its strength. Mother Courage drags her commissary cart from battlefield to battlefield, selling whatever the soldiers of any army need and want: brandy, ammunition, shirts, bread. She is apolitical, indomitable, relentless, cynical, and shrewd. Even as she loses her two sons and her daughter to the war, she endures; in the most moving and least Brechtian productions, this suggests a triumph of the human will; in the most Brechtian productions, this suggests the triumph of the profit-motive. The first production of Mother Courage, in 1941 in Zurich, was misunderstood and sentimentalized as a play about a mother’s losses of her three children to the horrors of war, missing Brecht’s basic notion that it is cowardice, not courage, that defines the materialistic self-interest of the central character. And so he rewrote, and it is this revised version, performed in 1949 by Brecht’s wife Helene Weigel, that became the final script. Eric Bentley’s translation into English

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has remained the anthologized standard, although both David Hare in England in 1996 and Tony Kushner in America in 2006 undertook to translate, adapt, and contemporize. It was the 1949 production, directed by Brecht, that created his legendary company, the Berliner Ensemble, and this ur-production, performed over four hundred times in Berlin as well as many more hundreds of times across Europe came to the Palace Theatre in London in 1956; William Gaskill’s 1965 National Theatre staging marked the first large-scale British production of the play. Mother Courage is an antiwar, antireligion, and anticapitalism play. And, inevitably, these themes rest on context: Berlin in 1949 or New York in 2006, World War II or the war in Iraq. Despite obvious and vast differences, these contexts seem similarly susceptible to the play’s indictments. Brecht used the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century, with its endlessness, its enormous loss of life, and its destruction of culture as cities were wrecked, to represent all wars. The historical event, if something so long can be called an event, with its diffuse causes, outcomes, and locations made the Thirty Years War a perfect emblem for war wherever and whenever. In Scene One, Mother Courage plays fortune-teller, and one by one each man draws the slip of paper with a black cross drawn on it. Is this the general doom of mortality? Is everyone, inevitably, a “corpse on furlough”? (All quotations are from Bentley’s 1955 translation, originally published by Grove Press.) The play shows us that it is not mortality that dooms us, as that goes without saying, but rather greed that keeps Mother Courage still standing at the end; Brecht demonstrates that war is profitable if you have no moral scruples about what you sell or to whom you sell it. As the Chaplain tells Eilif,

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Mother Courage’s older son, “Our Lord made five hundred loaves out of five so that [. . . when] he told men to love their neighbours, their bellies were full. Nowadays things are different.” When the voice of religion converts to cynicism, when love is a luxury of prosperity, we hear Brecht’s point loud and clear. The two major contemporary translations, by David Hare (London: Bloomsbury, 1995) and by Tony Kushner (London: Bloomsbury, 2009), add to the richness of the play, especially as each has had notable productions. Hare’s premiered in 1995 starring Diana Rigg, directed by Jonathan Kent at the National Theatre in London, and Kushner’s premiered in 2006 starring Meryl Streep, directed by George C. Wolfe at the Public Theatre’s Delacorte Theatre in the Park in New York. The London premiere of Kushner’s work starred Fiona Shaw and was directed by Deborah Warner; Methuen’s cover art shows a smirking Fiona Shaw photographing herself with a cell phone against the backdrop of a colorful explosive war. A “selfie” for the ages. In an interview in the New York Times on the occasion of the Shakespeare in the Park production, Kushner pointed out that although his script is a translation and not an adaptation, his emphasis is on the characters’ psychology and that he tried to find a plausible American equivalent for Brecht’s “rough and bumpy” imitation of seventeenth- century German. This new translation increases the play’s humor, Kushner said, because contemporary American audiences are unlike the 1949 German audiences who found the play “shattering”; Americans have not experienced war as Europeans did, and, Kushner added that laughter unites an audience in a sense of community. With great insight, director

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George C. Wolfe noted that the “alienation effect” is no longer necessary, that television has taught us to distance ourselves from whatever horrors the screen shows us (“Still Fearsome, Mother Courage Gets a Makeover” Jonathan Kalb, August 6, 2006). Looking at the lyrics of the play’s songs is a revealing way to see how considerably Hare and Kushner have replayed Brecht. In The Brecht Commentaries (Grove, 1981), Bentley explains that Brecht called the songs “Die Songs” using the English word instead of the German “Lied” so he decided to name them “Zonks”—the phonetic of “songs” as Brecht pronounced the word. Bentley notes that rather than considering the songs an interruption of the dialogue, “the Zonks are the heart of the matter” (114). In his translation of Mother Courage there are seven songs and two fragments; in Hare’s there are eleven songs and two fragments; in Kushner’s there are twelve songs. Zonk #1 is sung by Mother Courage to announce the arrival of her canteen wagon and suggests the doom inherent in war: “Sabres and swords are hard to swallow:/First you must give them beer to drink./Then they can face what is to follow—/But let ‘em swim before they sink!/ Christians awake!. . . .” This same moment becomes in the Hare translation: “Commanders, give your men their rations. . . . Send them cheerful to the gaping jaws of hell” (6), rhythmically awkward and oddly lacking in contemporary tone. In the Kushner translation Zonk #1 is easier on the contemporary ear, making the rhythm jauntier and the satire less blatant: “They fight for God and legal tender,/ I’ll see them clothed, and feed them well,/and bless the boys, in all their splendor,/ as they march down the road to hell” (9).

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One thing crucial to both George C. Wolfe and Kushner was the necessity of reworking the music; Kushner felt that Paul Dessau’s original music was “too specifically rooted in the 1940’s Central European sensibility” and needed to be expanded to incorporate global musical influences. Jeanine Tesori’s “soundscape” is influenced by “an assortment of far-flung, war-related sources, from highland bagpipes to Masai tribal drumming to John Philip Sousa marches” (Kalb). Some of the songs are character revelations: Eilif’s song in Scene Three, “The Song of the Fishwife and the Soldier” with its refrain, “It’s the life of a hero for me!” is accompanied by Eilif’s “war dance with his sabre.” Here the soldier is a “lad” and the fishwife is old, and the lyrics are the woman’s warnings about danger; Mother Courage, banging on her pan with a spoon, finishes the song. During their reunion she smacks Eilif, and he assumes that it is because he stole the oxen, revealing some vestige of morality; she corrects him, angry only that he did not surrender when attacked: “Didn’t I teach you to take care of yourself?” Survival is all that matters to her. The Hare version is quite similar, while the Kushner version, where the song is called “The Soldier and His Wife,” is much more colloquial; after she smacks him, she says “Are you nuts?! I taught you always to watch out for yourself!” (33). Most of the changes are of this minor sort; Kushner has made the play contemporary while keeping it the play Brecht wrote, in effect rescuing Brecht from the lugubriousness of dated language and the heavy-handedness of style often associated with him without compromising the protest. The ironic point of Eilif’s story is that he is punished for doing in peacetime exactly what he did in wartime when he was rewarded as a hero for theft and

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murder; the contemporary relevance to returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars leaps out. Eilif’s brother, Swiss Cheese, will be killed for his simple loyalty to his job and his naive belief that honesty is rewarded. Kattrin’s own traumatic abuse at the hands of a soldier when she was a little child has left her mute, but her suffering has also given her sympathy for children; Mother Courage says, “She suffers because she pities.” When she bangs on a drum to wake the sleeping town and save their children from the invasion she makes herself the target of a bullet, and Mother Courage loses her last child. Mother Courage, now pulling her cart alone, literally harnessed to her business, as so many workaholics metaphorically are, follows the next army as the soldiers sing, ending the play with, “Only miracles can save us/And miracles have had their day./Christians, awake!” Hare’s version ends movingly and grimly with the Soldiers singing, “Spring is here. The snow is melting The dead are gone. They’re all at peace. And what remains must now continue. That’s us. Let’s go. We’re all that’s left.” (93) Kushner’s ends with this variation on the Soldiers’ song: The world will end, and time will cease! And while we live we buy and sell! And in our graves we shall find peace— Unless the war goes on in Hell! (104)

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Replays Joan Littlewood, Oh! What a Lovely War, 1955 Less a replay than a homage to Brecht’s influence, Joan Littlewood’s musical theater show, Oh! What a Lovely War was seen initially by very few people, but would go on to become her company’s signature production. The film adaptation of the stage musical, in 1969, features an astonishingly starry cast, many of whom seem uncomfortable in the Brechtian mode: Lawrence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Mills, John Gielgud, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Ian Holm, Dirk Bogarde, and Susannah York, all directed by Richard Attenborough. The film relies on satire that seems blatant by contemporary standards, and the cinematic spectacle is heavyhanded, especially true in the scene in the amusement park called “World War” in which the entire population happily buys tickets and files inside. The highlight of the film, the spectacular destruction of the carousel, is highly effective and still shocking.

Ntozake Shange, Mother Courage and Her Children (unpublished, 1980) Shange, best known for her “choreopoem” for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow was enuf won the Obie Award for best play of 1980 for her adaptation of Mother Courage. She transferred the action to post-civil war nineteenth-century America and, unlike Brecht, assigned “good guys/bad guys” status to the warring sides. Her Mother Courage, unlike Brecht’s who will sell to anyone who will buy, joins the enemy.

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Frank Rich, then chief theater critic at the New York Times, wondered in his review whether it was legitimate and responsible to call a play Mother Courage when it “violates the spirit of the drama we associate with that title”; Shange’s script is an example of “adaptation gone wildly astray” (New York Times, June 15, 1980, D5, D33).

Lynn Nottage, Ruined (New York: Theatre Communications Group, NY, 2009) The most dramatically interesting replay of Mother Courage is Ruined, winner of the Pulitzer Prize as well as five awards for “Best Play of the Year.” It may be unfair to include it here since, although the similarities to Brecht’s play are unmistakable, it deliberately chooses a different thematic angle. Nottage set out to write an adaptation of Mother Courage, but, as Kate Whorisky, the director who accompanied Nottage to Central Africa, explains in her introduction to the play, as they talked to the women whose stories are the basis of Ruined, they found Mother Courage to be a “false frame” (xi). Nottage abandoned the idea of an adaptation in her desire to be true to the true stories of six women who lived through the mayhem that ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo. But since Ruined continues to be likened to Mother Courage, I include it here. The obvious similarities emerge: The setting is a rundown bar in a small mining town in the middle of the Congolese rain forest, where the proprietor, Mama Nadi, caters to the carnal whims of the passing thugs: which uniform they wear, that of the government troops or the rebels, does not matter: they are to her indistinguishable and interchangeable, and the door never closes to anyone at Mama’s place.

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The endless civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo had, as of 2009 (the year the play was written), killed an estimated four million people, a number far exceeded by newer statistics. One of the primary weapons used by the militias is rape: statistics indicate somewhere between 60,000 and 400,000 women had been kidnapped and raped. Congo is widely described as “the worst place in the world to be a woman,” and, as Hilary Clinton, speaking about the sexual violence in Congo, said: “This country has witnessed humanity at its worst.” One of Nottage’s characters describes her five-month ordeal when she was tied by the foot to a tree “like a goat,” and passed from man to man “like a washrag.” Gangs have raped the central characters of this play, sometimes using bayonets, so violently and so repeatedly that their bodies are “ruined.” The word carries with it the implication of spoiled and useless, making these victims the objects of their villages’ and families’ shunning shame, so that even if they escape, they have nowhere to go, literalizing and culturally endorsing the idea of “blame the victim.” It is this horror that Nottage wished to indict and make known to the world, a very Brechtian impulse although there is no alienation effect at work here, and the play is emotionally taxing to watch. It is the particular tragedy and staggering irony of Congo that a country so impoverished should have such abundant natural resources, resources that have triggered some of the world’s most appalling greed: ivory, gold, diamonds, uranium, and, most recently, 80 percent of the earth’s supply of coltan, a mineral crucial in the making of video games, cell phones, and computers. Both coltan and blood diamonds are central to the lot of Ruined. Mama Nadi is a Mother Courage, a war profiteer who takes no sides and has no loyalties; she both protects and exploits her damaged

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“girls,” although Nottage’s conclusion is happier than Brecht’s. Like Mother Courage, Mama Nadi has two suitors—one of whom, like Cook, betrays her—but the other, a poem-writing traveling salesman ends the play with the promise of personal happiness in the midst of public misery. Their dance at the end of the play suggests something more like the romance novels Sophie reads to the girls in the back room than it does Brecht. The pessimism inherent in Nottage’s play—the evils of men and war and Congo are inevitable—is founded on weak feminism; Mama, having betrayed Christian and forced him to drink alcohol after four years of sobriety in order to pacify Commander Osembenga, later attacks him with, “You men kill me. You come in here, drink your beer, take your pleasure, and then wanna judge the way I run my ‘business’” (57), pointing out that the women who work for her are safer with her than they are in their homes. Unlike a feminist revolutionary stance, Mama’s view (and, perhaps, Nottage’s) seems to tell us that equality between men and women in Congo is a preposterous idea, and that a woman enabling and profiting from female prostitution is preferable to those women’s alternatives. Like Mother Courage’s refusal of Cook’s offer to join him running an inn and thereby finally finding a permanent home because he will not allow her daughter to come with her, Mama Nadi also has a rare moment of self-sacrificial generosity when she gives Mr Harari her diamond to take Sophie away and get her medical treatment. Both women are betrayed by the men they trust, thus underscoring the play’s demonstration of vile male behavior. Similarly, Fortune, supposedly the loyal husband of one of Mama’s girls, Selima, betrays Mama when he tells Osembenga that his rival,

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Kisembe, was also served in the bar, and then, according to the stage directions, “takes pleasure in restraining Mama” (62). Ruined ’s bleakness is enlivened by humor and by music; Sophie, too ruined to work as a whore, sings songs that comment on the play, although as a bar entertainment these “zonks” are realistic in context and thus un-Brechtian. Sophie first sings a song inviting customers to drink and dance “like it’s the ending/The ending of the war” (17). By the end of the play, the lyrics have changed; all the song can offer is to drink and “dance like it’s the ending” (64). The omitted final line, “the ending of the war,” tells the hopeless story of an ending that will never happen. Like Brecht’s play, Nottage’s is a protest against war and Mother Courage might well have sung Sophie’s song. But unlike Brecht’s fighting play, Nottage’s is more a lamentation; she consoles us with the possibility of personal happiness as Mama and Christian end the play with a romantic dance, while the war rages on. In sum, although there have been these several incomplete attempts at replaying Mother Courage, none has had the courage of Brecht’s convictions. Contemporary ideology has taken the easy road, replacing the Brechtian assault on capitalism with a message the audience can endorse and be consoled by: the ills of the world are too enormous and eternal to do anything about, and thus we must cling to each other and seize the chance for happiness when it appears. The revolutionary optimism, paradoxically fundamental to Brecht’s grim theater (there is no revolution without optimism, surely) seems to have disappeared.

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4 Harley Granville Barker

Like Brecht, Granville Barker wrote about money and how the world of business (as opposed to inherited wealth) involves the crass considerations of greed and resulting moral compromise. But the world of Granville Barker is the world of upper-middle-class England, and although he, too, addresses the governing worries about money and family loyalties, his plays could not be less like Brecht’s. Granville Barker has not had the revival of interest in the United States that his work has had in the United Kingdom. This may be due to the extreme Englishness of his work, what David Denby, writing in The New Yorker (March 26, 2012) about the recent Terence Rattigan revival, called “a certain style of pained [. . .] English reticence in which powerful emotions were held in check by such virtues as loyalty, courage and honor.” This century-old “quivering renunciation” is what legitimizes his inclusion in this group of “fighting” plays; Granville Barker’s concerns are always with doing the right thing, whether that be fighting for fiscal uprightness or fighting for artistic sincerity.

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The Voysey Inheritance, 1905 Granville Barker’s five-act play is about a young man who discovers that his inheritance is not a fortune but theft: the presumably respectable financial house that passes to him when his father dies has been cheating its clients for generations, and the moral son is forced to face his immoral family’s corruption and then choose a course of action, while facing the fact—a profoundly contemporary one—that theft is fundamental to capitalism. The 2006 production at the National Theatre in London received much critical praise, with Michael Billington noting that in the moral education of Edward Voysey, it was the women who were the hope of the future, thereby continuing, if obliquely, the powerful role of women in these late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century plays.

Replay David Mamet, The Voysey Inheritance (New York: Vintage, 2005) David Mamet’s quaint adaptation of Granville Barker’s melodrama is both interesting as well as puzzling. The obvious allure for the usually tough-talking Mamet must have been outrage about the recent Wall Street scandals, an outrage foreseen in his fierce play, Glen Garry Glen Ross about shady business practices. That Mamet also adapted Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy, a play of similar theme and characters to The Voysey Inheritance, emphasizes his interest in these

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long, well-made plays where language, like the characters’ reactions, is tightly corseted. Mamet condenses The Voysey Inheritance without sacrificing anything crucial, and he preserves the turn-of-the-century British English, so the style remains fairly antique. The dialogue that carries the import of the play is found in Granville Barker’s Act IV: Edward: My friend, if I drop sarcasm I shall have to tell you very candidly what I think of you. Peacey:

That I am a thief because I’ve taken money from a thief!

Edward: Worse than a thief. You’re content that others should steal for you. Peacey:

And who isn’t? (Three Plays by Granville Barker, New York: Mitchell Kennerley, Publisher, 1909, p. 165).

The lines are nearly identical in Mamet’s version. The accusation here in the original is so relevant to contemporary financial events that it is difficult to tell what actual replaying has taken place and what new purpose has been served.

Farewell to the Theatre, 1916 Granville Barker’s one-act is a gentle example of one of his revolutionary theories about theater-making: as an actor and director as well as a playwright and an essayist, he had radical ideas about, in particular, how Shakespeare productions should be directed. Central to his theories is that what should happen on stage is “being” rather than “doing,” and that there is no reason, other

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than a director’s decision, for a character to even stand up much less walk around until they exit. Farewell to the Theatre illustrates that notion since the play depends heavily on the stationary characters’ being sufficiently interesting to each other and sufficiently eloquent to interest us. There is a great deal of high-flown talk, requiring skilled actors who can make this dialogue sound like living speech instead of a recited essay. In Farewell, Dorothy, a middle-aged actress and a great star, discusses her long career with Edward, her lawyer, a man who has repeatedly asked her to marry him and still loves her after decades of refusals as well as his long marriage to another woman. But Farewell only seems to be a play about love: melancholic, nostalgic, middleaged what-might-have-been love. Dorothy has never married, being devoted exclusively to her career; at the moment of the play, with her talents in decline, she is almost reconciled to retiring from the stage, tired as she is of the endless hustling for funds to keep her theater open. But the real subject of the play is the future of the theater. Despite its title, the play offers no farewells but rather affirms theater as a cultural necessity, and rebukes an unappreciative public. Like The Voysey Inheritance, this, too, is a play about money; for Granville Barker, commercially driven theater was anathema to art. Granville Barker provides elaborate set directions, filling his stage as though to trap his characters in this Dickensian furniture; this seems to run contrary to his notions of simplicity of staging. But the motif of imprisonment runs through Dorothy’s wise lament, referring to them both as, “Poor prisoners . . . born to an evil time. But visions do come . . . of better things than we are . . . of a theatre not tinselled . . . and an office not dusty with law . . . all rustling

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with quarrelsome papers” (Granville Barker Plays 2, Methuen World Classics, 399). Her long speech about turning her mirrors to the wall mourns the solipsism of the times: “we’re all so prisoned in mirrors that whatever we see it’s but ourselves . . . ourselves as heroes or slaves . . . suffering, triumphant . . . always ourselves (402). Her final pronouncement is a fine line about the achievement of fame: “I was always nothingness called by some great name” (404). Farewell to the Theatre seems to have been Granville Barker’s testimonial to his own theatrical devotion and fidelity, and it seems painfully significant that it was never produced in his lifetime.

Replay Richard Nelson, Farewell to the Theatre (London: Faber and Faber, 2012) This is a rather backward example for this book, in that the contemporary play seems even more old-fashioned than the original play of the same title; it is worth musing on Nelson’s own longing—as Granville Barker longed—for a theater of character and texture and atmosphere rather than a market-driven theater of spectacle and plot. In Nelson’s Farewell, interesting, articulate, unhappy people sit around and talk, replaying Granville Barker’s drama in spirit if not in plot. Nelson’s play is really a bio-drama, with an Afterword explaining the factual basis in Granville Barker’s life. The play’s central character is called Harley, and he finds himself spending months at Williams College in Massachusetts, away from England, away from

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the war. The plot revolves around toxic academic politics: a meanspirited and powerful Dean spoils the chances for two ambitious scholars and corrupts an ambitious American student with whom Beatrice, a diva down on her luck, is having an absurdly indiscreet affair. The machinations as to who will get a post in the English Department and who will be president of the theater club seem too trivial to carry the weight of the play, yet they also make the point of that very triviality standing next to the nearly unmentioned but very on-going World War. This lack of worry or discussion is especially pointed in that all but one of the characters are English; this group includes longtime ex-pats who are desperately trying to leave unhappiness behind. Also almost unmentioned is the death of Frank’s wife. We learn in Scene Five that none of these friends has gone to her funeral: “I was the only English person there. I don’t know what that means” (82). It seems a barbed fact that Frank’s profession is reciting Dickens onstage; right after the funeral, he gives them a particularly cruel passage from Pickwick Papers about overworking an exhausted old horse, “he must go on—he can’t help it” (23); the implication seems to be that they are all the “old horse,” all except the self-interested American. Frank notes that reading the school newspaper is “A glimpse into another world. Like reading Dickens” (56). The primary connections between Nelson’s play and Granville Barker’s play, besides the title and the smothering emotional restraint, is that the character called Harley is writing a play “about an actress who abandons theatre,” clear from the description that it is the original Farewell to the Theatre; he mentions working on a book about the theater, in which Nelson summarizes Granville Barker’s

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theories about unadorned drama that uses, as no other art form does, the whole, living person. Nelson’s dialogue has characters making impassioned pronouncements about how “when we no longer have this [theatre] it’ll mean we’re dead” (83). In this blatant declaration and the play’s clumsy elucidation of the necessity of theater, Nelson echoes Granville Barker, and this contemporary replay is a valentine to Granville Barker and to the theater.

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5 Terence Rattigan

The “Rattigan Renaissance” is, as of this writing, still in full swing: in Terence Rattigan’s centenary year, 2011, Flare Path was the first of several major revivals of his plays in London and beyond, including Cause Célèbre, The Browning Version, a new biodrama called The Art of Concealment, a new film version of The Deep Blue Sea, an entire season of his films at the British Film Institute, a special display at the British Library, BBC radio productions and the publication of new editions of his works. In addition, in North America, major events included Frank Langella’s critically acclaimed performance in Man and Boy on Broadway, and the critically reviled French without Tears at the 2012 Shaw Festival in Canada, as well as a Broadway revival of The Winslow Boy that transferred from London’s Old Vic. But despite all this renewed attention, very little of it generated anything other than respectful revivals; there are a few attempts at contemporary reimagining, and it is those few I will discuss here, although Rattigan seems to be valued exactly for his obdurate old-fashioned theatrical qualities as well as his old-fashioned moral values. It is this datedness for which Rattigan and his revivers fight.

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In his Preface to Volume Two of The Collected Plays, Rattigan creates a character he calls Aunt Edna, a “middle-class, middleaged, maiden lady” who “does not appreciate Kafka . . . is upset by Picasso . . . in short a hopeless lowbrow. . . .” Rattigan points out that although the novelist and the painter can disregard Aunt Edna, for the playwright to do so is doom. She is “universal and immortal” and her taste has always governed success in the theater. Rattigan, writing as Aunt Edna (now elevated to “middlebrow”) in New Statesman (October 1955) presumed to advise Samuel Beckett about improving his playwriting after seeing Waiting for Godot. It would seem that Rattigan is having it both ways: sharing a wink with his sophisticated readers while smiling at the folks he patronizes. In his Preface to The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan, Vol. One (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953), Rattigan both owns up to and revels in his popularity, a little defensively, a little defiantly, and with great charm, noting that all five plays included in the volume have had long West End runs, and, basking, however ironically, in “the honour at last of a collected edition [. . .] just like a real dramatist,” as opposed to “a popular playwright” (vii).

The Winslow Boy, 1946 The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan, Vol. One (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953) Having written only “light comedy,” before this, Rattigan decided to write a “serious comedy” and The Winslow Boy became a critical sensation as a weighty work from a hitherto “notoriously insincere farceur” (Preface, xvii). In trying to identify what he himself feels

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all his successful plays have in common, Rattigan writes about their “sense of theatre,” where “the implicit rather than the explicit [. . .] gives life to a scene and, by demanding the collaboration of an audience, holds it, contented, flattered, alert, and responsive” (xx). Based on an historical incident, The Winslow Boy is a study of moral values; it is a fighting play about fighting for right. The boy, enrolled as a cadet in the Royal Naval College at Osborne, was accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order, and became a cause celebre in London, affecting the highest levels of government and the courts. In the play, the accusation and its subsequent legal wrangling causes considerable damage to the family; his sister loses both her dowry and her fiancé, his feckless older brother is forced to leave Oxford, and the parents’ marriage clearly feels the strain of the father’s obsession with proving his son’s innocence. The boy, Ronnie, is, oddly, not a main character in the play and his innocence has to be taken merely on faith, despite disconcerting clues in the script that he seems to care very little about the moral issue, has not suffered at his new school, is unconcerned about public opinion, and more or less disappears from the play until we glimpse him at the very end of Act Four; the stage directions read, “He is fifteen now, and there are distinct signs of an incipient man-about-town. He is very smartly dressed in lounge suit and homburg hat.” We learn he has missed the case’s thrilling courtroom finale because he was at the movies. His last remark is, ‘I say—we won, didn’t we?” This is not a character whose side we are particularly on; as Rattigan insists, it is the issue that concerns him and needs must concern us: “Let Right be done” is the play’s motto. To emphasize this, it is interesting to compare The Winslow Boy to the very

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emotional and American plays, Death of a Salesman and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in which the father–son relationships, with their issues of honesty, money, and the difficulty men have in expressing their emotions all drive the plots. But unlike these American family dramas, the pivot in Rattigan is not the father– son relationship; in fact Rattigan diminishes the parental role and the familial bonds as they are subsumed by the moral principle and the play’s lesson. The audience’s emotions run high, here, too, but they are much more like the courtroom’s audience and thus spring from different sources. Rattigan made a number of significant changes to the historical facts, especially in making the Winslow Boy’s older sister, Catherine, a feminist and a suffragette. Standing in contrast to Catherine is the silly female reporter, more interested in curtains than in the case; she has a shallow mind and undermines the feminist position, despite the fact that she, unlike Catherine, is a working woman. It is Catherine who emerges as the central character in the play; she seems to speak for the playwright when she tells her politically conservative fiancé John that she believes in her brother’s innocence but cares primarily that the government should be forced to acknowledge their wrongdoing publicly. Apropos here is the New York Times critic’s review of the Old Vic production of The Winslow Boy. While acknowledging a degree of “tennis anyone?” he was ultimately persuaded by the revival’s relevance in this “post-Edward J. Snowdon era” and of the “price to be paid for the relentless pursuit of even an honorable goal” (Charles Isherwood, New York Times, October 17, 2013).

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The reimaginings—if that term doesn’t overstate the case—of this play are complicated by genre-jumping; Rattigan adapted his own play for the screen in 1948 with Anatole de Grunwold as cowriter, and Anthony Asquith directing (who would direct another film adaptation of Rattigan’s play, The Browning Version in 1951). That Asquith’s father was England’s Prime Minister inevitably adds an interesting layer to this story of one family’s defiance of governmental power and who, in defying the Courts, forces the Crown to “do Right”. David Mamet adapted Rattigan’s play for the screen in 1999, making use of elements in the 1948 movie as well, although he does not acknowledge his debt to the Asquith film.

Replays David Mamet, The Winslow Boy in The Spanish Prisoner/The Winslow Boy/Two Screenplays (New York: Vintage, 1999) To turn from Rattigan’s chatty and insightful preface, full of intimate assumptions about the reader, to David Mamet’s terse preface to his screenplay of The Winslow Boy is instructive: Mamet’s is short (one page for the two screenplays in the volume), declarative, and dominated by a demurral “I can take no credit for The Winslow Boy whatever. It is a work of melodramatic genius by Terence Rattigan.” Mamet notes that, “Film is essentially a melodramatic medium [. . .]. Great melodrama, as Stanislavsky told us, is just tragedy

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slightly manqué. It flutters at the intersection of the exploration of circumstance and the exploration of the human condition” (“Preface” in Two Screenplays, italics his). A remarkably apt summary of Rattigan’s play. Mamet, one of the major living dramatists in the United States is prolific, volatile, and seemingly undaunted by anybody’s opinion; since Arthur Miller’s death, he has become America’s self-appointed culture critic, exposing the flaws in American society, but as his political position has radically shifted from left to right in recent years, he has become even more provocative and unpredictable. Mamet’s plays suggest that, unlike Rattigan, he does not believe in the availability of justice (consider Race and Oleanna) nor do they indicate that people adhere to a socially agreed-upon ethical code (consider American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross). Further his relationship to the film industry has been, like his relationship to Broadway, highly vocal and highly vexed. Thus, his decision to adapt Rattigan’s stage play for the screen, which Rattigan himself had already adapted for the screen, becomes complicated and interesting, first because of the issues inherent in any adaptation for another medium (Mamet “opens up” the action far less than the older film does, especially in providing courtroom scenes), and, too, because of the shift from British to American. For example, Mamet’s distinctly American as well as contemporary sensibility is revealed in the voice-over feature on the DVD, which provides running commentary on the film (Sony Pictures, UK, US, 1999). He has no idea what it means that Sir Robert has a dinner engagement at Devonshire House and why that means, as the characters clearly understand, that he must not be

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late. Rebecca Pidgeon, who in the film plays the Winslow daughter, and who is, in real life, Mamet’s wife, is British; she expresses some surprise in her voice as she murmurs in the voiceover, that, surely, that means dinner with the Prince of Wales. Devonshire House fell into desuetude after WWI and was demolished shortly after; it had been the location of the brilliant young men in London, a social and political meeting place where the Queen had her diamond jubilee and where Sir Robert would have been meeting the Prince of Wales for an 8 o’clock dinner. Remembering that Rattigan wrote this play after the Second World War but about the era just before the First World War (the “scrap” Dickie is so eager to be in on, and to which, we assume, John will be deployed in one of the first companies), the play and the fashionable dinner hark back to a time when the legendary ducal house in Piccadilly was part of London’s high life and is now urban history; it is telling that it meant nothing to Mamet. In Mamet’s film version, which he himself directed, the central moral issue may remain the same but the focus shifts by the addition of romance. When Arthur Winslow grants John permission to marry his daughter, it is finances that concern him: “We’ll take the sentimental side of the project for granted,” (365), he says, and Rattigan does the same. Mamet, however, does not take “the sentimental side” for granted. The most conspicuous change Mamet makes from the original play is a subtle change culminating in the last exchange between Catherine and Sir Robert Morton. Rattigan has the famous lawyer say, “Shall I see you in the House then, one day?” To which she replies “(With a smile). Yes, Sir Robert. One day. But not in the Gallery. Across the floor.” To which he

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replies, also with a “ faint smile, Perhaps. Goodbye.” It seems that his smile, however faint, is one of condescension, since he is opposed to women’s suffrage and sees Catherine as headstrong and young. He has been supercilious all along and it is that which makes his passionate defence in the case so surprising and satisfying. Similarly, her smile seems politically confident and defiant, in keeping with her strong position all along. The early film version adds a mild whiff of romance to the unromantic play, because as it adds two attractive actors: Margaret Leighton and Robert Donat, but their mild social flirtation never approaches sexual tension. But in Mamet’s version, the final dialogue echoes the 1948 film but extends it with a lively challenge: her “How little you know women” and his riposte, “How little you know men” (p. 209). Their smiles are clearly flirtatious and we quietly cheer for the next meeting of this potential couple. Casting intensifies this sexual tension; in the original script, Rattigan describes Sir Robert Morton as “a man in the early forties, cadaverous and immensely elegant. He wears a long overcoat, and carries his hat and stick. He looks rather a fop, and his supercilious expression bears out this view.” This description intensifies the class differences so crucial to Rattigan’s play, as the lawyer grandly sweeps into the Winslows’ middle-class household. His figure suggests not only extreme upperclass-ness but also a man of age and dignity with no suggestion of sexuality in his presence. This chilly description also makes his passionate defense, on the last day of the trial, all the more extreme; as Violet, the parlor maid reports to the family, “Sir Robert [was] standing there at the table with his wig on crooked and the tears running down his face” (Rattigan, 445). Casting Jeremy Northam as Sir Robert in Mamet’s film radically alters all this. An Olivier Award-winning actor, he had already

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established his heartthrob credentials as Mr Knightly in the film Emma (1996) and starred in An Ideal Husband in the same year as he starred in The Winslow Boy. Hardly an emaciated fop, Northam adds sex appeal and sophistication rather than chilly dignity, so that his subtle flirtation with Catherine shapes the play into a movie about considerably more than a battle for justice and a triumph over the Establishment. It is surprising to find Mamet adapting a play about Right triumphing over Wrong since in most of his own plays Wrong always wins. The Winslow Boy is not just about winning a legal case; as Sir Robert says, “Not justice. Right. It is easy to do justice— very hard to do right” (Rattigan, 451), a line that appears in nearly identical form in Mamet’s screenplay. Mamet has a weakness for antiquated Edwardian language, sometimes resulting in hilarious “Byzantine rodomontade” as he calls it in his play, Boston Marriage; further, he does not have an inclination toward the triumph of social optimism. On the contrary, nearly every character in every Mamet play demonstrates the triumph of Wrong, and in his one courtroom drama, Race, written after The Winslow Boy, the judicial and the moral issues are settled cynically out of court. The Winslow Boy may be the one example of a Mamet work where he allows for the possibility of noble behavior.

The Browning Version, 1948, The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan, Vol. Two (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953) The Browning Version is another play about another schoolboy whose goodness and honesty Rattigan applauds. Again we are in

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a world of the English class system, where old-fashioned values are challenged and then affirmed. The central character, Andrew Crocker-Harris, is a stiff and rigorous classicist whose brilliant career has devolved into teaching recalcitrant teenagers Latin and Greek. He discovers that he has been known as the “Himmler of the lower Fifth” and is deeply wounded to realize that he has not inspired the boys but has merely terrified them while making himself an object of mockery. The play hinges on the Agamemnon he has been teaching them to translate, and we discover that his unfaithful and nasty wife, Millie, is his Clytemnestra, albeit a Clytemnestra manquée. The boy, Taplow, gives him a going-away present of the Browning version of the Aeschylus play, and CrockerHarris reveals that when he himself was a schoolboy, he translated that play into verse. The translation, and the passion involved in such a labor, have both disappeared. Taplow seems to be Rattigan’s dramaturgical representative in the play. It is Taplow who remarks that when he read the Agamemnon as a play and not as “a lot of Greek words strung together and fifty lines if you get them wrong,” a free translation “sounded better. More exciting,” noting that after all it is a play and “not just a bit of Greek construe” (20). The Browning Version was made into a film in 1951, with Anthony Asquith again directing, and starring Michael Redgrave. Although Rattigan wrote the screenplay, the film defaults to conventional movie demands and gives us a nearly happy ending. This conclusion ignores the far superior and pointedly theatrical conclusion of the play, when Crocker-Harris informs the headmaster that he will, contrary to his wishes, speak after rather than before the wildly popular Fletcher

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who is leaving the faculty to play professional cricket. Crocker-Harris offers this excellent dramaturgical observation: “I am of the opinion that occasionally an anti-climax can be surprisingly effective” (48). He hangs up the phone and sits down to dinner with his wife as the curtain falls. This is not only a surprisingly effective anticlimax, it takes seriously the character development that the play has built; this, we feel, is exactly the tenor of Crocker-Harris’ life, and the tiny triumph of confronting the headmaster and insisting on this last wish, is brave enough to move us to quietly, internally applaud, and then, of course, loudly and publicly applaud the play’s conclusion. The Asquith film continues after this theatrical conclusion, adding the scene of the pupils’ assembly when Crocker-Harris confesses to the boys his regret at having failed them and is met by their thunderous applause—a response that seems unrealistic but nevertheless moving, giving the viewing audience a teary, melodramatic satisfaction. The film concludes with Teplow returning Crocker-Harris’ unearthed unfinished translation to his schoolmaster, saying it seemed “like a play, a real play, a modern play.” Hardly the anticlimax that is so interesting and so suitable in the original. The Browning Version was filmed again in 1985, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Judi Dench and Ian Holm, and again in 1994, when director Mike Figgis, who considers Rattigan “one of the greatest British playwrights of all time,” remade The Browning Version with a screenplay by Ronald Haywood, starring Albert Finney, Gretta Scaachi and Matthew Modine. In an interview (included on the DVD of the Asquith film) Figgis noted that styles of acting had changed in the nearly half-century between the first film and his film, so the style of this drama of manners had to be

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adjusted, although the adjustment does not seem to alter the effect. Despite all this starry attention, these films remain fundamentally old-fashioned and similar: respectful and well-executed revivals/ remakes of the original play. Michael Billington, in his obituary for Rattigan in 1977 in the Guardian called the plays “a sustained assault on English middle-class values: fear of emotional commitment, terror in the face of passion, apprehension about sex.” In the contemporary world, especially to an American thirty-five years later, these issues—they are certainly not “values”—seem hardly more than sociological stereotypes, the stuff of BBC America ads.

Replays David Hare, South Downs (London: Faber and Faber, 2011) In 2010 David Hare wrote South Downs at the request of the Rattigan estate as a companion piece to The Browning Version in honor of the Rattigan centenary. Hare intended his play “as a tribute to Rattigan” (“Author’s Note”). When presented as a double bill in London in 2011, Emma John wrote in The Observer that the two together provide “an evening of clipped vowels, clever rejoinders and suppressed emotions.” Once again there is a boy, here named Blakemore; he is insufferably insightful and articulate, albeit tender; his encounter with a famous actress, the mother of a school friend, yields this insight, which might be considered a summary of Hare’s play: “we all become curators of what people used to believe” (43). South

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Downs is as old-fashioned a play as Rattigan’s: carefully structured in twelve scenes, with clearly explained antiestablishment ideas, building to a firm emotional resolution about wise ways to rebel against inane rules. Although written in 2010, the play recreates the public school world of 1962, in which nothing much seems to have changed since Rattigan’s 1948 public school. Most striking is the similarity of attitude about being stuck in one’s destiny, basic to an internalized class system. David Hare said that both plays, The Browning Version and South Downs, were “about how none of us can escape our own characters [. . .] one boy tells Blakemore that nobody likes him, and Blakemore replies, ‘I don’t like me either. But it’s the character I’ve been given and I can’t do anything about it.’ So there’s a fatalism about having to live with your character that’s in both plays.” (“In Conversation,” Program, Harold Pinter Theatre, London, 2011). Unlike Rattigan’s earlier play, The Winslow Boy, this one may actually belong in the other section of this book headed “Nothing to be done.”

The Sleeping Prince, 1953 Rattigan’s fluffy comedy, The Sleeping Prince, started out as “an occasional fairy tale,” the occasion being the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. It quickly became a star vehicle—Laurence Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh played the Prince and the Showgirl— intended to celebrate the actors’ return to the stage, although it turned out that neither audiences nor critics were much impressed. When The Sleeping Prince moved to Broadway, starring Michael Redgrave and Barbara Bel Geddes, it was, again, a flop. Once it was

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transferred to the screen, with Olivier again as the Prince and the role of the Showgirl taken by Marilyn Monroe, it was a disappointment, the movie itself having been overshadowed by months of off-screen drama and celebrity bad behavior.

Replays My Week with Marilyn, The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, UK, Simon Curtis, director, 2011 The film is based on a memoir by Colin Clark called The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and is the first genuine reimagining of The Sleeping Prince. It is about Clark’s experience when he was twentythree years old and the third assistant director to Olivier during the making of the Rattigan film; the movie offers the pleasures of seeing Kenneth Branagh play Olivier, Judi Dench play Sybil Thorndike, and Zoe Wanamaker play Paula Strasberg, as well as the superb younger talents of Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. Although the film is about these celebrities and their relationships, it is also about theories of acting—British vs. American, stage vs. film, technical skill vs. Method (there is dialogue in the film reminiscent of the legendary although probably apocryphal story of Olivier’s remark to Dustin Hoffman during the filming of Marathon Man: Hoffman was putting himself through physical ordeals to “get in character,” and Olivier advised, “Dear boy, why don’t you just act?”). Clark explains why Olivier looks at Monroe “like he’s slumming”: “He’s a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you’re a film star who wants to be a great actress.” It is Monroe’s untrained raw talent

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that is so impressive and exasperating to Olivier who was directing as well as performing. But now he was performing for the camera, not onstage. Clark comforts Monroe with this: “You’re the future and that frightens him.” Something of this same idea is expressed by the film’s director, Simon Curtis: “Olivier represents old dying England in the Fifties and in some ways Marilyn represents the new brash America.” Rattigan’s continuing appeal seems quintessentially English and old-fashioned; he is admired for his well-made plays and wellaffirmed values, and this replay-as-film comments on those very qualities. The movie’s effect is much like Rattigan’s notoriously self-damaging remark when he left the opening night of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956), the play that is generally acknowledged to have changed the direction of English drama: he told a newspaper reporter that Osborne was merely saying, “Look, Ma, I’m not Terence Rattigan.” (Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work by Michael Darlow and Gillian Hodson, Quartet, London, 1979, p. 241). In a circular irony, it was Osborne’s play, The Entertainer, which finally gave Olivier his triumphant return in the role of Archie Rice.

Nicholas Wright, Rattigan’s Nijinsky (London: Nick Hern Books, 2011) Nicholas Wright’s 2011 play, Rattigan’s Nijinsky interweaves Rattigan’s late teleplay about the Nijinsky/Diaghilev relationship (which he declared “the greatest love story since Romeo and Juliet”), with Wright’s own ideas about why Rattigan withdrew that work and why it has never been produced. Wright’s script moves

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among locales (London, Petersburg, Paris, shipboard) and between genres (stage, film) and among time frames (the present day of 1974 and earlier). By 1974, Rattigan was desperately ill and heavily medicated; he died in 1977. The

explanation

Wright

has

invented

for

Rattigan’s

withholding of his play, Nijinsky, is that, like Romola Nijinsky, the great dancer’s wife, Rattigan was homophobic. Rattigan was mortified to even imagine being forced to reveal his homosexuality to the public although, as Cedric Massina, the BBC television producer who is a character in Wright’s play, wryly observes, given Rattigan’s very showy elegant style and given that he was a lifelong bachelor, surely everyone already knew that he was gay. Wright has Rattigan tell Cedric that his homosexuality has always been a subtext in his plays; to make it overt would mean that the script had nothing below its surface, that it was “All banality” (88). It is not just that social attitudes toward homosexuality had already begun to change by 1974, and that this closeted self-loathing seems sad in light of all that has been written about gay pride, but Wright’s 2011 play provides an interesting lens to see into those earlier, and, in the case of Rattigan’s Nijinsky script, self-defeating attitudes. Wright’s Rattigan believes that all subtext is a function of the playwright’s hiding his autobiographical investment in the work, and so Wright’s character’s reasons for withdrawing his telescript may be sexual privacy. The character also knows that the crucial scene he has written in which Nijinsky and Diaghilev part is his “best,” and it causes him professional anguish to withdraw the script from production.

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Wright’s play is a homage to Rattigan in style as well as content; he understands his old-fashioned methods and quiet disappointing confrontations when “love finally dies” (80). Wright acknowledges that those are the kind of scenes he himself writes, as, he says, Graham Green and J. B. Priestly do, and he recognizes how different his work is from the sensibilities of Pinter and Osborne. Rattigan’s Nijinsky provides Rattigan with an imaginary epiphanic moment when, at the 1958 opening night of Variation on a Theme, the character suddenly discovers that audiences were no longer interested in his style of playwriting, that he was now passé. It is interesting that Wright’s contemporary play becomes a discussion of theatrical aesthetics (just as My Week with Marilyn does), and even more interesting that these Rattigan plays are back in vogue, suggesting a nostalgic longing for accessible, emotional plays that make no experimental or intellectual demands on the audience.

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6 Arthur Miller

The two American playwrights represented in this “You can be better!” section are as distinctly American as the previously discussed two British playwrights are British; this is evident in the way the social issues are embedded in the American drama of families, while in the British plays, moral issues take precedence. This obsession with families may be a kind of protracted adolescence, the need to know who Daddy loves best, although this issue may begin long before American drama, in Genesis with Cain and Abel. This template of fraternal competition is basic to many of the best-known American plays: besides Death of a Salesman (discussed below), there are O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, Miller’s All My Sons, Shepard’s True West and Buried Child , and Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, just to create a short list of the most obvious through nearly a century. This repeated pattern may originate in the American Civil War, where men fought, as the cliché has it, “brother against brother.”

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Death of a Salesman, 1948 In his more than fifty years of playwriting, Arthur Miller dramatized the fundamental oppositions in American society: the struggles between religion and politics, commerce and art, self-sacrifice and self-interest, action and ideas. As that list of oppositions evidences, Miller as culture critic seems startlingly relevant today so it is unsurprising that there are not many more replays of what is the most iconic of all modern American plays, Death of a Salesman; it is as if there is nothing to add. In this very early play Miller indicts rather than laments the materialism that has become the watchword of American society, perhaps any nation’s contemporary society, driven by greed that encourages ruthlessness; as Willy’s rich brother Ben advises, “Never fight fair with a stranger,” and Willy teaches his sons that stealing is “initiative.” The American Dream, once the hope of the modern world, had become, in Miller’s view, merely a crass bank statement, and the anecdotes emerging from the 1949 Broadway premiere are now folkloric: men in tuxedos weeping, the head of a major department store promising that never again would anyone be fired because of age, the stunned silence before the deafening applause. It is worth noting that from the beginning Miller wrote memory plays, showing us again and again how the weight of the past shapes the present. The past, for Miller, is not merely the events that alter subsequent events, the easy causality of chronology, but the way his characters remember, how they interpret those past events; memory brings with it an entourage of regret and nostalgia and denial. And so, as a consequence, the Miller canon is filled with suicides, starting

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with his earliest major play, All My Sons and continuing through to the last two, Resurrection Blues and Finishing the Picture. In The Ride down Mt. Morgan, Lyman opens the play with a fantasy of a sales meeting: “Today I would like you to consider life insurance from a different perspective. I want you to look at the whole economic system as one enormous tit. So the job of the individual is to get a good place in line for a suck. . . .” (New York: Penguin, 1991, p. 2). Willy’s last sale, his life for $20,000 of insurance money, is a pitiable forerunner of Lyman’s cynicism. Miller’s interest had always been the discovery of the crucial point where the personal and the public intersect. If Willy Loman has failed the great promise of the American Dream, the distorted American Dream has failed Willy Loman. Miller deeply believed that the individual needs to choose a moral identity, and, as in Greek tragedies, it is not just one person’s fate, but the fate of an entire people that is, by extension, at stake. Salesman has become an international classic, translated into many languages, performed all over the world, from India to Finland, from Israel to Argentina, from South Africa to Spain. Perhaps most intriguing—and oddly prescient at this moment of global socioeconomics—is the production thirty years ago in China, which Miller wrote about in his book, Salesman in Beijing (New York: Viking, 1983). The date is significant, since at that time the concept of a traveling salesman would have been unheard of in communist China, as was life insurance. Miller, having been invited to China to oversee the production at the Peking People’s Art Theatre had first to convince the actors to play it as Chinese characters, not as Chinese actors pretending to be American characters. His admonitions (“no wigs!”)

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sprang from his realization that “cultural mimicry” would defeat the spirit of the project: “one of my main motives in coming here is to try to show that there is only one humanity” (5). As if to prove this, during the cast’s first discussion a young actor who could speak English told Miller how Willy’s wish to make his sons successful is “very Chinese,” that a Chinese father “always wants his sons to be dragons” (7). Emphasizing this, Inge Morath, Miller’s wife, who photographed the production process for Salesman in Beijing, recalled that one woman who came to a rehearsal broke down and sobbed, “It’s the same situation.” But perhaps not entirely the same. A revelatory review of a 2012 production of Death of a Salesman, again in Beijing, suggests that despite Miller’s wish to prove the universality of the human condition and the romantic idea that families are families the world over, the cross-cultural divide is wide. Raymond Zhou, writing for China Daily (“Chinese theatregoers don’t buy Salesman” April 11, 2012) noted that the original production was, for the Chinese audience of 1983 not about the failure of the American Dream but about class struggle, the oppression of the underclass. Looking back, Zhou sees the 1983 production as a “cautionary tale” for a country on the verge of economic take-off, when no one except Mongolian peasants had ever tasted cheese, much less complained, as Willy does, about which kind it was. The current production was, Zhou explained, similarly out of sync with contemporary China, despite its growing middle class; “it is like laughing in the face of all those who are fighting for a chance to squeeze into the middle class. Had this

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been a Chinese play or film, it would sound like a bunch of spoiled brats whining about the travails of too many shopping trips to Dubai or Paris.” Miller’s sympathies have always been righteous, and with his liberal values may come the blurring of distinctions; the family of man may be, to the contemporary eye, less unified than he wished, although it sounds as though the Chinese Dream may be going the way of the American Dream.

Notable stage productions The first public performance was in Philadelphia in 1948: Lee J. Cobb starred, directed by Elia Kazan. Miller writes in Timebends about that extraordinary opening night when the audience was shattered by the play: “some, especially men, were bent forward covering their faces, and others were openly weeping. [. . .] It seemed forever before someone remembered to applaud, and then there was no end to it” (New York: Harper Row, 1987, p. 191). A 1949 Broadway premiere, with Lee J. Cobb, Arthur Kennedy, Cameron Mitchell, and Mildred Dunnock, again directed by Elia Kazan. The play won the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award among many other honors. There have been several notable film adaptations of the play, but most remarkable is the 1985 brilliant adaptation for CBS television, starring Dustin Hoffman as Willy, Kate Reid as Linda, John Malkovich as Biff, and Stephen Lang as Happy. Miller wrote the screenplay and oversaw the production for which there were

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25,000,000 viewers, and countless more since then have watched it on DVD.

Replays Like many modern and contemporary American plays, Salesman is a family drama focusing on the father/son and brother/brother relationship: Willy’s relationship with his vanished father, Willy’s relationship with his vanished brother Ben, as well as the tense and central relationship between Willy and his son Biff, and between Biff and his brother. It is a man’s world, which makes it even more intriguing that all three of the replays discussed below take women as their central characters, as if to say “attention must be paid” with new meaning. Martyred, benighted, and overlooked, Linda, the pivotal character in the Loman family but not the pivotal character in the play, finally gets her spotlight, although given that none of these plays is particularly satisfying theater, Linda may still have cause for complaint.

Rosalyn Drexler, Room 17C (in Transients Welcome, New York: Broadway Play Publishing, Inc, 1984) The play’s title, Room 17C, refers to the hotel room number where Linda, Willy’s wife (their last name is “Normal” here), is staying, and thus reminds us of the hotel room in Salesman, the site of Willy’s confrontation with Biff, and the scene that is the engine of Miller’s plot. Linda is on a business trip and has clearly replaced her now stay-at-home husband as the family’s income-earner, while Willy

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remains offstage, at the other end of the telephone. He is suicidal but not yet dead; Linda defines him as depressed and ineffectual, having been awarded a “goldplated watch to commemorate his masochism” (5). Their relationship remains defined by mutual need and dependence; Linda dies in the hotel fire because she cannot resist going back to answer the phone when Willy calls again. Thus, the play seems to be a feminist assertion (Linda is a better “salesman” than Willy), but once again the death of the salesman is based on self-sacrifice. More to the point, perhaps, is that she defines a salesman as a “parasite,” selling people things they don’t need, like “hair brushes made of hog’s bristles” (5)—a tiny tip of the hat to Beckett’s Happy Days, another dramatic examination of marriage and the roles assigned and self-assigned to women. The mention of parasite becomes central since Drexler has a man-sized cockroach hiding under the bed. Sammy Gregor has migrated from Kafka’s Metamorphosis to become a “professional” parasite, proud of his survival skills. He explains that after his family’s neglect, instead of dying in his room, “as the first broadening light in the world outside the window entered my consciousness once more, [. . .] I decided to check into a hotel instead.” Linda’s reply is, “Just like Willy. Too sensitive to fight back” (10). Sammy is both loathsome and romantic—he woos her with champagne and dancing, and it is inevitable that Linda and Willy’s son, here called Joey, will show up and briefly reenact the accusation scene. Drexler’s vision seems torn between the idea of freedom and the idea of destiny/doom. It falls to Sammy to represent the freedom of moral choice fundamental to Miller’s vision; in the early plays Miller believes that people can “be better.” While dancing, the

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cockroach chats Linda up: “Munch the painter, painted a woman dancing with death. He didn’t trust women, but was irresistibly drawn to them. Strindberg, too.” Linda patronizingly replies, “Oh, yes, victims of sexual dysfunction . . .” (16). Strindberg’s characters, unlike Miller’s, have no freedom; they are trapped by gender and psychosexual imperatives. But Sammy, formerly trapped by his insect-ness, announces his freedom early in the play: “I despised myself. Every time the lights went on I ran for my life” (4). Sammy frees himself from Kafka by embracing his cockroach-hood as the way to survive in the contemporary world, while Linda nearly frees herself from her role as Miller wrote it (meek, supportive, victimized, puzzled, distraught) but significantly, she does not finally succeed. Drexler is a visual artist as well as a playwright and her Pop school paintings share with her plays an emphasis on sexual creepiness as well as an assault on the revered icons of the culture; like the more famous Pop artist, Andy Warhol, she was obsessed with American culture’s obsession with Marilyn Monroe (another link to Miller). Her paintings, like her plays, often expose the f laws in the social fabric, and indict, as do so many replays, the current political agenda. Drexler is, like Miller, concerned with the distortion of the American Dream, and Room 17C ends with another “Requiem” of sorts, as the cockroach sings the “roach anthem” to the tune of “America the Beautiful,” finishing with “OH COCKROACH/ OH COCKROACH/GOD HAS DISTASTE FOR THEE/YET HE DOES GOOD, AS WELL HE SHOULD/FOR ME, AND YOU, AND WE” (20). Despite the intervening decades since Drexler wrote Room 17C , this

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mash-up seems distinctly contemporary, not least because of its adolescent wish to shock and show off and simultaneously mock the showing off.

Donald Margulies, The Loman Family Picnic (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1989) Margulies acknowledges overtly, even parodically, some might even say anti-Semitically, what seemed clear to some people all along: the Lomans are Jews. But Margulies’ play is primarily a caricature of Jewish guilt, sometimes funny, sometimes painful. Here the Lomans are called Doris, Herbie, Stewie, and Mitchell; Herbie is a lighting fixture salesman who does not travel but nevertheless arrives home exhausted every night. At ages thirty-eight and forty, they seem already old, burdened by boredom, financial desperation, and a crippling lack of self-knowledge. The family apartment is, we are told later, where “Arthur Miller himself grew up in this very same spot practically. [. . .] his family’s house was [. . .] wrecked so they could build our middle-income luxury building here in Coney Island” (19). Doris is Margulies’ Linda, here promoted to main character, and her extravagant despair is the primary focus of the play. Miller had originally planned to call Salesman, “The Inside of his Head” which, although it is not a felicitous title it is a descriptive one, since much of Salesman takes place inside Willy’s fantasies and memories and, eventually, hallucinations. In Margulies’ play, it is Doris’ head we are inside, as she is visited by her dead sister Marsha who is the advicegiving figure in her psyche, as Ben is for Willy, and Marsha is then

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joined by many dead relatives at Stewie’s Bar Mitzvah party. The Bar Mitzvah provides occasion for Margulies to make the same point Miller makes in Salesman about what happens when children are taught wrong values; Stewie has learned to sing his torah portion perfectly, but then asks the rabbi to tell him what the words mean, to read rather than merely parrot the Hebrew. The rabbi refuses and the Bar Mitzvah becomes merely an occasion for ostentation and greed; the brothers gleefully count the gift money, money Herbie then confiscates to pay for the party. Margulies’ play is a seemingly naturalistic container, filled with endless details of food and décor, but whose fourth wall is broken repeatedly. Characters speak directly to the audience, as Doris and Herbie each vie for our sympathy. Margulies borrows fragments of Miller’s dated slangy language and spoken rhythms, especially when Marsha speaks; she advises Doris that since Herbie has “lost his marbles,” that her marriage is a “dead-end proposition,” that she should leave Herbie and start life over: “You gotta, kid. It’s the only way” (59). Doris likens her life to a squeezed-out tube of toothpaste, like the “piece of fruit” Willy mentions when he is fired. They live in a “luxury” apartment on the tenth floor, where their picture window provides a view of other picture windows (a variation on the Lomans’ little house hedged around by high-rise buildings) and their balcony provides a temptation to suicide. The Loman Family Picnic’s family drama makes sudden shifts into vaudeville, building to its heavy-handed reveal when Doris, who has chopped up her wedding gown to make a Halloween costume, appears in grotesque makeup as the Bride of Frankenstein. Early in

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the play, in Scene Two, the first shift in the lighting announces the shift in style: Doris and Herbie describe to each other versions of their deaths. In Doris’ account of Herbie’s hideous hospital death, she tells him that suddenly “The old Herbie came back, the young Herbie, the Herbie before everything, my Herbie, smooth of brow and cute of nose . . .” (18). There is yet another vaudeville within that vaudeville: when Mitchell’s teacher assigns “this play that Arthur Miller wrote a long time ago, before I was born,” Mitchell decides he will write, instead of a conventional book report, a “musical-comedy version of Death of a Salesman called Willy! With an exclamation point. You know, like Fiorello!? Oklahoma!? Oliver!?” (19). This meta moment provides songs that become a frantic show-biz scene later in the play, as the whole family sings and dances a recap of Miller’s play; the show’s centerpiece number is “It’s a perfect day for a picnic” which, by the reprise, is rained out. The Loman Family Picnic is neither comedy nor tragedy, neither a musical nor a straight play, but rather a grotesque vaudeville. Miller’s essay called “About Theatre Language,” published with the script of The Last Yankee in 1994, discusses Waiting for Godot ’s famous exchange when Pozzo, finding himself unable to exit, despite many adieux, says, “I don’t seem to be able . . . (long hesitation) . . . to depart.” Estragon replies, “Such is life.” Miller’s comment is, “This is vaudeville at the edge of a cliff” (Mel Gussow, Conversations with Miller. New York: Applause Books, 2002, p. 12). Margulies seems to have taken this concept and literalized it, making it vaudeville at the edge of a tenth-floor balcony.

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Paula Vogel, The Oldest Profession, 1981, rev. 2005 (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2005) In the original script of this play, a group of seventy-year-old prostitutes who are still working for a specialized clientele of old Jewish men, refer to Willy Loman as one of their steady customers, someone who seems to have suddenly “lost his marbles” and thinks it is 1945 again; instead of paying Lillian as he always had, he gives her chocolates and silk stockings (with seams), much like those he gave the woman in the hotel room in Salesman. This short scene in Miller’s play is crucial to the characters’ future lives: Biff arrives, realizes that his father has been unfaithful, loses respect for him, drops out of high school, and wastes the next seventeen years of his life. The scene in Vogel’s play suggests through Lillian’s worried and affectionate report (we never see Willy onstage) that Willy has tried suicide but survived; when Mae draws a “long and steady line” under his name in her ledger, there is, the stage directions tell us, “Pause as if in requiem” (21), echoing the title of the last scene in Salesman. But in the 2005 version of Vogel’s much-revised play, the offstage character who was Willy is now called “Mr. Irwin,” and there is little more than a few lines devoted to him. Vogel has excised the complicated reference to Miller with the result that although the two plays have much in common, especially the socioeconomic loss of faith in American values and the common malady afflicting aging people of living in the past, the intertextual conversation between Vogel and Miller has changed. Like Willy, Mae, the madam of the group who makes all their business decisions, confuses her present in New York with her past in New Orleans, and, like Willy,

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her business acumen is not sufficient for the contemporary world. Vogel’s theatrical device is to have each character die in a zippy musical interlude in the spotlight; she has written Mae’s finale as a stripper’s song-and-dance number, and the playwright suggests songs such as, “I am Built for Comfort, I am Not Built for Speed,” or “In My Girlish Days” or “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” All these songs invoke a nostalgia that is a gentle variety of dementia and the sense that things were better back then, invoking a realistic terror of the contemporary world that goes far to explain the now absent Willy.

600 Highwaymen, This Great Country, 2013 The New York Times review reports (July12, 2013) on the latest reinvention of Salesman by the company called 600 Highwaymen; it is now a one hundred-minute play set in the present; instead of a tape recorder, Willy’s boss is now obsessed with his iPhone, and Willy has become an Everywoman as well as an Everyman. Thus the issue of the play’s universality remains: literally, figuratively, internationally Death of a Salesman will not die.

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7 Lorraine Hansberry

Like Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry was deeply and publicly activist. Her promising career was abruptly shortened by cancer when she died at 34 in 1965; unlike Miller whose career was long and charted both his patterns of thinking as well as changes in his attitudes as his late work edged away from naturalism and closer to surrealism and Theatre of the Absurd, it is impossible to know where Hansberry’s talent might have taken her. But there is one major play.

A Raisin in the Sun, 1959 Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun stands as a prescient signpost, anticipating the civil rights movement that was about to change American society in the following few years (Amiri Baraka called Raisin “the quintessential civil-rights drama” which, given his radical politics, may or may not have been a compliment). With its black family about to integrate a white neighborhood, Raisin is certainly a play about race, and it is testimony to how enduring and

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how fraught a subject race remains in the contemporary American conversation that the play is endlessly revived, continuing to move audiences both emotionally and socio-politically. The play’s “firsts” provide some of its iconic status: Hansberry was the first black woman to have a play on Broadway, Lloyd Richards was the first black director to direct on Broadway, and Raisin was the first play to portray a black family in a natural and realistic way (James Baldwin wrote that “Never in the history of the American theatre had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on stage”). It made stars of Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil, and paved the way for playwrights such as August Wilson to write his ten plays, which are also about working-class African Americans. But to talk about the play in terms of its racial firsts is to step dangerously close to the threshold of racism. It is not simply a great black play; Raisin is a great play, an important contribution to naturalistic family drama. It offers a serious examination of moral and ethical values and the way materialism has distorted humanism. Like Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Walter Lee Younger is a man whose values are profoundly askew; he has bought into the American Dream only insofar as it is for sale, but, unlike Willy Loman, he will see, at least partially, the error of his choices before it is too late. At issue is life insurance money, just as it is in Salesman, with all the attendant ironies of the term “life insurance.” Walter wants to be a bigshot; he wants power without earning or deserving it, he wants luxury that is synonymous with conspicuous consumption: pearls around his wife’s neck, big cars, deference from his fantasy gardener (ignoring his mother’s passion for gardening), and, most telling, he wants a chauffeur despite his

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hating being a chauffeur himself. Thus he has learned nothing from his humiliating experience of having to “open and close doors all day,” what he thinks of as “no kind of job at all”; he wants his turn to humiliate someone. He is unable to see the connection between bribing officials to fast track a liquor license and Karl Linder’s bribing the Youngers to keep them out of their all-white neighborhood. Similarly, he is betrayed by a presumed friend who steals his money, just as Walter has betrayed his mother’s trust and the family’s dreams of moving out of their roach-infested cramped apartment as well as his sister’s dream of medical school, by stealing their money. But Walter has not yet hit rock bottom; his decision to accept Mr Linder’s bribe diminishes him further, and it is only when he finally discovers his dignity that he “come[s] into manhood today” as Mama says with relief and pride. In Langston Hughes poem, “A Dream Deferred,” from which the play’s title comes, the “raisin in the sun” can either rot, fester, or explode. But if the American Dream is that “dream deferred,” for Hansberry the American Dream can also be fulfilled, by having a home of one’s own. Like so many modern American plays, Raisin is about the resounding implications of having a home, implications that extend beyond the comfort and security of a house to a sense of belonging, a place in the world. Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night pivots on this issue: the summer house that isn’t really a home for Mary, and James Tyrone’s compulsion to keep at bay the eternal threat of the poorhouse by buying worthless real estate. In Death of a Salesman, the Loman house is being squeezed out by the modern world, now claustrophobically surrounded by tall buildings, with the aromatic lilacs gone, and no light (literal

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and symbolic) for the backyard garden. In Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the family plantation, Belle Reve, has been lost through generations of “epic fornications,” and in Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the plantation, the most fertile land “this side of the Nile Delta” is up for grabs. In August Wilson’s final play of his “Century Cycle,” Radio Golf, the old neighborhood is going to be razed for “minority redevelopment,” as history is torn down. (It is worth noting that Wilson said his favorite play was Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, another play clearly about real estate and its history). By the time we reach David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, real estate in America is merely a swindle, something to be sold to suckers. When Walter’s alarm clock rings at the start of Raisin in the Sun, it announces the play’s theme: Wake Up! It also announces Hansberry’s admonition to the audience, her conviction that society can improve, that “we can be better” and that theatre can be the instrument of that improvement. It is an optimistic play, a fighting play that never descends into agitprop.

Replays Robert Nemiroff, Charlotte Zalatzberg, Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan, Raisin Raisin is a musical theatre adaptation of Hansberry’s play, with a book by Robert Nemiroff (Hansberry’s former husband) and Charlotte Zaltzberg, with songs by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan. It won the 1974 Tony Award for “Best Musical” and ran for two years

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to critical acclaim for both the intelligence of the adaptation and the inventiveness of the score.

George C. Wolfe, “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” in The Colored Museum, 1985 (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1988) It is A Raisin in the Sun’s iconic play status that gave George C. Wolfe one of several targets in his brilliant and ferocious satire, “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play,” the longest of the eleven pieces that comprise The Colored Museum. Some of these skits are terrifying and deeply moving (“Soldier with a Secret” and “Symbiosis”) and some are hilarious (“The Hairpiece” and “Git on Board”), but all are pointed, taking aim at aspects of American society and AfricanAmerican culture that have not changed enough in a quarter century to defang these satires. “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” begins with a Masterpiece Theatre parody: a host in a tuxedo solemnly announces (stentorian headtones are called for here) the presentation of “a searing domestic drama that tears at the very fabric of racist America” (24). Wolfe’s play gives us a “well-worn mama” on a “well-worn couch” reading a Bible, sanctimoniously bossing her grown children with commands to “wipe yo’ feet” and slaps across the face, echoing Hansberry’s Mama who dishes out much the same treatment to Walter Lee (“Sit down!”) and to Beneatha, who is smacked for disavowing God. George C. Wolfe clearly finds this entire mama-on-the-couch trope much too well-worn; not only does this represent a cliché of the African-American matriarchal family, but it constricts black

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theatre to a hackneyed realist style. In an interview with Jeremy Gerard for the New York Times (November 6, 1986), Wolfe said, “People kept asking for a ‘black’ play. I kept asking, ‘What’s a “black” play. Four walls, a couch and a mama’ I can’t exist within those old definitions.” Similarly, he told Jack Kroll (in “Theatre: Zapping Black Stereotypes”) that although he admires Hansberry and the play, Raisin in the Sun has become a too-predictable staple for theaters during February, “Black History Month”: “I want to remove these dead, stale empty icons blocking me from my own truth.” In Wolfe’s brilliant replay, we meet Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy’s wife, The Lady in Plaid whose name is an obvious reference to Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf where each of the women is called The Lady in Red or Brown or Purple, and so on. The Lady in Plaid is thus all of them, and is, as she says, “stuck being colored/and a woman in a world that valued neither” (26). Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy throws their children out the window because his wife has not made his dinner, a shocking parody of that similar and genuinely shocking story in colored girls. The larger issue, and one of Wolfe’s several satiric targets, is the embedded sexism in Raisin in the Sun, which emerges in three different ways: Walter Lee’s outrage over his sister’s ambition to be doctor, George Murchison’s rich-boy, frat-boy assumption that Beneatha will do and dress as he says, and the similar assumption made by Asagai, Beneatha’s Nigerian suitor whose sense of male privilege is filtered through another culture. Hansberry is clearly aware—just as Shange is—of the debilitating social force of male entitlement, but while they both are writing to register its danger,

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Wolfe is writing to mock it, assuming a higher level of sociological sophistication in his audience. When the Masterpiece Theatre Host presents each of the women with an acting award (“Just splendid. Shattering” (27)), Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy becomes outraged: “Wait one damn minute! This my play. It’s about me and the Man” (28). That satire has replaced melodrama is one way to define the shift from Hansberry to Wolfe and from Shange to Wolfe: this is venom to bite the theatrical hand as well as the political hand that would patronizingly feed it. Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy’s sister, Medea Jones who hilariously speaks “as though she just escaped from a Greek tragedy,” explains that her affected speech is, like her “pain and suffering [. . .] classical and therefore universal.” In answer to her brother’s question, “Girl, what has gotten into you” she replies, “Julliard” (28). This reference to theatrical training is more than just an insider joke attacking avant-garde pretensions; it refers first to one of the larger themes of Wolfe’s play, and one of his most intense satiric attacks: the vexed and stubbornly racist relationship between white audiences and black performers. This becomes most obvious when, after Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy is shot by the police—not for killing his children but for overacting— Mama laments, “If only he could have been born into a world better than this. A world where there are no well-worn couches and no well-worn Mamas and nobody overemotes” (29). Wolfe is satirizing the kind of “overemoting” Raisin in the Sun invites and which is clearly visible in the 1961 film version of the play starring Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil; in Wolfe’s production of “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play,” which was filmed for television in 1991,

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the flowered cloth of the couch and the fabric of Mama’s dress not only match each other but replicate those in the 1961 movie. And sure enough: Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy is resurrected, as she wished, not into a better world but into “an all-black musical” where “Nobody ever dies.” Such shows are often referred to as the “Chitlin Circuit,” defined by Henry Louis Gates as “black theatre for the masses,” dating back to the 1920s, and still popular today, drawing large audiences in big American cities. Walter-Lee-Beau-Willy’s resurrection launches a spectacular production number of gospel singing, foot-stomping, and handclapping, encompassing “a myriad of black-Broadwayesque dancing styles” until they all become “manic and a little too desperate to please.” They freeze into the play’s final tableau, singing, “IF WE WANT TO LIVE/WE HAVE GOT TO/WE HAVE GOT TO/ DANCE . . . AND DANCE . . . AND DANCE . . . (31). In the script, Wolfe’s last stage directions require them to be “surrounded by images of coon performers.” This assault on the racism of show business is emphasized in even more startling ways in the television production of The Colored Museum where the camera allows for extreme effects as the four performers are transformed: Mama in a sparkly white dress, the others in tuxedos and top hats with white gloves and spats. They then morph into blackface minstrels, their eyes wide, their mouths in Os, simultaneously imitating and caricaturing the performers of the past, painfully asserting that the only way black actors “live” is to become what the white establishment requires them to be. Using blackface make up on black faces at the end of “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” is a high-risk assault in which Wolfe has taken aim at the whole history of black performers,

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where, whether on Broadway or in Hollywood they had to play servants. All of these historical allusions and references fall under the heading of “signifyin(g),” a term coined by Henry Louis Gates in his 1988 work, The Signifying Monkey. In his essay in Theatre Journal (“Signifyin(g) On African-American Theatre: The Colored Museum By George Wolfe”) the term “Signifyin(g)” suggests debate between one text and another, motivated by the impulse to revision. Wolfe’s “The last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” is an excellent example of the way replays theorize about the iconic plays. The idea of intertextual allusion as well as implicit and explicit commentary is fundamental to this book’s discussion of the way contemporary drama reimagines and thereby comments on modern drama. This fierce commentary continues with Clybourne Park.

Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park, 2010 (New York: Faber and Faber, 2011) At the end of A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family has bought a house in a whites-only neighborhood called Clybourne Park. Enter Bruce Norris, whose play, Clybourne Park won, among many other awards, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2011 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. Norris’ premise is cleverly buried in a four-way squabble late in Act Two when one character says, “Aha. See? Shoe’s on the other foot, now” (192). If satire replaced melodrama in the shift from Hansberry to Wolfe, the shift from Wolfe to Norris suggests a shift from satire to cynical snark; satire by its very nature is informed by socio-political and/or aesthetic passion, while cynicism is the discounting of passion, the abandonment

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of any cause, the discrediting as naïve any humanistic belief that American society can be better; the addition of attitudinal snark, utterly contemporary in tone, assumes the audience’s willingness and ability to see humor in any purportedly serious issue, smirking rather than wholeheartedly laughing, finding serious social outrage unsophisticated and ludicrous. The meaning and pointedness of that quoted line (“Shoe’s on the other foot, now”) is intensified by the doubling of the actors; since the actors from Act One return to play other characters in Act Two, it is not only the same shoe on the other foot but also the same foot with a different shoe. In Norris’ Act One, which takes place in 1959, Karl Linder—the only Hansberry character to migrate into this new play—unwittingly and ironically imagines the basic premise of Act Two when he turns to the African-American characters, and says, “And let’s imagine if the tables were turned. Suppose a number of white families started marching into their commun—?” (81). Act Two takes place in 2009 when a white couple, Lindsay and Steve, have done just that, having bought the Younger house. They plan to raze it and build a new house on the lot, one much higher and bigger than anything else in the neighborhood. A delegation from the now-black community presents the case that the residents want to preserve the historic character of this modest, African American neighborhood. The gentrifying couple, architectural plans in hand, have pounced on the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, to live in a residential neighborhood that is a convenient five-minute commute to the city’s downtown. (A student of mine who is a set designer brought his interesting insight to the discussion: the house is the only tragic victim in the play; if they were going to restore it, it would

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be one thing, but to destroy it shifts the issue from racial history to urban history.) Like Wolfe’s The Colored Museum, the humor in Clybourne Park is simultaneously cutting and funny, but, unlike Wolfe, Norris treats Hansberry’s play as a springboard not as a target while addressing her major issues as they stand in today’s society. One of those contemporary issues is, obviously, real estate: who owns property and what that means. When Walter Lee turns the offer down in A Raisin in the Sun, Mr Linder leaves, saying, “I sure hope you people know what you’re getting into.” Lorraine Hansberry knew first hand what they were getting into, a biographical fact that argues against those who would see A Raisin in the Sun’s conclusion as a too-easy, too-happy ending. When Hansberry was a child her middle-class family moved into a white neighborhood where they had rocks thrown through their windows and threats made on her father’s life. Similarly, George C. Wolfe’s middle-class family moved from a black neighborhood to a white neighborhood, driving the boy into the safe seclusion in the public library. Thus, Mr Linder’s admonition has more weight than merely his personal racism. Act One of Clybourne Park risks both boring and irritating the audience with its 1950s clichés and bigotry; we find Russ in a heap in a chair. Bev, his wife, is trying to finish the packing for their move out of the old neighborhood. Their black maid, Francine, whose polite restraint is nearing the breaking point, is helping her. Enter Karl Linder, a self-righteous bully, and his pregnant and deaf wife Betsy. (The baby they are expecting will turn out to be Kathy, the real estate agent in Act Two.) Linder has just returned from his unsuccessful trip to the Youngers, a trip we know all about from Hansberry’s play,

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and he is filled with righteous indignation. The white men, including the mealy-mouthed minister, all posture and threaten each other until Albert, Francine’s husband, a black man, tries to break up the incipient fight by putting his hand on Russ’ shoulder with, “Hang on. Let’s be civilized, now.” Russ who has been the most interesting and sympathetic character so far, whirls on him, saying “Ohoho, don’t you touch me. . . . Putting your hands on me? No sir. Not in my house you don’t” (93). This scene is repeated with a difference when in Act Two Dan, the white construction worker (played by the same actor who played Russ) tries to break up a near brawl by placing a hand on Kevin’s shoulder (Kevin is played by the same actor who played Albert). Kevin whirls on him with “Go putting your hands on me? Oh, no. Not in this neighbor—” (204). Francine’s true feelings emerge when she tells her husband, speaking perhaps for all the “help” everywhere “I think they’re all a buncha idiots. And who’s the biggest idiot of all to let yourself get dragged into the middle of it” (94). It is useful to recall that in Raisin in the Sun, both Ruth Younger and Mama Younger work as domestic “help” for white women for whom they have similar contempt. After an acrimonious but nonproductive conversation (words such as “secret conspiracy” and “racist” are flung around), Steve declares what will be the play’s central statement: “The history of America is the history of private property [. . .] Humans are territorial, okay?” Acknowledging the obvious, that this now-black neighborhood is their territory, “And you don’t like having it stolen away from you, the way white people stole everything else from black America. We get it, okay? And we apologize. But what good does it do if we perpetually fall into the same, predictable little euphemistic tap

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dance around the topic?” (185–6). Norris’ answer seems to be that it is no good whatsoever, and the likelihood of anything changing is remote, especially since Kevin sneers in reply, “You know how to tap dance?” Everyone in this play is territorial about everything, rushing to find racism lurking everywhere. In the 1959 of Act One it takes a long time for the conversational civility to disintegrate; it is not until Russ starts to read his son Kenneth’s suicide letter and Jim, the ineffectual minister says, “You need to calm down” that Russ replies, “And you can go fuck yourself.” Karl Linder says, with priggish indignation, “That is not language I will tolerate in front of my wife” (91). Norris undermines the verbal brawl—as he undermines almost everything—with the daringly funny line, “She’s deaf, Karl!” (91). This exchange has served Norris’ corollary purpose by pointing out how language usage itself has changed. Everyone in Act Two uses “fuck” indiscriminately; it has become merely a filler word, lacking any real meaning or shock value, and is certainly not something men have to protect women from. The trite phrases of 1959 (“look what the cat dragged in”) shift to the psycho-sociological buzzwords of 2009 perfectly illustrated by Lindsay’s feminist diatribe: racial warfare morphs into gender warfare as Lindsay who has been scornful of her husband all along, blames his “classic white male myopia” (194). A startling moment, almost completely buried in the dialogue, comes when Steve, who has by now alienated everyone in the room, says, “And you know, if there’s anyone here who’s being marginalized by the tide of history— You don’t exactly see me sitting in the White House, do you?” (197). This reference to President Barak Obama suggests that the White House is the prime-est of real estate.

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Lindsay and Steve are unnerved to find out that somebody committed suicide in the house. We will learn that Russ and Bev’s son Kenneth, having returned from the Korean War where he participated in an atrocity against civilians, and having been unforgiven by his community and unable to forgive himself, hanged himself upstairs. The community that accuses Russ and Bev of betraying them by selling to a black family, had already betrayed Russ and Bev by treating them as pariahs; once Kenneth’s war crime is made public, an event that suggests retrospectively the underlying racism of the Korean War, the family is ostracized from the life of the neighborhood and shunned everywhere. Kenneth’s coffin-like footlocker is center-stage at the end of Act One, having slid down the stairs into the middle of the drama, and we learn that Russ buries it under a tree in the backyard. Years later, in Act Two, the tree is dead, and the construction worker, played by the same actor who plays Russ, digs it up. Once Dan is finally able to open the trunk, everyone else has left, and he finds Kenneth’s suicide note. What was buried is brought to light, that most classic of theatrical missions, here literalized. The play’s final scene shows us Kenneth, in full dress military uniform, writing that suicide note. This ghostly coda gives the play its resolution in cruel irony, as 1959 Bev tells her son, “I really believe things are about to change for the better. I firmly believe that” (210), upending Hansberry’s optimism. Clybourne Park answers the unspoken, perhaps unthought question in A Raisin in the Sun: why did the white family sell the house to a black family in the first place? The answer turns out to be a complex one, although on the surface it seems that the white family, Russ and Bev, desperate to leave the scene of this tragic event, simply

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didn’t know who the buyers were; they put the sale in the hands of a real estate agent. But how were the Youngers able to afford this piece of property? We will hear that the selling price was considerably below value, suggesting how desperately the owners wanted to move, and that getting out—away from the terrible memory of what happened upstairs as well as from their ostracizing community— mattered more than money or their relationships with their racist neighbors who felt that the community was being violated and that their property values would be wrecked. In a letter to someone named Miss Oehler, Hansberry wrote, I have treated Mr. Linder as a human being merely because he is one; that does not make the meaning of his call less malignant, less sick. . . . You see, our people don’t really have a choice. We must come out of the ghettos of America, because the ghettos are killing us; not only our dreams, as Mama says, but our very bodies. (146, Samuel French Thirtieth Anniversary Edition (Revised)) That this has remained true, perhaps truer now than it was then as drugs and guns intensify urban blight and danger, makes Clybourne Park a powerful replay. Norris strikes a note similar to Hansberry’s letter, albeit tonally very different, in an interview with Edward Sobel, who directed a production of Clybourne Park in Philadelphia. Norris told him: I think I’m pointing out the ways I’m flawed. I happen to be—pathetically—exactly like Steve [in Act Two he is the husband of the gentrifying couple] who makes an ass of himself in defense of his “right” to tell a joke. And other people in my

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family are exactly like Karl Linder with his ham-fisted, idiotic thinking about race. I think most of us are basically fools who spend our time trying to organize the chaotic world into little boxes of meaning and who basically end up making it worse. So yeah, I think I pick on people for their flaws, but I’m a person, too, and it’s hard not to have a little compassion for yourself, even if you don’t deserve it. (“9 Questions for Bruce Norris” in Arden Theatre Company, playbill, January–March, 2012) The central and significant change seems to be that Hansberry’s vision gives us humanity as noble if flawed, characters whom we root for, and when they err, we judge them by moral standards informed by our sternest views of ourselves, as if we were members of their family, regardless of race and social class. Hansberry’s assumption, basic to humanism, is one of shared moral values. All of which is to say that A Raisin in the Sun is a hopeful play. On the other hand, Clybourne Park ’s vision gives us humanity—black and white—as self-interested, materialistic, hypocritical characters whose anger is endemic and corrosive; we recognize and reluctantly identify with them, even as we are amused by the social absurdities and hindrances to honesty of “political correctness.” Steve, the playwright’s representative by Norris’ own admission, tries to speak some social truth to absolutely no purpose, thus simultaneously underscoring and undermining any wake-up call this play might be thought to have. The play ends with nothing having been accomplished in the present; the past bleeds through and ends Act Two with a return to Act One. Norris said, “Hansberry’s play . . . is optimistic, as befits the time in which she was writing it. Mine is

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pessimistic, as—I think—befits ours.” (The A. V. Club Chicago, September, 2011).

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Beneatha’s Place (unpublished; premiered at Centerstage, Baltimore, MD, 2013) The shift from Hansberry’s earnest melodrama to Wolfe’s fierce satire to Norris’ disturbing comic cynicism, shifts again: Kwame Kwei-Armah’s play suggests a level of hopelessness about the very values that made the earlier plays inspiring or terrifying or hilarious or chilling. Kwei-Armah, as a black Briton, wades into the conversation that may be the hardest conversation Americans can hold. This outsider perspective might have been exactly what was needed, but Beneatha’s Place, although it suggests two distinct paradigm shifts—one in Nigeria in 1959, one in presentday America—self-contradicts by implying that nothing much has changed at all. The pun of the title is indicative of the tone of the whole, since “place” suggests not just Beneatha’s house but her place in society, invoking the racist history and sexist history of “knowing your place”; in addition, there is the plot pivot of Beneatha’s lofty rank in the university administration and the power that comes with that “place” in the hierarchy with which the second act is concerned. Act One takes as its epigraph a snippet from Raisin’s Act One Scene Two, where Asagai gives Beneatha a Yoruba name, Alaiyo, and explains that it means “One For Whom Bread—Food—Is Not Enough.” This is followed by another snippet from Raisin’s Act Three,

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“Mama, Asagai asked me to marry him today and go to Africa.” Act One of Beneatha’s Place begins in 1959 in Nigeria where the British Governor General has just declared a state of emergency and the newlyweds are moving into their new home. We learn that Beneatha has not finished medical school and is now twenty-four (the timing seems confused by several years), pregnant, and in African dress; this is now her clothing rather than the costume it was in Chicago when Asagai gave her the gift in Raisin during their courtship. The play begins, appropriately, with a house, since real estate is the ongoing central symbol in all these plays. In Raisin, Asagai is passionate about his cause and is patronizing toward Beneatha; it is obvious that Kwei-Armah has used as his point of departure Asagai’s indictment of American culture where “all dreams, good or bad must depend on the death of a man” (Raisin, 116–17) while declaring that he “lives the answer” as an active revolutionary rather than a passive inheritor of insurance money. In the year 1959 Nigeria held its first election to establish an independent government. Asagai has, in Act One of Beneatha’s Place, become the spokesman for the independence movement, and had been recently been imprisoned for his views; jokingly he tells the white missionary from whom he bought the house, “Reclaiming one’s land is an ugly business” (all quotations are from the Rehearsal Draft, unnumbered pages). This is the future he had imagined when visiting the Youngers in Chicago, and this is the future he gets: Asagai is assassinated as his car explodes at the end of Act One. The first things Asagai unpacks in his new house in Lagos are his “Jim Crow memorabilia” which the set directions describe as

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“Uncle Tom figurines, Mammy salt and pepper shakers—etc.”; these become motivic, especially a “huge coon mask” that Asagai uses as a teaching device. Daniel, a white neighbor, plays a psychodrama game with Beneatha and when Asagai walks in on them, the scene degenerates into a nasty argument between the couple, a scene that reveals the truth of Asagai’s loss of political power. There are allusions to secret talks, to forced relocation of tribal people, and Daniel leaves an envelope filled with “contributions.” Beneatha is outraged that Asagai does not refuse the money, alluding to the pivotal event in Raisin: “I’ve lived through the experience of a white man coming into my home trying to buy us out of our . . .” And Asagai “spits out”: “This is not about your family’s petty assimilationist dream. It’s about the future of a whole damn country,” and although Asagai has, seemingly, missed the larger point of Walter Younger’s courage, there is considerable indication that the playwright shares Asagai’s views, thereby suggesting that Kwami Kwei-Armah’s attack on Hansberry’s play is informed by anti-American bias. When Beneatha insists he return the money, he whirls on her, “I’m your husband and you will listen to me!” This is exactly the sort of macho posturing we saw in Raisin. Asagai declares, “I kept telling my Negro friends in America, ‘Those who control history own the future!’” This may be the story of postcolonialism, the assumption that history is never written by an impartial source. This makes the History Department squabbles in the academy in Act Two more pertinent, if, inevitably, more trivial. Later, Beneatha will quote this line, finishing it to complete Orwell’s warning from 1984: “Those who own history own the future, those who own the present, own the past.” This is clearly a commentary on British rule as Big

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Brother, but also of Kwei-Armah’s view of present day America. (It may be useful to know that he changed his name from Ian Roberts at age nineteen after tracing his family history, through the slave trade, back to his ancestral African roots in Ghana; he first became interested in this personal history as a child after watching the TV series Roots.) Act Two of Beneatha’s Place begins with two high-risk racist jokes lifted from Clybourne Park, indicating the high speed of intertextuality. This epigraph sets the ironical tone for Kwei-Armah’s Act Two that takes place in the same house in Lagos nearly fifty years later. Beneatha is now seventy, a dean in a major California university, back in Nigeria for a conference, accompanied by faculty members; she insists on their holding their curriculum meeting in this place which is, for her, a powerful evocation of the past, a choice that seems to her colleagues (and to us) contrived. The Jim Crow memorabilia remain just where Asagai left them as if nothing has changed in half a century. At issue is Beneatha’s retirement from her powerful position and whether her final edict will be to replace AfricanAmerican Studies with Critical Whiteness Studies (this sounds like a joke set-up, but is in fact a current academic discipline); the play then descends into the tedium of a meeting: petty power struggles, flip charts, talking points, and sniping. The young ambitious heads of departments are all Caucasian, even the head of African-American Studies. The wrangling turns first to “white privilege” and then to “black privilege,” and then asserts that “America is no longer about black and white,” adding that when the new college President arrives he will see that most of the faculty is white and most of the students are white and “the few black students we do get at this university are

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not interested in race any more.” The point seems to be that “like this house” Beneatha’s legacy will be discarded. When Beneatha hands the coon mask to one of the white professors, asking him how he will tell his black students “about pain, from the inside” she recreates the scene she created with Daniel in Act One decades earlier, and the ugliness deepens. Ultimately, Beneatha tells her protégé, whom she begins to refer to as “son” that the issue of Race is over, but when the one young black man in the room, a deferential and earnest scholar, replies, his colleague turns on him: “You are in no position to speak for white people mister!” He replies, “Yes I am. My father is worth two billion dollars.” Money apparently trumps race, as one topical issue after another is replaced by the next topical issue. The big reveal in the last moments is that Beneatha has been appointed the new President of the University, this being a “first” of the same sort that Hansberry’s firsts on Broadway were. In the last moment of the play, Beneatha talks to the ghost of Asagai and then places an insulting caricature of Obama in the memorabilia collection, a clear provocation, although to what remains unclear to me. It seems a fitting conclusion to this cycle of plays, coming as it does at a societal moment when some people—clearly not Kwame Kwei-Armah—are solaced by the idea of a “post-racial America.”

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PART TWO

“Nothing to be done”

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“Nothing to be done.” This first line of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett stands as the headnote to this group of plays and replays. Although the implication is necessarily pessimistic, these playwrights’ resignation spans a wide spectrum of attitude, from Strindberg’s dire inevitabilities to Beckett’s celebration of heroic stamina. If the “fighting” plays of the first group assume the revolutionary stance of optimism (pass a law, write a check, do something), for this second group, the core facts of our mortal condition are unalterable. For sheer grimness of unalterability, Strindberg’s dramatic gender wars are instructive. His sense of gender-as-destiny transcends the individual personality and the psychoanalytic approach, and gives us characters who are universalized; Strindberg’s enormous theatrical power makes us believe in the particularity of each character while seeing him/her as an embodiment of the human condition. This will eventually become the metaphoric power of Theatre of the Absurd as Ionesco and Beckett proceed along Strindberg’s road. It is interesting that although so many of the first group’s plays also emphasized gender-as-destiny, it was always with the understanding that that destiny could be reformed, that raising social conscience would radically change women’s lives, unlike Strindberg’s sense of gender-as-doom, a psychosexual imperative that cannot be altered.

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8 August Strindberg

The facts of Strindberg’s life create a classic case study of the neurotic genius: the son of a housemaid, he evidenced an unnatural attachment to his mother, what he would call “an incest of the soul,” despite the fact that she favored his brother. Strindberg had three wives, each marriage wildly stormy, each triggering psychotic episodes and suicide attempts. Although Strindberg mistrusted independent “new” women, the type he called “Noras” (referring to Ibsen’s central character in A Doll’s House), each of his three wives were professional women with public careers. His periods of insanity were closely connected to his periods of creativity, and his astonishingly prolific output resulted in fifty-five volumes, including a ten-volume autobiography and seven thousand letters. His fascinating little pen-and-ink drawings, many of them sexual, are charming and underscore his obsessive interest in sexuality, while his interest in the supernatural led to odd quests including alchemy. His contempt for Christianity (fit for “women, eunuchs, children and savages”) sprang from his contempt for weakness. Strindberg admired the hard “masculine” virtues of physical and mental strength. He was deeply influenced by the writings

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of Nietzsche, which confirmed his sexual prejudices and the consequent belief that the war between the sexes was a battle to the death; note the startling imagery in his much-quoted remark: “My spirit has received in its uterus a tremendous outpouring of seed from Frederick Nietzsche, so that I feel as full as a pregnant bitch. He was my husband” (Letter to Edward Brandes in J. William Miller, Modern Playwrights at Work, Vol 1, New York: Samuel French, 1968). The Confession of a Fool, written at the same time as his powerful play, The Father, is a record of his marriage to the famous actress, Siri von Essen, the Baroness Wrengel, and is filled with wild accusations of infidelity, lesbianism, poisoning, and attempts to have him committed to a mental institution. Part of Strindberg’s charm is his capacity for self-ridicule, his confession as a fool for love, who adored the woman he was accusing. Strindberg’s life, like his talent, was inherently theatrical; his psychological torment as well as his gender politics have kept the great plays on the stage as they continue to speak with a modern voice.

Miss Julie, 1888 Strindberg considered Miss Julie his masterpiece, and the theatrical world has done deference to it by endless productions, some faithful to the original, some creating disconcerting contemporary relevance. The play is about the bored, spoiled daughter of a count; having recently been rejected by her fiancé who had finally had enough of her humiliating treatment, Julie takes up with her father’s valet. It

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is noteworthy that the play’s title gives us something of his point of view in its respectful use of “Miss” and simultaneously ironizes his respect and her expectation of it. We watch Julie and Jean’s power struggle as the entitlements of class collide with the entitlements of maleness. As the aristocrat falls and the servant rises, the Strindbergian pathology plays out in its boldest terms. That this war between the sexes is literalized as a battle to the death, makes it an obvious candidate for replays since the issues of sexual politics endure as do the psychological types: the spoiled brat tormented by ennui, the ambitious social climber trading on his virility, and the power struggle that informs so much of today’s sexual politics. Miss Julie raises unanswerable questions about personality and behavior: are gender roles inherent or societal? Are we controlled by nature or nurture? Is Miss Julie who she is and does she do what she does because she is female? Because she is menstruating and thus hormonal? Because she was raised by her mother’s peculiar and extreme brand feminism? Because her father is absent? Because she is rich and overindulged? Because it is Midsummer’s Eve and she has had too much to drink? And/or because she is shamed, lonely, panicked and, finally suicidal? Ibsen, the rival Scandinavian giant of modern theater, kept Strindberg’s portrait on his wall: “I am an enemy of his—but I cannot write a line except when this bold man with his mad eyes looks down on me.” (Eric Bentley, The Playwright as Thinker. New York: Harcourt, 1967, p. 195.) That portrait—and the plays it evokes—must have influenced both A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler but where Strindberg’s female characters are driven by chthonic urges, Ibsen’s female characters struggle with social issues that can be altered.

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Replays Ingmar Bergman, Julie (Miss Julie by August Strindberg) in A Project for the Theatre (New York: Continuum, 1981) Another Scandinavian giant weighs in on the question of the sexual power struggle between men and women. Like his Nora, Ingmar Bergman’s adaptation of A Doll’s House, his Julie is part of A Project for the Theatre; this includes first the Ibsen play, then the Strindberg play, then Bergman’s stage adaptation of his own film called Scenes from a Marriage. As might be expected from Bergman, the changes are in the directorial concept rather than in the scripts; his intention was to create “not a trilogy but what he calls, with a touch of irony, a ‘triangle’,” (“Of Winners and Losers: A Conversation with Ingmar Bergman” by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker in A Project for the Theatre, 1) in which three aspects of the male/female relationship are depicted, examining the effect on the social world. With the Nora-Julie pairing in a four-hour production and Scenes from a Marriage playing onstage across the street, the three plays taken together are, Bergman insists, one production. Broader than merely “a massive pan-Scandinavian contribution to the theme of Emancipation” as Die Welt called it, Bergman refused to create a sociological statement: “The important thing to me is the tension that arises when men and women are brought together” (18). Further, he refuses any easy conclusion about gender politics, declaring that men or women in solitude—“or freedom, as the feminists often like to call it—is crippling. Emotionally crippling” (18).

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Although the text seems faithful to the original Strindberg text as English-speakers know it, there are noteworthy directorial decisions affecting the play. There are servants who witness Julie’s mortification and destruction as they peer lewdly through the set’s windows. These four vulgar servants, instead of performing the “Ballet” Strindberg describes, sneak into the darkened kitchen, and start to sing while one of them raps out the tempo on Jean’s bedroom door. Another does a drunken dance while another vomits. They exit, making obscene gestures. This emphasizes the class issue, crucial to Strindberg’s play, as it is folded into the gender struggle. Further, Julie’s face has a visible and humiliating scar—inflicted by her ex-fiancé—marking Julie from the play’s start in a way she and Jean and Christine are fully aware of, and thus externalizing her shame. When Julie appears after the sexual encounter “in complete disarray,” she is bleeding down her leg and her scar has begun to bleed; she dashes outside to vomit. These realistic details make the scene far more disturbing than the original. Descriptions of the play’s last moments are even more telling: Bergman eliminated Julie’s “trance” as specified by Strindberg, while Jean’s “Go now . . .” was spoken “virtually in tears” just before he crams the stolen money into her dress pockets in a burst of self-preservation. As a demonstration of “Nothing to be done,” Bergman has intensified every locked-in aspect of Strindberg’s play.

Patrick Marber, After Miss Julie, 1995 (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2010) Patrick Marber calls his play a “version” rather than a translation of Strindberg’s play. It was commissioned by the BBC and first

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broadcast in 1995, after which he continued to tinker with the script. Although he initially worked from a literal translation of the Swedish, he declares in the “Author’s Note” written in 2003 “I have been unfaithful to the original. But conscious that infidelity might be an act of love” (4). This suggests a far more radical reimagining than After Miss Julie turns out to be, since Marber’s updating is not to set the play in the contemporary world but lodges it oddly in 1945, conjuring up another bygone era, when the English class system still held sway; this is a period piece, written from the safety of looking back nearly seven decades, a kind of inelegant “Upstairs/ Downstairs.” After Miss Julie takes place not on Midsummer Eve in rural Sweden but in a country house outside London on the night Winston Churchill lost the 1945 election. Churchill was the leader of the Conservative party and the most popular leader in modern British history, but despite his 83 percent approval rating, the Labour Party swept to power in a landslide victory. This sets the stage for the same partying—if for different reasons—among the servants of the estate, and Julie realizes that after their catastrophic night of sex and theft, that if she told the police “Daddy would drop down dead. [. . .] The bloodline clots. No heirs. No more of us” (31). The lackey, she imagines, will survive unimproved, and her venomous snobbishness emphasizes the unresolved class tensions in British postwar society, which are not identical to or interchangeable with class tensions in contemporary British society. Perversely, just as John is a social conservative—a place for everyone and everyone in his place—so her father is the reverse, a Labour peer. When Julie and John make toasts, they drink first to each other, then to socialism,

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then to peace, to love, to the workers, and, finally she requires him to kiss her shoe. The freedom of the contemporary theater allows Marber to be much more sexually explicit than Strindberg could be, but although the seduction scene is now blatant, it has puzzling flaws in the realism; for example, if Julie is menstruating, as Christine tells us and thus her hormonal disarray is of the many motives which Strindberg built into her behavior, why all the talk about blood signifying her loss of virginity? The John the Baptist/Salome suggestion implicit in Strindberg becomes explicit in Marber, apparently not trusting us to catch the allusion; Strindberg merely suggests that symbolism when Christine mentions the subject of the morning’s sermon; this underscores the link between Julie and the caged bird that John beheads, and, later, Julie’s throat-slitting suicide. Although Marber gives us some of the stories about their formative pasts—the servant boy stealing apples, Julie’s crazy feminist mother—most of the details that create the past world are missing in Marber’s version, leaving us with the play’s flat present. In Strindberg, their dreams of rising and falling, so perfectly symbolic of the play’s dynamic as the two characters meet briefly in the middle of their doomed trajectories, have vanished from this new script. Marber focuses our eyes on the razor in the last scene, as it is handed up and back among the three characters, an excellent tension-producing device but only if we do not already know the original play—which of course Marber’s title assumes— and therefore know the implied use of the razor. The multiplicity of motives Strindberg was so proud of as “modern” has been reduced

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and thus the characters seem less complex and less sympathetic than the originals. Perhaps most absent is Strindberg’s signature destructive urgency springing up from a primal core; Marber’s characters seem caught merely in circumstance, as though it were all a bad date gone very wrong, rather than people trapped by ungovernable needs.

The Dance of Death, 1900 “How banal life is nowadays! In the old days one used to fight; now one merely shakes a fist.” This line, from the conclusion of Strindberg’s most modern play (trans. Michael Robinson, Oxford World’s Classics, New York, 1998, p. 174), seems to anticipate the very idea of the diminished contemporary world, lacking heroism and grandeur. The culmination of Strindberg’s indictment of the institution of marriage and the hopelessness of gender warfare’s ever ending in a truce, nonetheless ends surprisingly with the couple reconciled. Alice and the Captain have tormented each other with lies, betrayals, spite, and violence for twenty-five years, creating a world so toxic that “everyone who comes near us becomes evil” (173). Biographical critics have argued that this portrait of a marriage is based on Strindberg’s sister Anna and her husband Philip, seeing the playwright himself in the sexually conflicted and disloyal cousin Kurt. As Kurt says of Edgar, “He’d be comic if he weren’t tragic” (145). It is exactly this balance of the comic and tragic that Albee achieves in his dance of death, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? one of two major dramas clearly influenced by The Dance of Death; the other is Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. These works are too iconic to be called

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replays, although the debt is obvious. Other critics suggest O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night as another major drama indebted to Strindberg’s Dance of Death, although I find this link less persuasive in correspondences of character, plot, and atmosphere; the profound sadness and defeatedness of O’Neill’s drama seem unlike the explosive venom of Strindberg’s world, although like Albee and Sartre, O’Neill clearly subscribes to the belief that there is “Nothing to be done.” Albee’s tempestuous couple, George and Martha, with their deceptions, self-deceptions, betrayals, self-betrayals, wounding accusations, and brawls—both psychological and physical—have, like Strindberg’s couple, persisted in staying married many years, and their imaginary son has become both a solace and a weapon in their relationship. Albee’s play concludes with their reconciliation at the end, as a declaration of the possibility of an enduring marriage, just as Strindberg’s couple end by planning their wedding anniversary celebration. Sometimes reconciliation looks a lot like resignation. In a manuscript note, Strindberg wrote that in addition to all the torment endemic to human life, there is “the double curse of existence. No one has the opportunity of tormenting one another as thoroughly as a man and a woman who love one another (=hate one another)” (quoted by Robinson in “Introduction,” p. xxii). When the Captain asks Kurt, “Surely you’re not so childish as to believe in—Hell?” Kurt replies, “Don’t you, when you’re in the midst of it?” (143). Sartre’s three characters who are also “in the midst of it,” prove that even death provides no escape from the hell of life, providing No Exit ’s most-quoted line, “Hell is other people.” Self-deception—often linked to sexual misconduct—is the universal human fallacy, as Sartre’s Ines, Garcin and Estelle all demonstrate,

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as do Albee’s George and Martha, all following the example of Strindberg’s Alice and the Captain.

Replays Friedrich Durrenmatt, Play Strindberg, 1968 (translated into English by James Kirkup, Chicago, IL: Dramatic Publishing Company, 1970) Durrenmatt declared in his prefatory “Note” that his intention was to preserve Strindberg’s plotline and then to strip it of the “literary side,” creating a “text which has been de-poeticized and deflated in the extreme” (74). The first line of Strindberg’s play is, “Won’t you play something for me?” Alice replies, “What shall I play?” Durrenmatt answers her question with his play’s title, Play Strindberg. As promised, he follows the original but with language reduced to everyday speech, thus highlighting the farcical aspects of both the ersatz philosophical discussions and the action, as Edgar, the Captain, falls occasionally into dead faints and nobody notices. The play is divided into twelve “rounds,” each beginning with an announcement of which round it is, and ending with a gong, suggesting the boxing match that is their marriage (a notion Albee uses to great effect in Virginia Woolf?: “I want you on your feet and slugging, sweetheart”). The “meta” qualities of this replay are set-ups to allow us to groan:

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Edgar: I want to live! I want to live! Kurt:

You really are a star turn (63).

There are additional revelations of embezzlement, food hoarding, extortion, and various other deeds of ill will, but none of it seems to matter to the characters or to us since Durrenmatt has deliberately refused to take Strindberg seriously. Ultimately Edgar is paralyzed, unable to speak intelligibly but able to hear; this is Round Eight called “Conversation before Dinner,” as Edgar finds himself at the mercy of his wife and his cousin Kurt, who in turn finds himself at the mercy of his cruel mistress. The Final Round has Kurt leaving them to live out the doom of their married days. Durrenmatt’s final comment on his play in relation to the source play is telling: “Out of a bourgeois marriage tragedy developed a comedy about bourgeois marriage tragedies” (75). No longer about characters or plots, Play Strindberg is distinctly a replay, mocking and scornful of the Strindberg legacy, as well as all the plays—many still unwritten in 1968—about failed marriages and unhappy people.

Michael Meyer, Lunatic and Lover (London: Methuen, 1981) This engrossing play about Strindberg’s life, written by his foremost translator, incorporates elements of many of the plays—especially The Father—as well as elements of the biography, although since Strindberg himself included so much of his life in the works, the

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lines of distinction blur. Meyer’s character Strindberg seems to know himself very well; writing to his brother he tells him that he is living “quite idyllically” in a house with six women, writing a play called The Father: “People will think it misogynous, but all my misogyny is theoretical—I couldn’t live without women,” adding, “I don’t know if The Father is a fiction or if my life has been” (22). The brief and impressively inclusive biodrama gives us a convincing portrait of a man haunted by the terrified child he was, the paranoid and jealous husband he was to three wives, his bizarre interest in alchemy, the money troubles caused by publishers and producers who found his work outré, his towering ego combined with tormenting self-doubt, the radical courage, and the cringing cowardice. The most illuminating line comes on the first page, when the character Strindberg says, “There’s a deeper reality than what just happens” (11), providing an interpretation of profound economy of the author Strindberg’s plays. As testimony to Strindberg’s having become one of the giants of modern drama, the play ends when, on his sixtieth birthday, he is amazed at the outpouring of telegrams and flowers: “From whom? The critics mock me, the theatres reject my plays. From whom?” An actress replies, “From the young. They are the ones you have always championed. [. . .] they are your disciples” (32). That so many contemporary playwrights seem to be Strindberg’s disciples is testimony enough.

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9 Oscar Wilde

Like Shaw, Wilde’s mode is comic, although his comedy is far frillier than GBS’s. It might be argued that Wilde is a “fighting” playwright, waging battle by mockery, skewering social mores with a feather; it may tickle while it draws blood. But it seems more appropriate to include him in the “Nothing to be done” group; although Wilde does not indulge in despair; his worldview is laced with absurdity. This absurdity, looked at from another and tragic angle, looks a lot like Strindberg’s dance of death between men and women who are hopelessly trapped in the gender imperatives. But where Strindberg’s is a dark tango, Wilde’s is a lively minuet. Despite radical variations in matters of style and tone, people remain, for Wilde, preposterously, impossibly, people.

The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895 Oscar Wilde, having been born in 1854, lived through much of the Victorian era’s earnestness, and his most famous and enduring comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest is still funny

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after more than a hundred years. Its subtitle, “A trivial comedy for serious people” impales the nineteenth century’s lugubriousness where trivial people proclaimed their seriousness; Wilde wrote to a friend that Earnest was, “written by a butterfly for butterflies,” (to Arthur L. Humphreys, “Letters” in The Importance of Being Earnest (New York: Avon, 1965, p. 112). The play delights in exposing the social conventions surrounding marriage, but it also has a good bit to say about education, class, family, real estate, and gender roles. The play is a banquet of witty one-liners as dandies, aesthetes, frivolous girls, grim tutors, and imperious mothers lark through the complicated plot. Jack concludes the play with “I’ve now realized for the first time the vital Importance of Being Earnest.” Of course this puns on the name Ernest with which both young women are obsessed, but consider how it may have resonated with Wilde’s audience, to whom the following earnest passages would likely have been immediately familiar staples of popular reading: The man who reviews his own life, as I do mine, in going on here, from page to page, had need to have been a good man indeed, if he would be spared the sharp consciousness of many talents neglected, many opportunities wasted, many erratic and perverted feelings constantly at war within his breast, and defeating him. I do not hold one natural gift, I dare say, that I have not abused. My meaning simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in

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earnest. (From Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, chapter 42: “Mischief”) And this from Nathanial Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance: “And how is it with you?” asked Zenobia, [. . .] “You, I think, cannot have ceased to live a life of thought and feeling.” “I have always been in earnest,” answered Hollingsworth. “I have hammered thought out of iron, after heating the iron in my heart! It matters little what my outward toil may be. Were I a slave, at the bottom of a mine, I should keep the same purpose, the same faith in its ultimate accomplishment, that I do now.” (chapter 8, “A Modern Arcadia”) It is this full-throated, self-congratulatory earnestness Wilde ridicules, while the contemporary replays of Earnest deal with earnestness—and the mockery of earnestness—in very different ways. A comedy of manners necessarily changes with the times; one of our continued pleasures in the many revivals of Wilde’s play is our wonder that society once existed with so many rules of conduct. Of all the delectable roles in Earnest, Lady Bracknell is perhaps the most prized, and she has been essayed by some of the best actors of the twentieth century, including Edith Evans, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Stockard Channing, while sometimes the role is played by a man, most notably by Brian Bedford and Stephen Fry and Geoffrey Rush. The gender-bending invites interpretations of the “woman question” as it was known: the battle-axe mother has ceased to be feminine as she acquired power, dominating her hapless husband and laying down the law.

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Replays Anne Croswell and Lee Pockriss, Earnest in Love, 1960, MTI (Music Theatre International) This successful Broadway musical with a book and lyrics by Anne Croswell and music by Lee Pockriss, is based on Who’s Earnest? written in 1957 for television. The musical follows the plot of The Importance of Being Earnest faithfully, and the show has had a continuing life: the Japanese all-female musical theater troupe Takarazuka Revue staged it in 2005, and in 2010 the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York revived it where it was greeted with praise (“bewitching finesse,” according to Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal ).

Tom Stoppard, Travesties, 1974 (New York: Grove, 1975) It is easy to imagine Wilde’s delight in being travestied by Tom Stoppard. To be both mocked and lauded by the twentieth century’s great theatrical wit, is to have achieved a particularly Wildean brand of success, one which could not have come from mere admiration. Travesties’ occasions for laughter as well as for slightly delayed reactions (Oh, wait! I get it!), and various elbow nudges and winks, are combined with political, aesthetic, and romantic commentary, all crammed into an elegant theatrical vehicle as loopy as it is lovely. Stoppard’s debt to Wilde’s play is rich and various, most obvious in that Wilde’s Cecily and Gwendolyn are Travesties’ main characters. Stoppard travesties others as well as Wilde: Joyce, Lenin, Wordsworth,

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Duchamp, and T. S. Eliot, in a spectacular (and auricular) homage to and burlesque of the headliners of Western culture. Stoppard’s inclination to doubling and twinning, linguistically and structurally, is an inclination fundamental to travesty, both in creation and in apprehension. Stoppard told Jon Bradshaw in an interview, “I tend to see everything through a comic prism” (“Tom Stoppard, Nonstop: Word Games with a Hit Playwright” in Stoppard in Conversation, ed., Paul Delaney, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 95). Almost anyone else might have said “comic lens” and it is worth noting that Wilde’s Miss Prism is the only character without a twin/equivalent in Stoppard’s play; we know from Peter Wood, the play’s original director, that Stoppard originally considered titling this play “Prism” (Thomas Whitaker, Tom Stoppard, New York: Grove, 1983, pp. 113–14). It is tempting to think that Miss Prism, the author of the manuscript accidentally exchanged for the baby as well as the unwitting author and solver of the play’s mystery, may have her twin/equivalent in Stoppard himself. Since many contemporary versions of iconic modern plays tend to diminish them—and thus diminish contemporary culture, and, thus diminish us—it is interesting to see Stoppard finding a new kind of travesty, with no less happy an ending than Wilde’s play has, and which elevates his audience both emotionally and intellectually.

Mark Ravenhill, Handbag, 1998 (in Mark Ravenhill Plays: 1, London: Methuen, 2001) This horrifying play takes as its subtitle (omitted from the Methuen edition) “The Importance of Being Somebody,” which clearly

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identifies both its debt to Wilde and Ravenhill’s thematic interest in British class issues. Handbag ’s conceit is to create a backstory for Miss Prism and the baby she left in a handbag in “a moment of mental abstraction,” while interweaving that story with a contemporary plot about people who are equally incompetent but also heartless, violent, and vicious. They are certainly far less witty. Where Wilde’s characters are too elegant and too clever and too overdressed to seem like real people, Ravenhill’s characters are all too recognizable to us: pick up any newspaper to read appalling stories of baby murders and parental neglect. Ravenhill’s blame and disgust is equitably distributed: what his characters all have in common—male, female, homosexual, heterosexual—is a capacity for cruelty and betrayal, and their narcissism seems to be sociopathic, implying that that term may have ceased to mean anything since in a society where everyone is sociopathic, the sociopath is no longer an aberration. Handbag ’s shock value is indebted to Edward Bond’s Saved, in which a baby is stoned to death in a pram; that play was written more than twenty years earlier, and Bond would likely have abjured Ravenhill’s Wildean mockery, making Handbag seem even more contemporary and condemnatory. Revived in 2011, Saved elicited much critical praise as well as the lamentation that, as outrageous as its violence and ugliness is, it no longer causes the shock it did when it was new, since we have become inured to these dreadful stories in real life. The question raised by Bond’s Saved is whether it is a protest play, requiring an overhaul of society, or whether it is a despairing hopeless portrait of that society. Ravenhill’s Handbag seems to reject any notion of hope or societal recuperation and the playwright thrusts his disgust in our faces. The excesses as they build through

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the play could, in the right production, become hideously comic, a kind of can-you-top-this horror show. Handbag begins with a very contemporary situation: a lesbian couple and a gay couple plan to produce a baby through in vitro fertilization. The designated “Mommy” recalls her own father’s abandoning the family, when, having packed a bag, he was neither seen nor spoken of again. The infant’s putative “Daddy,” David, is late to the birth because he is having sex with Phil, a male prostitute, who enters with a bloody nose that he got while trying to snatch someone’s handbag. They joke about their neighbor as “the child abuser,” and Tom, a teacher who is David’s partner, laments the nasty way parents treat their children when they pick them up after school. Eventually, Ravenhill’s couples split up, having betrayed and exploited each other. Phil becomes the baby’s foster father. Meanwhile, back in the nineteenth century, Miss Prism and Augusta meet as young women both on their way to live in the Moncreiff household: Miss Prism will become the nanny for the as-yet unborn child of Augusta’s sister, and Augusta will quash her Irish roots to become Lady Bracknell. The two plots merge as Cardew, Wilde’s adopter of Jack Worthing and discoverer of the baby in the handbag, emerges as Phil’s former foster father and a pedophile who still has his “boys.” Moncrieff and his wife Constance, hand the baby back to Prism with cliché Victorian seen-but-not-heard uninvolved parenting. Prism, busy with her novel, hands the baby off to Phil across the hundred years, linking the two plots. When the child stops breathing, Phil tries to revive him by jabbing him with lit cigarettes. The baby ends up in a black trash bag instead of a black handbag.

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Ravenhill’s play is not only a venomous indictment of the contemporary world, but, by using The Importance of Being Earnest in that service, reveals the immense gulf of theatrical as well as sociological and psychological distance, although still suggesting that there is “nothing to be done,” people being what they are.

Gerald Barry, Earnest, 2010 (Schott Music Ltd, London) A comic opera, by Irish composer Gerald Barry retains Wilde’s dialogue for its libretto. A short scene from the opera is available on YouTube following a conversation among Barry, Fiona Shaw, and Stephen Fry about the opera’s debt to the play, and provides an amusing glimpse of the opera’s style, making it clear how far from conventional opera, both stylistically and musically, Earnest is. If excess of cruelty marks Ravenhill’s Handbag, excess of exuberance marks Barry’s opera, inviting speculation as to the musicality of Wilde’s play’s structure. When the opera opened at the Barbican in London on April 29, 2012, Anna Picard, reviewing for The Independent, wrote this delightful summary: A manic, renegade thrill. Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s 24-piece ensemble navigated the switchback shifts from serial pastiche to Godzilla concerto grosso without breaking sweat or losing the tenderness behind this crockery-smashing mockery of the quartet of lovers [. . .], their pettish priest, giddy governess, morose butler, and monstrous matriarch, basso profundo Lady Bracknell. The dexterity of Wilde’s wordplay

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remains crisp, the darker forces of violence and desire bubbling up like heartburn.

David Zippel, Earnest, 2012 (unpublished) David Zippel’s idea was to replicate the effect The Importance of Being Earnest must have had on its 1895 audience as it saw itself reflected onstage; to do this he kept Wilde’s language but adjusted costumes, names, and setting; he moved the elegant London house to an apartment in Trump Tower in New York, while the country house in Woolton transfers to Long Island, New York; in both cases, Zippel seems to mistake wealth for elegance. Zippel told Playbill (March 2, 2012) that: Lady Bracknell becomes “Mrs. Birnbaum-Bracknell,” a botoxed, socially ambitious East Side doyenne; “Algie” and “Wendy” are New York City fashionistas; “Jack” and “Cissy” are East Hampton preppies; Meriman the Butler becomes “Immaculada,” a maid of Hispanic heritage; Ms. Prism, the governess, becomes a Jamaican nanny; and Canon Chasuble becomes “Rev. Diane Canon Chasuble, D.D.,” a change “which brings a little same-sex flirtation to the play. The shift from British to American, using easy and crass stereotypes, reduces Wilde’s larkiness to a set of predictable and vulgar sociological jokes.

Biographical replays Wilde’s self-styled persona and his flamboyant life and tragic death were so dramatic that playwrights and filmmakers have found the

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tug of biography irresistible. The most prominent among these biodramas are: the 1997 film, starring Stephen Fry in the title role called Wilde: The Story of the First Modern Man, 1997, with a screenplay by Julian Mitchell, based on Richard Ellman’s biography; the same year Moises Kaufman’s biographical play, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, premiered, followed by The Judas Kiss, 1999 by David Hare. The ghost of Oscar Wilde makes a tender and wise appearance at the conclusion of Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love, 1997, providing A. E. Housman with a way to meet his death. Stoppard, putting words in Wilde’s mouth, gives him a stunning summation of the allure of Wilde’s life and art: “I awoke the imagination of the century! [. . .] I lived at the turning point of the world where everything was waking up new—the New Drama, the New Novel, New Journalism, New Hedonism, New Paganism, even the New Woman.” (The Invention of Love, London: Faber and Faber, 1997, pp. 99–100). Each of these replays creates a kind of subcategory of replay: the reinvention of a famous life. Most recently a biographical opera, Oscar, by Theodore Morrison, lengthens this list. According to James Oestreich’s review in the New York Times (August 2, 2013), the opera errs by “all but deifying him” and loses its dramatic power by too much exposition; Wilde would not likely approve, but might throw up his hands, knowing that there was “nothing to be done.”

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10 Anton Chekhov

A recent study published in Science magazine (October 2013), showed that people who read serious literature have a greater capacity for empathy than those who read popular fiction or no fiction at all; the report was titled, “I Know How You Feel: I Read Chekhov, Too.” That Chekhov should be their emblem of a sympathy coach makes sense; it is only by intuiting characters’ feelings and motives rather than merely following plot that Chekhov works at all. Contemporary society’s low tolerance for the Chekhovian values (kindness, gentleness, quiet, civility) suggests our extreme need; critics and scholars have theorized about the recent obsession in the English-speaking world with Chekhov’s plays; he may be the mostproduced author of recent years. Major contemporary playwright after major contemporary playwright (Tom Stoppard, Brian Friel, David Mamet, Emily Mann, Sarah Ruhl, Michael Frayn, and Tracy Letts among many others) has written an adaptation/translation of a Chekhov play; there is hardly a writer or director or actor alive who does not worship at the altar of Chekhov. The revolutionary aspect of Chekhov’s theatre was to shift the weight from plot to atmosphere, from action to emotion, ushering

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in a drama of existential malaise while maintaining a realist style. Uncle Vanya is the foremost example.

Uncle Vanya, 1897 Like many of Chekhov’s plays, Uncle Vanya can be seen as his comment on the state of rural Russia; its subtitle, after all, is “Scenes from a Country Life.” Chekhov told Maxim Gorky, “This Russia of ours is such an absurd, clumsy country,” a comment that could apply widely, not only to Chekhov’s other plays and stories but, given the many contemporary reimaginings, his remark would seem to extend to any country at any time since the absurdity and clumsiness seems to spring from humanity and not exclusively from Russia. If Uncle Vanya is about Russia at that particular juncture in time, the play anticipates a paradigm shift, the revolution to come and its consequent dissolution of the landed class. The play’s ecological conscience, expressed by Astrov, gives it particular relevance to current global warming concerns, anticipating an environmental paradigm shift. The societal and environmental dissolutions in Vanya reflect the collapse of the characters: Vanya falls in love with Yelena and discovers that his love is hopeless and unrequited, as is his dutiful devotion to her husband, the Professor, whose sense of entitlement throws everyone into disarray. Astrov is aware that his work—to save the forests, to save the sick—are acts of absurd optimism, while Sonya’s worshipful love for Astrov is as futile as Vanya’s is for Yelena. By the end, Uncle Vanya and his niece Sonya are left behind, saddened, alone together in the house, their hopes for happiness

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in tatters. All their attempts—however feeble—to change their lives have failed, the gun has gone off, as Chekhov famously said it must, and the shot missed as we/he/they knew it would; the future stretches long and dreary ahead of them. The essence of Chekhovian tragicomedy is to recognize that having tried to do something, there is “nothing to be done.”

Replays Howard Barker, (Uncle) Vanya, 1991 (in Collected Plays Volume 2, London: Calder, 1993) This is a quintessential replay, using the iconic script in the service of a radical idea. Barker’s reimagining of Uncle Vanya quarrels with Chekhov; it is both outrageously violent and outrageously funny, a combination that may be the signature of the best of the contemporary. Written in defiance of the Chekhovian emotional climate, Barker declared, “I remade Vanya because I loved his anger, which Chekhov allows to dissipate in toxic resentment. [. . .] [where] love falters in self-loathing and desire is petulance.” (“Notes on the Necessity for a Version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya” in Collected Plays, volume 2. London: Calder, 1992, p. 292). (Uncle) Vanya is an example of Barker’s “theatre of catastrophe”; he sees Vanya as Chekhov’s greatest character with “a broken soul” through whom the audience is enabled to pity itself. “It is necessary for our own spiritual health to know Vanya need not be Vanya” (“Notes” p. 292). Barker’s assumption here is that we identify so strongly with Chekhov’s characters that we need to

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be saved from “the Chekhovian madhouse” (293). When Chekhov literally walks into that madhouse and onto the stage, Barker’s play turns meta; these characters know they are characters, so when Barker’s Sonya says, “If you let Chekhov in it’s silence and the ticking of the clock [. . .] do you want that!” (315). Sonya seems to be referring not only to letting Chekhov into the house and into the play, but into their—and our—inner beings, accepting as inescapable the silence, the dreary passing of time, and the melancholy. In Act One, Astrov and Vanya accuse each other of impotence and have a kind of locker-room conversation about phallic prowess, concluding with: Astrov:

I can’t talk to you, Vanya. I really cannot talk

Vanya:

You are so modern So Very Painfully And Miserably Modern (296–7)

This is Astrov as Prufrock, the modern man, and it is from this limp, self-forgiving modernity that Barker wants to rescue both Vanya the character and Vanya the play. He has Vanya shoot Serebryakov (and he does not miss this time), slap Sonia across the face, order Helena to strip publicly, and then kill Astrov. His mother asks, “Who gave you that gun?” and he replies, “Chekhov. Chekhov did” (305), and later, in Act Three: “He [Chekhov] hated the gun./Oh how he hated the gun./ It was as if he knew it was the enemy of all his melancholy compromise” (338).

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Vanya’s self-assertion is emblematized in his rejection of the name Uncle Vanya: “The word Uncle castrated me,” and he rejects his mother’s “Jean” as pretentiously French, and rejects Vanya as a childish nickname: “Ivan is the name” (305). Running through the dialogue is the thematic, “Shh.” Everyone shushes everyone else, expressing the repressive worship of the fragile quiet, hushing the noise as well as the upsetment, a vocal version of gentle back-pattings. In Act Two all the Chekhovian pieties are exploded as Astrov and Serebryakov, both returned from the dead, sum up: Chekhov How Tolerant You Are Serebryakov:

He makes it possible for us to forgive ourselves the crime [. . .] Of self-murder [. . .] Self-betrayal

Astrov:

And self-disgust (329–30)

Significantly, there is no Act Four, the Chekhovian structure of choice as the way to conclude a play without resolution. Barker’s Vanya walks out of the play at the end of Act Three and disappears.

Sam Holcroft, Vanya (unpublished; premiered at Gate Theatre, London, 2009) Holcroft’s Vanya is typical of many parasitic knock-offs: if you have an agenda but do not want to go to the trouble of inventing your own plot and characters, let Chekhov provide. The agenda here seems to be a crass feminism that goes no further than blaming

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Astrov and Vanya who are each made to embody one characteristic of the stereotypical Male who is The Bane of Every Woman’s life. Since Holcroft has pared the play down to four characters (Sonya, Yelena, Astrov, and Vanya) and down to one motive (romantic love), her play becomes more like an interpretative student essay of Uncle Vanya written in script form. The language is slangy: characters say “fuck” and “ok” and “pizzazz” and “knee-jerk” to no apparent purpose. Astrov, no longer an ecological idealist is here an anthropologist of the long-winded variety, discoursing on tribal behavior and how pheromones motivate human beings; that he falls for Yelena’s physical beauty rather than Sonya’s soul relegates him to Holcroft’s doghouse. That Vanya is motivated only by envy of the alpha male renders him merely a fool. The morphine he steals from Astrov is intended not for suicide but for the murder of Yelena’s unnamed husband. The four-act structure that holds everything in unresolved tension in Chekhov’s play here becomes one act, divided into fifteen scenes. Holcroft has also added soliloquys, explicit in their characters’ self-justifications, diminishing the complexity of Chekhov’s people and their partial but courageous self-awareness. The central discovery scene occurs not when Vanya sees the kiss, but when Vanya finds Astrov and Yelena undressing (no autumn roses here). The final scene ends in sophomoric coyness, as Vanya asks, “Was it me? Was it really me, or is there another hand at work here? [. . .] I feel like someone is always one step ahead of me, like my story’s already been written and I don’t have a say . . . (53). Holcroft’s Vanya is “meta” in the service of “cool” rather than in the service of art.

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Alan Ayckbourn, Dear Uncle, 2011 (unpublished; premiered July 2011 at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, UK) Alan Ayckbourn’s Dear Uncle is about an Uncle Marcus, in love with the second wife of “Sir Prof” while his teenage niece is in love with the local doctor. As Dominic Maxwell of The Times (July 14, 2011) noted, “Alan Ayckbourn’s tragicomedies have been compared with Chekhov for long enough that he has finally decided to return the compliment.” Ayckbourn has relocated the characters to England’s Lake District in the 1930s, choosing that pre-WWII moment “when the upper middle classes began to glimpse their own pointlessness” (Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times, July 15, 2011). Alfred Hickling in The Guardian found Dear Uncle “entirely Chekhovian in essence” while Clare Brennan in The Observer found that “the very success of the transposition [from Russia to England . . .] nearly smothers the play” but the second act “shreds reticence, bares hearts, exposes nerves.”

Annie Baker, Uncle Vanya, 2012 (unpublished rehearsal script; New York premiere June 2012; scheduled for publication by TCG May 2014) This Uncle Vanya is radical in its language and persuasively Chekhovian in its tone. In an interview (“Annie Baker, Sam Gold, and Uncle Vanya’s Beige Socks” by Emma Brown in Interview, June 13, 2012), Annie Baker, a young, highly successful playwright, said that in her experience of seeing Chekhov plays, “there’s either the 19th-century, corset version, spoken in pseudo-British accents, or

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there’s the ‘updating’ of it where [the characters] live in Cleveland, in 1982.” This is only a slight exaggeration of the apparently limited options (although sometimes, of course, the British accents are authentic). Her very quiet, very moving Vanya at SoHo Repertory Theatre in New York, garnered much praise; it has much in common, both in tone and style, with the film, Vanya on 42nd Street. The audience sat on carpeted risers surrounded the tiny playing space like silent guests in the characters’ living room. And if Baker’s language sounds updated, it is, she insists, what you get “if you literally translate what [Chekhov] wrote.” Thus Astrov says: “Yeah, and for what it is, life is pretty boring and stupid. You’re surrounded by creeps, you spend all day hanging out with creeps, a few years go by and little by little without even realizing it, you become a creep yourself. It’s unavoidable” (6). It is an unexpectedly wise and moving adaptation.

Mallory Catlett, This Was the End (unpublished; premiered by Restless NYC at The Chocolate Factory, 2014) Created as part of the “Senior Theatre” movement in the United States, this condensed (68 minutes) adaptation of Uncle Vanya uses Vanya’s question, “What if I live to be 60?” as its point of departure. If Vanya’s question looks with dismay at what is, for him, the far and nearly unimaginable future, Catlett’s production (she created and directed), using four actors considerably older than sixty, portrays that future. The lines are Chekhov’s, as is the boredom and desperation, although the action is a demonstration of

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old-age: pill-counting and re-counting, bickering, endless repetitions of going out and coming in through exits that threaten to trap them, with occasional sex audible from behind closed doors. Catlett said that she was trying to say “something about time and memory [. . .] I think it’s a flaw [. . .] that we put everything in chronology” (“The Age Advantage” by Eliza Bent, American Theatre, April 2014). Molly Grogan, reviewing for Exeunt, wrote, “Communicated by these frail bodies and potentially failing minds [the main problem of the production was the actors’ difficulty in memorizing the script], the lethargy and immobility that paralyze everyone in Uncle Vanya take on new meaning” (http://exeuntmagazine.com/reviews).

Film replays Among the many film adaptations, these are the most interesting as reimaginings: Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, USA). This superb film has long had a cult following; it was directed by Andre Gregory, with a script adapted by David Mamet (whose distinctive rhythms occasionally intrude), and filmed by Louis Malle. It is profoundly cinematic in its methods to achieve the crucial, often elusive intimacy that is a necessary factor in Chekhovian realism. That the actors appear in modern street clothes is not a conspicuous contemporizing, but rather an inconspicuous naturalness, further achieved by intimate close-ups as though Vanya (played by Wallace Shawn— goofy-looking and lisping) were talking directly to us, just as the voiceovers make Yelena’s private thoughts audible. Julianne Moore,

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all gorgeous red hair and unwarranted smiles, captures Yelena’s distinctive quality, both irresistible and irritating; she is as Mamet’s script has Vanya perfectly express it: “morbid with laziness. A panorama of inaction.” Setting the play in a dark, ruined theater on 42nd Street, New York’s legendary Broadway locale, nicely combines metatheater with the Russian house; self-reflexivity becomes a function of these self-narrating characters. Further, the intense and dusty claustrophobia of this makeshift set provides layers of meaning through the images, uniting the visual quality of film with the verbal quality of drama. Country Life (1994, Australia). Directed by Michael Blakemore. This much- admired film shifts the locale to rural Australia in 1919, and follows the Chekhov script less exactly. Greta Scacchi plays Deborah, the Yelena role, and Sam Neill takes the Astrov role, while Chekhov’s other major roles—less major here—are played by John Hargreaves as Vanya, Kerry Fox as Sonya, and Blakemore himself plays the insufferable professor who is now a famous London theater critic in an expanded role. There are new plot developments, as Astrov becomes an antiwar voice, considered by the locals a “Bolshevik” rather than an ecological visionary. Generally, the Vanya and Sonya characters seem coarse rather than sweetly unpretentious in contrast to the extreme elegance of the Professor and his wife. Cinematically, the vast Australian landscape becomes a visually stunning stand-in for Russia, in contrast to the indoors setting of Vanya on 42nd Street mentioned earlier. Country Life ends with Vanya/Jack and Sonya/Sally alone, outdoors in the ruined rose garden; she proposes a new garden filled with kangaroo paws, a

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native Australian flower (“But it’s a weed,” says Uncle Jack, and Sally replies, in Chekhovian fashion, “But it’s beautiful if you look at it”). The song of the native bird, the magpie, becomes the “most beautiful sound in the world” and the camera pans to Astrov, riding away on horseback, drinking from his flask as the credits roll. The film is cinematic, rather than theatrical, and captures the spirit if not the letter of the play. Cold Souls (2009, USA). Director Sophie Barthe finds another fascinating and very meta approach to what is called Chekhovian, a word we each define in our own ways. Paul Giamatti plays an actor preparing to play the role of Vanya onstage, and his anxiety over his own inadequacy has paralyzed him. This rich and witty film provides Vanyas within Vanyas as we glimpse first his rehearsals and then performances. When Giamatti, playing a character named Giamatti, discovers that there is a Russian firm offering soul transplants, he signs on, only to discover that his soul is the size of a chickpea. When he goes to St Petersburg to retrieve it, his life begins to imitate the play, and the film, no less ambiguous than the play, follows Chekhov’s superb explanation: “I began it forte and finished it pianissimo.” In addition to film, other art forms have been inspired by the play, including an opera called Sonya’s Story composed by Neal Thorton, using the script as the libretto, but shaping the plot from Sonya’s point of view; the opera premiered in London at the Tete a Tete opera festival in 2010. Also worth noting is a radio drama written, directed, and produced by The Reduced Shakespeare Company; the entire script is only nine words long. The joke here rests on the very lack of violence in Chekhov’s violence (after the sound of a gunshot,

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we hear “Ouch!”); this tiny parody attacks the original play by shooting it and, of course, not killing it; Uncle Vanya survives any and all replays.

The Three Sisters, 1900 The Three Sisters has received even more contemporary attention than Uncle Vanya, as the collection of replays below reveals. Perhaps this is because the plays speaks to the much-discussed female condition of frustration and disappointment, and in this way Three Sisters shares in some of the explanation of the current popularity of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler. Or the reasons may be less topical, more universal; Harriet Walter wrote about her experience of playing Masha in the Royal Shakespeare Company production in 1988 that the play “is one of a handful of great plays which compel constant revisiting [. . .] you can’t ever feel you’ve got Three Sisters right, any more than you can get Life ‘right’. You need to go on living it, to keep asking those questions” (RSC Program, “Notes on rehearsal” n.p.). Olga, Masha, and Irina, the three sisters of the title, are each unhappy in their own way, to borrow Tolstoy’s wisdom, suffering from a mixture of profound boredom, disappointment in their feckless brother and his uncouth and grasping wife, sexual frustration, unfulfilling work, and a general anomie. Most of this misery they blame on their exile from Moscow, the shining city of memory and childhood to which they long to return. But they do not, perhaps cannot, return, and the inertia that has governed their

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lives overtakes them again after the series of events that pass for plot: a doomed love affair, a suicidal duel, a broken clock. Acknowledging the many many luminous productions as well as the many fine translations of Three Sisters would fill a book, but not this one. The task here is to see how contemporary playwrights explore Chekhov’s iconic play, thereby commenting on our times as well as revealing their understanding of Chekhov.

Replays Beth Henley, Crimes of the Heart (New York: Penguin, 1981) In Crimes of the Heart there are three sisters, a birthday and much talk of clothes, just as there are in Three Sisters; Henley’s sisters, like Chekhov’s are musical; there is, again, an offstage shooting as well as shabby birthday gifts, and an old beau of Meg’s, Henley’s Vershinin character, goes back to his wife and children. But rather than finding a tragicomic tone, Henley gives us jokey, childish women who range from self-sacrificial and self-pitying to selfish and cruel. Crimes of the Heart ’s enormous, often disastrous, life events become merely an opportunity for hilarity and quips. Their analysis of why their mother committed suicide is, “She had a bad day. A real bad day.” The misery piles up—a beloved horse is struck by lightning, their grandfather is in a coma, there are scandals brewing, and bad behavior everywhere you turn—all fodder for Henley’s laugh track: Babe shoots her husband, her fifteen-year-old lover is exiled, and the clever, Babe-smitten lawyer will surely keep

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her from either prison or a mental institution. The mean-spirited Chick (the play’s Natasha) is chased up a tree with a broom and that seems to solve that. The audience is encouraged to laugh at the sisters and that encourages our condescension rather than our identification. It all leads to the exceedingly non-Chekhovian conclusion: birthday candle wishes come true; Lenny, the oldest sister, long written off as a spinster, finds a boyfriend, and the play concludes on the morning of a new day and a new year, and the three sisters are united in joy, eating birthday cake for breakfast. The final stage directions read, “The lights change and frame them in a magical, golden, sparkling glimmer. . . .” (125). This is a level of cheery tackiness that, despite the list of similarities to the original, betrays Chekhov at every turn. Its popularity on the regional and community theater circuit speaks volumes about the crowds who are pleased by this crowdpleaser.

Wendy Wasserstein, The Sisters Rosensweig (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1993) The Chekhovian elements in this frequently performed play are obvious: the characters are three well-educated and motherless sisters, with one husband and suitors of varying suitability. Clothes are an ongoing topic of conversation and there is music and singing. The likeness is furthered by the events proceeding chronologically in a well-made, linear structure, involving a house party for one of the sisters’ birthday, with inappropriate gifts and more singing. If the original three sisters long for Moscow, these three sisters—one

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living in London, one a rootless world traveler, one living in suburban Massachusetts—all yearn for New York, and although not one of the three is willing to acknowledge their nostalgia, each of them remains deeply entrenched in their Jewish, urban childhood. Wasserstein acknowledges her debt to the master now and then: there are playful moments when Chekhov becomes a shared allusion everybody “gets”; for example when the middle sister, Pfeni, says to her bisexual lover Geoffrey, “Are you sure you’re not part of some antifeminist anti-Semitic plot?” and he replies, “What you expect me to like women and Jews?” And Pfeni replies, “God help me. ‘If only I could get to Moscow!’” (51). In an earlier exchange between these two, Pfeni says, “Oh, God, my life is stuck. ‘I’ve forgotten the Italian for window,’” (17) quoting Irina’s line. Of course, unlike her Chekhovian counterpart, Pfeni is anything but stuck, at least geographically, being a travel journalist. But the deeper similarities between the two sets of sisters lie in their discontentments and their courageous stamina as they go on with their lives. Wasserstein said in an interview, remarking on how different The Sisters Rosensweig is from her other work and how hard it was to write, “On the day I finished it I thought, This was a lot of effort just to prove to myself what a good writer Chekhov is . . . .” (Interview, Paris Review: Laurie Winer, Spring 1997, No. 142). But the dissimilarities are significant and contemporary: although the tragicomic tone remains, Wasserstein is much funnier than Chekhov—witty one-liners, vaudevillian bits—these people are good company. Her three sisters are not only more likable but more energetic than Chekhov’s. Their emotions run a wider gamut, with less weeping and less ineffectual handwringing. Wasserstein’s women

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not only work, as do Chekhov’s, they love their jobs, and, further, actively enjoy their financial independence. All three Rosenzweig sisters admire as well as love as well as understand each other, creating a far happier family than Chekhov ever did. The conclusion of Sisters Rosensweig is more like the conclusion of The Cherry Orchard; they all disperse, each in their separate directions, on to their futures, some filled with plans and interesting possibilities, some not. The charm of Wasserstein’s play lies primarily in its dialogue of distinct and individuated voices; in true Chekhovian fashion, there is little action. In the same interview in Paris Review, Wasserstein remarked, “I am most interested in how people talk. If I went to a movie studio and said I wanted to do a movie about three sisters over forty with a romantic lead who is fifty-four, they’d ask me to rewrite it for Geena Davis, and then they’d probably hire Beth Henley to make them all Southern.” As of course Henley did in her version of The Three Sisters called Crimes of the Heart (see above).

Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Break of Day (London: Faber and Faber, 1995) Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Break of Day is a failed attempt to recreate The Three Sisters as a fin-de-siècle lament a siècle later. Three women who are old friends speak in awkwardly expository dialogue while one character, the actor who is playing Vershinin, makes clunky speeches about how in Chekhov’s play “characters contemplate the end of their century with that same sense of waste, of being outside history. . . .” (24). Each of the many characters sounds like a caricature, going on and on about predictable contemporary

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issues (infertility, infidelity, vegetarianism, government spending, creative blocks, teenage pregnancy), rendering the whole play more like a tedious but unintentional parody of Chekhov than a genuine reimagining.

Jane Martin, Anton in Show Business (New York: Samuel French, 2000) It has long been assumed that Jane Martin is the pen name of Jon Jory who ran the Actors Theatre in Louisville Kentucky for many years; he launched many successful American plays, among them Anton in Show Business, a clever and complicated metaplay about three actresses who go to San Antonio, Texas to perform Three Sisters. Lisabette is a stage-struck beautiful amateur who will play Irina; Casey is “the Queen of off-Broadway,” an ironic cancersurvivor who will play Olga; Holly, whose money gives her the power to fire the producer, is a glamorous television star who wants the credentials of theater work so she can move from TV to film. Swelling the throng are the handsome cowboy singer who will play Vershinin, their Polish director, and Kate, the producing director of “Actors Express,” bad pun surely intended. It is Kate who, early in Act One, launches the self-critique embedded in this self-mocking comedy. Kate may well be Jane Martin’s jokey avatar (assuming Jane Martin is Jon Jory’s avatar), wryly commenting on “contemporary relevance” as a “Raison d’etre.” This contemporary relevance turns up in many predictable and moving as well as hilarious ways as the three actresses become

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more and more like their Chekhovian roles. They are “sad” because they’re “hopelessly naïve” and because they are “hoping against hope” and because “that beautiful country singer dissed me and now I’m going to have to make him pay, and that’ll make me feel badly about myself and that’ll put me back in therapy which means I have to switch therapists because my last one is too busy writing screenplays.” To this Lisabette replies, “See, Chekhov knows us” (35). When the director Kate has a Vanya “autumn roses” moment and confesses that she is desperately in love with Lisabette, Lisabette puts her off by telling her that she’s having an affair with Holly—untrue but nevertheless crushing news for Kate who leaves dejected. As her audible footsteps recede, Casey remarks, “Now that’s Chekhov.” The

contemporary

relevance

continues

when

another

character, who seems to be a member of the audience and claims to be a theater critic for a free supermarket paper, interrupts the rehearsal/performance to say, “This is the whole problem with 20th century theatre. [. . .] We used to get stories; now we get ‘interpretations’” (39). With this line, she may have summed up a thesis central to this book. This denunciation is movingly countered by Lisabette who concludes the play with a rapturous monologue about the transformative power of theater, using as an example a long-ago, small-town community theater production of A Raisin in the Sun when the entire town attended all the rehearsals, bringing pies to the actors. She ends with, “Some day I’d like to be in a play like that. I would. So I guess I’ll go on . . . keep trying . . . Could happen. Maybe. Maybe not” (73). Hoping for an irretrievable past: now that’s Chekhov.

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The Wooster Group, Brace Up! 2003 The Wooster Group’s mission is deconstructing and infiltrating ur-texts; they have tackled, among others, Our Town, which is discussed in the Thornton Wilder chapter of this book. Elizabeth LeCompte, the group’s director has said that she is “attracted to the kind of thing that is stable and [then I] destabilize it” (“Interview with Elizabeth Le Compte” by Alexis Greene, March 13, 1989, quoted in Contemporary American Theatre, ed. Bruce King, London: MacMillan, 1991, p. 119). The Wooster Group’s productions have been the object/subject of much contemporary theorizing about the relation between televisual media and its intervention in stage performance, about the disequilibrium caused by the Wooster Group’s investigation of modern iconic works, and the political or lack of political meaning in their work. The distractions always present on a Wooster Group stage (screens and electrical wires and microphones and streaming movies), tear our attention away from the conventional theatrical focuses of plot, atmosphere, and characterizations. The filmed production of the 2003 Brace Up! directed by LeCompte and performed by the group’s major players, Willem Dafoe, Kate Valk, Scott Shepherd, and Ron Vawter, is far less alarming and bizarre than watching a Wooster Group live performance, because the camera’s angle gives us a comforting distance from the stage and also provides the big picture; the film is more about the collective than it is about the individual. The show uses Chekhov’s text, although without any sense of stage realism. Beatrice Roth delivers Irina’s Act Three speech of

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despair, including the frequently cited line about forgetting the Italian word for window, onstage into a handheld microphone while she is shown simultaneously on a huge monitor behind her; she looks and sounds old, making her declaration that she is twentyfour seem ludicrous. The show closes with Kate Valk, who plays both Masha and the stage manager/narrator, announcing, in the middle of Act Four, that that is all they have time for that evening. Everything about the production onstage refuses linearity, causality and character motivation. The “Notes” on the production provide “rules” that include blocking that ensures that actors cannot see or hear each other, giving each performer a separate space, the point being that fragmentation “is indispensable if one does not want to fall into REPRESENTATION” (http://www.e-felix.org/issue3/ Lecompte.html). This flies in the face of every quality that we think of as particularly Chekhovian—the sympathy, the subtlety of response, the intuitive interaction—and dismantles the play. On the other hand, one could argue that this very fragmentation of presentation performs the underlying truth of Three Sisters, providing a visual and aural version of the play that literalizes the characters’ condition. That Brace Up! demonstrates an obvious lack of reverence for the revered work as well as the conventions of theater is largely the point.

Mustapha Matura, Three Sisters, After Chekhov (London: Oberon, 2006) One long and three short acts comprise this reimagining in which Mustapha Matura, an African-Caribbean writer, relocates the three sisters to Trinidad in 1941. We learn that the political situation on

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the island is volatile, as the Trinidadian push for independence from England collides with World War II, when, because Trinidad is a British colony, Trinidad’s army is obliged to fight for England. There are obvious similarities to Chekhov’s play: the birthday of the youngest sister, here called Audrey, the recollections of their father’s death, the longing to return to Cambridge England (where they spent a few months in their girlhoods), the romances that complicate the family’s life. An important omission is any sense that these three women are genuinely cultivated people who are lost in the vulgar world they live in. They speak in Caribbean English that requires dropping final consonants and omitting plurals, but the script’s punctuation of the dialogue, especially the puzzling misuse of commas, creates a linguistic fabric that is hard to parse. Even odder is that in even the very few mentions of their returning to England, nobody acknowledges that England is at war. Further, the Vershinin character, here called Richard, is English and the only white person in the cast, although race seems not to be an issue in their romance at all; we are told that the three black sisters were exotic in Cambridge, but we have no sense that Richard and Helen are “other” for each other. Even more peculiar is that both Richard and the sisters have the same last name, and they discover that they lived next door to each other in Cambridge. If we are to make some larger meaning out of all this, it remains inscrutable. There is a surprising scene when their brother and Audrey do the rhumba: “that’s one thing you will notice about Trinidadians, is their ability to enjoy life, wine, women and song, we are the world champions at that” (33). This stereotype of jolly islanders seems startlingly racist as well as

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utterly un-Chekhovian. It is, finally, a shallow play, lacking both the texture and the depth expected of a Chekhov replay. Matura’s Three Sisters, After Chekhov is most un-Chekhovian in its lack of irony, and the sorrow experienced by these characters seems superficial and temporary rather than a profound expression of what life is like. Matura wrote an earlier version of this play called Trinidad Sisters, first staged in London in 1988 and in the United States in 1992. A radio version of this earlier play followed, broadcast by the BBC in 2001.

Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman, Three Sisters on Hope Street (London: Nick Hern Books Ltd., 2008) Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman also refer to their play as “After Chekhov,” and much of the script seems to be informed by their need to match, point for point, the plot turns and every character motivation. But like Murtra’s replay, this one also lacks the essential Chekhovian tone; it is one thing to lay on the ironies (“Hope Street” is a real place in Liverpool) and the weeping; it is quite another to write a play that conveys the characters’ futile struggle against despair. The debt to Chekhov here seems more a dutiful exercise than something felt. Like Wendy Wasserstein’s Sisters Rosenzweig, Samuels and Oberman see some similarity between turn-of-the-century Russians and New York Jews. Living in England, they are displaced people; but the crucial difference from Wasserstein and, more to

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the point, from Chekhov, is that this play is soaked with politics, inevitable for Jews living in England between 1946 and 1948, although there is little reference to concentration camps, of lost friends and family, or of the blitz they must have lived through in 1940. Solly, one of the Americans stationed at an army base nearby, is profoundly damaged by having been in the company that liberated Dachau; it is he who kills “Tush” in a barroom brawl, ending Rita’s plans for escape from spinsterhood as well as from Hope Street. An anti-Semitic riot replaces the third act fire in Chekhov. While Chekhov’s sisters look backward, viewing the present as an ugly, tedious trap from which they cannot escape, Samuels/ Oberman’s sisters look forward; it evolves that although they would enjoy returning to New York and to once again eating kasha knishes (the Yiddishkeit is in very thick supply), their plan is to go to the new state of Israel, where “work,” a Chekhovian watchword, is nobly defined. For them work is more like Trofimov’s impassioned cry in Cherry Orchard, rather than the sustaining drudgery it is in Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters. But from the perspective of 2008 when this play was written, there are ironies we can share with the play’s authors, knowing as we do how fraught with difficulties their next sixty years would be and how much the culture of the world would change. The replay privileges the wry hindsight of the “future” and mocks the naïve and dashed hopes of the past; it thereby takes us out of the characters’ lives and makes cynicism an easy substitute for the complexities of Three Sisters.

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Blake Morrison, We Are Three Sisters (London: Nick Hern Books, 2011) The past rather than the future governs Blake Morrison’s replay as the context moves us backward rather than forward in time. His three sisters are the Brontes, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, living in Haworth Parsonage in the middle of the nineteenth century, in the middle of the Yorkshire moors. Scholarship tells us that Chekhov had read a Bronte biography before he wrote his play and was likely influenced by these historical precedents. For the first two of his five acts Morrison’s merging of the two sets of sisters seems uncannily seamless; the three acts that follow point up the differences between them. Paramount is the idea of work, the Chekhovian mantra. The Bronte sisters love their work of writing novels; they also do practical household work without complaint, unlike the Prozorovs who hate their teaching jobs, are unable to sustain any creative activity, and are surrounded by ancient servants who wait on them hand and foot. This is also a function of class; Chekhov’s sisters were brought up as privileged urban people, cultivated and educated, out of place in their unnamed remote rural town (as Michael Frayn said in his introduction to his translation, “we know its spiritual name well enough—it is exile”). Morrison’s Bronte sisters share a basic sense of being; they are sturdy, rural women with a sense of purpose, psychologically strong, suffering their soon-to-be fatal illnesses with remarkable forbearance. Chekhov’s sisters share a bewildered disappointment, but their suffering is never physical. So despite the similarities—the birthday, the community calamity (here a flood instead of a fire), the dead mother, the

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gambling brother (although Branwell Bronte was far more difficult and self-destructive than Andrey) with his annoying wife, and a serious drinking problem, the differences are glaring. As for the suitors, the Curate is not much of a Vershinin, and divides his flirtatious attentions between Anne and Emily rather than entangling Masha in a serious and passionate affair of several years (Oh, where is Heathcliff? Oh, where is Rochester?). Unlike the Prozorovs who never return to Moscow, the Brontes do get to London, not as a nostalgic return but as a professional adventure; they famously reveal their gender to their amazed publishers, announcing that they are not Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell but “We are three sisters,” the line that became Morrison’s play’s title. It is an interesting play about the Brontes, but not an interesting play about Three Sisters.

Kristen Kosmos, There There (unpublished script, 2012; premiere 2013 at The Chocolate Factory in New York) This nearly impenetrable script (judging by reviews, it is clearer in performance) takes Solyony as its central character; he is the Captain from Three Sisters who kills Tuzenbach in a meaningless duel. The script consists of a speaker (presumably Solyony) in something like dialogue with a Russian translator who, except for a few brief occasions, speaks entirely in Russian. It may be more accurate to call them parallel monologues. The play’s conceit is that Solyony was to have been played by Christopher Walken (presumably typecast, based on his career of

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playing sociopaths in the movies), but Walken has, we are informed, mysteriously fallen off a ladder while on tour in Russia. A character called Karen is the only person available to take the role, despite having nearly no familiarity with the script, and she recites her part while the translator translates it for the putative Russian audience. Kosmas’ title seems to suggest the reflexive sympathy of patting a back (“There, there”) as well as referring to place—here and not here, there and not there. The press notice from the production at The Chocolate Factory in New York, describes it as “about being the completely wrong person in the totally wrong place at the exactly wrong time doing all the most wrong things.” This presumably addresses not only Karen’s performance and Walken’s accident, and Tuzenbach’s hapless death, but the tragic cruelty of Solyony’s pathology: in Act IV of the Ann Dunnigan translation of Three Sisters, Solyony says, “I shall indulge myself a bit, I’ll simply shoot him like a snipe.” He constantly perfumes his hands because they “smell like a corpse.” A page later, Tuzenbach tells Irina, that he will be back with her “in an hour,” overjoyed that she has finally agreed to marry him; he is delirious with joy: “we’ll work, and be rich, and my dreams will come true” as he leaves to keep his appointment to face Solyony’s challenge. This heartwrenchingly bad timing is pure Chekhov, and it is telling that Kosmos’ contemporary view of Three Sisters focuses on the one loathsome person in the play, a destructive man who is tormented by his own madness. There There suggests that Solyony was in love with Irina, making the meaningless meaningful, although whatever sympathy this may engender for him is laced with repugnance.

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Two New York reviewers were enthusiastic, suggesting that the script must require performance for appreciation: “a breathless sixty minutes of controlled madness that explores with exquisite artistry the anguish of the eternally wounded soul,” wrote Dmitry Zvonkov, presumably a Russian-speaker, in New York (December 21, 2012).

Michel Nadeau (with Marie-Josee Bastien, Lorraine Cote, Hughues Frenette, Pierre-Francois Legendre, Veronika Makdissi-Warren and Jack Robitaille), Lentement la beauté, 2003, premiere at Theatre Periscope in Quebec City; And Slowly Beauty, translated by Maureen Labonté, English premiere National Arts Centre, Ottowa, Canada 2011, published 2014. And Slowly Beauty is a replay in that it is both tonally true to its iconic source—that elusive combination of melancholy and selfironizing humor—while being contemporary in its content and its metatheatrical style. The product of a French-Canadian collective, the play pursues two familiar dramatic set-ups: first is that of a middle-aged man with an uninteresting middle-management job and a nice-enough if emotionally disconnected family; the second begins when he wins tickets to a production of Three Sisters; he undergoes a mid-life crisis as he becomes obsessed with the play, and discovers the transformative power of art. Much of And Slowly Beauty is comprised of the daily-ness of his life: his visit to a coworker who is in the hospital, the street with its homeless people and its rushing foot traffic, the café with

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its cheerful barista, a bookstore with its intellectual clerk (who dismisses Chekhov’s plays as “bourgeois”), and the time he spends sitting on a park bench. Woven into this cityscape are whole scenes from Three Sisters as the man returns again and again to the theater. All the actors double or triple roles, and some of the interest of Nadeau’s play lies in thinking about the links and resemblances these casting choices create. The white birds flying overhead, the cranes that both Irina and Tuzenbach talk about, become Canadian geese. Mr Mann seems to be a Vershinin, filled suddenly with large thoughts about life (a young colleague tells him “Male menopause can be treated, ya know!”) while his workaholic daughter, a linguist, seems to be an Irina figure. Anita, the coffee shop waitress is Masha, and as his crush on her develops she becomes the woman next door quarreling with her boyfriend. Momo, a homeless man, becomes Tuzenbach, and then becomes the actor playing Tuzenbach in the stage production Mr Mann is watching, and so on, as if to illustrate a truth Chekhov showed us, that we all play multiple roles. The truth Nadeau shows us is that art has become self-conscious, providing the complex pleasures of the metadramatic. Although Nadeau’s play is about the remarkable effects of seeing great live theater, the surreal shifts from place to place seem to demand a more contemporary and less cumbersome form than scenery moving. Stylistically, Nadeau’s play seems essentially cinematic, given its many changes of locale and the frequent necessity of crowds; this fundamental challenge to traditional theater is central to many replays, as indeed much contemporary theater is multimedia.

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Film adaptations Three Sisters has not had the extravagant film treatment Uncle Vanya has had. One could, for example, argue that a discussion of Woody Allen’s film, Hannah and Her Sisters belongs in this chapter, but although it is “Chekhovian” as many critics have noted, and although there are three sisters, it is not really Three Sisters. The one film, The Sisters, 2005, is hardly worth mentioning: screenwriter Richard Alfieri and director Arthur Allan Siedelman adapted the play to the screen with Mary Stuart Masterson, Maria Bello, and Erika Christensen as the sisters. The movie shifts the action to the United States and shifts the conclusion to the distinctly un-Chekhovian possibility of life-changing action. The sisters start out by actually moving to their Moscow, which here is New York; they become lost in nostalgic fantasies of what their lives might have been, but eventually they realize that the realities of life require confrontation. Neil Genzlinger, film critic for the New York Times, wrote that the film consists of “two hours’ worth of carping, backstabbing and egomania.” It is significant how many replays—both for stage and screen—of Chekhov’s plays are unable to tolerate melancholy, and refuse the idea that there is, finally, “Nothing to be done.” Their insistence on optimism, on taking charge of one’s life, on fixing what for Chekhov was unfixable, erases layers of irony and twists the wry into a more cheerful configuration.

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Composite Chekhov As testimony to the power of Chekhov’s characters on our imaginations and the general feeling that we know these people and thus assume the continuation of their lives, playwright after playwright has invented meetings between characters from different plays: a brief romance, a real estate deal, a farcical house party. Chekhov himself sometimes turns up.

Neil Simon, The Good Doctor (The Collected Plays of Neil Simon, Vol. Two, New York: Penguin, 1974) Neil Simon makes Chekhov himself a Chekhovian character—the good doctor of the title and the character called The Writer who chats to us about his compulsion to write, sometimes interrupting the onstage action, sometimes letting it play out. The Writer is also the very prolific Neil Simon whose real-life nickname is “Doc.” Both writers, it becomes clear, share both the need to write as well as an abiding affection for their characters. As Simon concludes his play, just as The Writer begins to write, he tells us (maybe just as Chekhov would have told us, albeit in Russian), “I am most alive and most fulfilled sitting alone in a room, hoping that those words forming on the paper in the Smith-Corona will be the first perfect play ever written in a single draft” (10). This comic replay is divided into nineteen short sections, each based on a Chekhov story; among the most familiar is “The Sneeze,” which appropriately takes place in a theater; Simon also includes

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“The Audition” in which a girl, named Nina from Odessa, obviously imported from The Seagull, is desperate to become an actress. She compliments the Writer, on how funny “The Sneeze” is; The Writer replies, “Strange, I meant it to be sad.” She replies, “Oh, it was sad. I cried for days . . . It was tragically funny . . .” (450). There we have an elusive truth of Chekhov’s work delivered in Simon’s very recognizable style. Nina has chosen Three Sisters for her audition piece, reading all three sisters’ lines at the end of the Chekhov play. This is the virtuoso moment for the actor playing Nina playing all the sisters, since she moves the Writer deeply, and of course, must move the real audience as well. The concluding lines include Irina’s speech that begins with: “A time will come when everyone will know what all this is for. . . .] why there is all this suffering [. . .]” (452). Simon’s homage to Chekhov at this moment extends far beyond the jokey spirit that dominates the rest of The Good Doctor, perhaps because the rest are adaptations of Chekhov’s jokey sketches and not of the powerful plays that concluded the career. It is shocking to find this same last speech of Irina’s from Three Sisters in Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking. Like most of Ravenhill’s work, Shopping and Fucking is stunning in its ugliness and brutality, made uglier and more brutal by putting Irina’s lovely, wistful speech in Lulu’s mouth: (“One day people will know what all this is for. All this suffering. [. . .]” (Mark Ravenhill, Plays: 1, London: Methuen, 2001, p. 88). The appalling effect is felt both backward and forward, for Irina’s naïve trust that work will make her life meaningful, and for Lulu and the rest of Ravenhill’s characters who have no work, no trust, no hope for the future, nothing but feeble and failed attempts at relationships. Ravenhill sprinkles

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other Chekhovian allusions (e.g. a video of a boy playing the cello, reminiscent of Andrey’s wasted talent and the loss of that beauty), dragging the reader/audience member briefly out of the vile world of his play and into Chekhov’s world of suffering civility, and thus making an implicit comment on the contemporary world. Both Simon and Ravenhill are engaging the reader/audience member in a conversation over the head of their plays; they assume our knowledge of Chekhov and assume that we are willing to be moved as they are by a loss that seems far greater than the loss Chekhov is mourning.

Brian Friel, Afterplay (in Three Plays After, New York: Faber and Faber, 2001) Brian Friel’s very Irish plays reveal a sense of irony and layered realities, suggesting his affinity with Chekhov, and his major works (Translations, Faith Healer, Dancing at Lughnasa) are all about betrayal; those themes carry over into this little play. Afterplay imagines a meeting between Sonya from Uncle Vanya and Andrey from Three Sisters. Friel sets the scene in a dingy café in Moscow, twenty years after we leave them in their Chekhov plays. Assuming, as Chekhov might, that people do not change but just become more themselves as they grow older, Friel imagines that Sonya is still hopelessly in love with Astrov, and that she has lost most of the estate since the death of her uncle Vanya. Andrey is now impoverished, having been exploited and abandoned by his dreadful wife Natasha, and is reduced to busking as an itinerant street musician, living from hand to mouth with his violin.

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As these two timid souls reveal their life stories to each other, Friel makes several errors or odd alterations, the most glaring being that Afterplay asserts that it was only after the Professor died that Elena came to the estate and then that Vanya fell in love with her, a sequence of events that would have changed both her availability to Vanya and made her refusal of his love even more painful. Friel also assumes that the estate has been lost through Vanya’s financial incompetence and mismanagement, having suddenly decided to run the estate to prove his manly competence to Elena, when we know from Chekhov that he had for decades kept careful accounts of every kopek spent and sent to his brother-in-law. Another odd error is that Sonya says that Vanya was “the only family I ever knew,” when she has a father, and a grandmother, and a devoted nanny. The carelessness of the script continues with minor details; Andrey says that his home is in “Taganrog, almost eight hundred miles south of here,” but then a few lines later Sonya says, “So you travelled five hundred miles just to do this opera?” Leaving mileage aside, it is intriguing to think that since Taganrog was Chekhov’s hometown, Andrey and his three sisters are people Chekhov might have known long ago. Everything has turned out badly for the characters in Three Sisters as well: Natasha left their two children with Andrey and ran off with Protopopov with whom she was having an affair in Three Sisters, after which Andrey became a drunk. The children are now adults: the coddled son is now in prison, the daughter is in Kazakhstan and writes a short letter at Christmas; apparently she has nine children. We will learn that Masha committed suicide after her lover Vershinin never replied to her letters. Perhaps the most moving line of dialogue in Afterplay is Sonya’s to Andrey after he

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tells her that his sisters feel that their “life in Taganrog is a sort of protracted waiting time [. . .] they are convinced that authentic life is available here [. . .] a Moscow they haven’t seen in over forty years! Isn’t that peculiar?” (94). Sonya, whose life has been spent in much the same peculiarity, replies simply, “I don’t think so.” In Friel’s reimagining of the Uncle Vanya characters, we learn that Astrov and Elena married, although they do not live together since she travels through Europe shopping, a superficial view of her complex character, while he travels through Russia saving the peasants and the land. Astrov pays Sonya drunken visits “occasionally,” reinforcing her endless devotion to him, suggesting that he, too, has become emotionally insensitive and sexually exploitative, again reducing the Chekhov character to a soap operatic formula. Sonya’s habit of loving Astrov is so selfdefeating that she tells Andrey she will not be able to meet him the following month, since she has to be at home just in case Astrov comes to see her. Friel’s play seems testimony to the very human if aesthetically naïve need to want to know what happened to these characters after their play ends. Friel gives us characters who interpret themselves, sum up, and explain, as though they were writing an analysis of their plays rather than just being in them. It is in the just being that Chekhov’s genius lies, testimony to the mystery of life and the inscrutability of self. As Chekhov wrote in a letter (May 30, 1888) to his friend Souvorin, “The artist should be, not the judge of his characters and their conversations, but only an unbiased witness [. . .]. The time has come for writers, especially those who are artists, to admit that

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in this world one cannot make anything out. . . .” (Anton Chekhov, Letters on the Short Story, the Drama and other Literary Topics, selected and edited by Louis S. Friedland. New York: Minton, Balch & Co., 1924, pp. 170–80). It is in this essentially Chekhovian task that Friel fails.

Marina Carr, 16 Possible Glimpses (Loughcrew, Ireland: The Gallery Press, 2011) Marina Carr’s play takes the approach of fictionalized biodrama, giving us sixteen scenes in which Chekhov talks to his family— sister, mother, father, both brothers—as well as friends, doctors, and his lover and his wife. Tolstoy makes a cameo appearance to discuss punctuation, as does the supernatural figure from one of Chekhov’s long stories, The Black Monk. (It is worth noting briefly here that this novella also inspired Anthony Bailey’s chamber opera (2003) and David Rabe’s play (2004, premiere 2009) both also called The Black Monk.) Carr imagines a very Chekhovian Chekhov: self-aware and self-ironizing, funny and endlessly put upon—emotionally and financially—by demanding, jealous women and weak, needy men, as well as by a Russia both backward and recalcitrant. He suffers physically and artistically; he struggles to not despair and has, paradoxically but plausibly, an enormous capacity to enjoy whatever pleasures life offers. He speaks in colloquial language that sometimes has an Irish lilt (Carr is Irish), and the structure of the play has much in common with Carr’s Phaedra Backwards, another dramatic series of flashback scenes. Chekhov is dying in Scene One; in Scene Eight

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he dies, having drunk a champagne toast to silence, although the play is only half over.

Pig Iron Theatre Company, Chekhov Lizardbrain in Three Plays, 2007 (Chicago, IL: 53rd State Press, 2012) This dazzling intellectual vaudeville Pig Iron calls “The Menagerie of Human Possibility” (77), is deeply moving as well as very funny, wildly complicated, and intellectually profound. Created by Robert Quillen Camp and the Pig Iron Theatre Company, this adventurous troupe presents a Chekhovian circus: “we put the human condition on stage and make it dance” (77). Alluding to Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard, and Three Sisters, the show becomes surprisingly Chekhovian, despite its vigorously postmodern style. The brain was the hot topic in 2007 (the script has been twice updated since its premiere), and Pig Iron’s debt here is to Paul D. MacLean’s “triune brain theory,” which holds that below the humanizing neocortex is the paleomammalian, much like a pig’s or dog’s brain, and below that is the reptilian brain, the human brain stem. This, we might imagine, is exactly the sort of investigation Chekhov the physician would have been interested in. Three actors represent not only three brothers but also these three brains, evolution on the hoof, dressed in tailcoats and long underwear. The creators have borrowed, too, from Temple Grandin’s bestseller, Animals in Translation, as the show explores the separate subjectivity of each brain. Or, as the character called Chekhov Lizardbrain tells us, “If you want to know something you got to have something to know it with” (78).

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The plot of this elusive, endearing play focuses on Dmitri, a botanist from Portland, who comes to visit his childhood friends whose mother has recently died. They are three brothers: Sascha has been living in the old house, while his two older brothers, Nikolai and Pyotr are sensibly if insensitively eager to sell it. Thus, this play, like so many Chekhov plays, is about real estate. Dmitri is Chekhov’s alter ego; with his PhD in botany, he is passionate about trees, and thus echoes Astrov in Uncle Vanya who, in that play seems often to speak for the playwright. The complicated connections to Three Sisters creep up as the three brothers’ personalities emerge, as do connections to The Cherry Orchard, with the motif of the house-forsale with its trees as the container of memory. Chekhov Lizardbrain becomes a demonstration of theatermaking, complete with a red velvet curtain. Chekhov Lizardbrain announces “The five rules of theatre: One. Every play has four acts [. . .]. Two. Keep the tragedy offstage [. . .]. Three. Who owns the house? Four. Every play has exactly one central symbol. Like a tree—[. . .]. Five: Keep it clean, keep it civil” (89). It does and they do.

Guillermo Calderon, Neva, 2011 (English translation by Andrea Thome; premiere, 2013 at the Public Theatre, New York) This overwrought drama is about Olga Knipper, the celebrated actress who was Chekhov’s wife at the time of his death; it takes place six months into her widowhood. She calls on two actors in her theater company to rehearse snippets of Chekhov’s plays, but mainly to re-enact Chekhov’s death scene. Thus the play is both a biodrama

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and a vehicle for Chekhov’s Greatest Hits. The rehearsal is an exercise in grief, on a day—January 9, 1905—when a workers march led to a massacre; Aleko, Knipper’s colleague, reports having seen this, but continues on his way to the theater, where he is joined by Masha, a highly political actor, who declares “I have no leaders [. . .]. I want to see the Czar weep when he realizes that his subjects don’t love him anymore” (56). She believes in revolution, in the destruction of the privileged world, even if that includes destroying museums and theaters. Two distinctly non-Chekhovian qualities dominate Neva: humorlessness and stridency. When Chekhov’s characters are strident and humorless (Trofimof in The Cherry Orchard, for example), their excesses are acknowledged with gentle mockery and amusement. In a moment of hubris Calderon has Aleko, playing the role of the dying Chekhov, say, “I want to return to Moscow, I have an idea for another play. A tragedy called Neva” (57). Calderon’s Masha ends the play with an enormously long monologue, giving her the last word: “Go home, or work like the rest of the world. May the theater die with you. In the future, when the world ends, there will be only movies and the screen will make us cry like hens, like Olga Knipper. Don’t die Anton, don’t die my writer, write me a few last words . . .” (62). Presumably, Calderon imagined that he had fulfilled her wish. Chilean playwright Calderon is clearly more interested in politics (for Czar read Pinochet?) than in theater; on the occasion of its English language premiere (it had had, previously, global attention) at the Public Theatre in New York in March 2013, Hilton Als in The New Yorker (March 2013) found the play “an impassioned, poetic

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plea for politics and reality beyond the proscenium,” while Charles Isherwood in the New York Times (March 11, 2013) found it “a drama-free psychodrama grind[ing] on,” a “depiction of actors as narcissistic windbags.”

Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (New York: Grove Press, 2013) Christopher Durang has written some hilarious parodies, but this, though hilarious, is not a parody but an affectionate homage. Three siblings (almost three sisters since the one brother is gay) were named by their professor parents for Chekhov characters; Durang borrows not only from Three Sisters but also from The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, and The Seagull (although the bird of choice here is first a heron and then a wild turkey). Like Chekhov’s plays, Durang’s is about real estate (selling the house) and melancholy (wasted opportunities) and pining for the past (it was nicer then). In one cartoonlike scene, Masha and Sonia howl their Chekhovian laments: “My life is over” and “I have never lived.” Masha, an aging sexy movie star (reminiscent of The Seagull’s Madame Arkadina) who has made lots of money making blockbuster movies, arrives at the family’s house with her boytoy Spike in tow. Her brother Vanya and her sister Sonia live together in resigned quiet, punctuated by despairing flare-ups. Durang’s Vanya has written a new version of the unplayable play Konstantin wrote in The Seagull where it is performed by a lovely young stage-struck neighbor named Nina. In Durang’s play a

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lovely young stage-struck neighbor, named, of course, Nina, also agrees to perform the reading. The household and its various proceedings are overseen by a cleaning woman named Cassandra who not only foretells calamities but also can prevent them. Like Chekhov, Durang has generously written an audiencepleasing monologue for each character, although Vanya’s long rant against the brazen present, triggered by Spike’s texting during his play reading, won huge applause from an audience clearly sharing Vanya’s disgust. The script is filled with delectable lines: “SONIA: I dreamt I was 52 and I wasn’t married. VANYA: Were you dreaming in documentary form?” And this: “If everyone took antidepressants, Chekhov would have nothing to write about.” And neither, I imagine, would Durang, who manages to incorporate substantial commentary on global warming as well as a debate about theater versus film into his merry script. Chekhov did famously insist to Stanislavski that his plays were comedies.

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11 Thornton Wilder

Our Town, 1938 (New York: Harper Row, 1985) Although the Thornton Wilder bibliography is fairly long—a handful of full-length plays, including The Matchmaker (best known as its musical replay, Hello, Dolly!) and The Skin of Our Teeth, as well as a novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and nineteen one-act plays—it is Our Town that has given him a permanent place onstage. In 2009, the New York Times noted that in the previous decade alone there had been more than four thousand productions of Our Town and that number is likely much higher by now since Thornton Wilder’s play has been, since its premiere in 1938, a cherished part of the English-speaking repertoire. Our Town offers contemporary audiences folksy wisdom about life, death, love, and marriage, feeds our collective nostalgia for a pre-industrial horse-and-buggy world and for a pre-technological world of neighborliness; further, the play provides some reassurance about what has become known in American socio-politics as “family values,” meaning that people go to church, children obey their

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parents, marriage vows are sacred, people work hard, take criticism seriously but nondefensively, and assume that a benevolent God watches over human affairs. Nobody in Grover’s Corners is overtly sexual—certainly not homosexual—and nobody is evil or false; there are no criminals, no cruelty, no rebellion, no art; there is very little imagination and few aspirations to a larger life. There are two glimpses of snags in this smooth fabric of life, other than the obvious fact that people die untimely deaths: first is that Mrs Gibbs’ longing to visit Paris remains unfulfilled: the $350 she is paid for Grandmother Wentworth’s highboy becomes instead of a trip a legacy to pay for a water trough on her son’s farm, and, second, the suicide of Simon Stimson. As to his presumed unhappiness, Dr Gibbs remarks, “Some people ain’t made for small town life. . . . but there’s nothing we can do but just leave it alone.” And there it is: “nothing to be done.” The play is, in professional and student productions, on stage and on film, and on the page, irresistibly moving; this response suggests that we long for the life it depicts, and that we enjoy Our Town as a kind of theatrical comfort food. In an audience of contemporary people who are, statistically, more likely than not to be divorced, consider how complex their responses are likely to be to the Stage Manager’s comment at the beginning of Act Two: “Almost everybody in the world gets married. . . . Most everybody in the world climbs into their graves married.” Or to this smug antifeminist declaration about women: “They brought up two children apiece, washed, cleaned the house,—and never a nervous breakdown.” The recent biography Thornton Wilder: A Life by Penelope Nixon suggests that Wilder’s teetotaler father, who was, like the play’s Mr Webb, a newspaper editor and owner, was a smothering prude who disapproved of his effeminate son and tried to forbid his interest in theater. Although

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seeing a work of art as autobiography often leads to errors, the correlation here seems pertinent and raises interesting if puzzling questions about the play’s tone. Wilder, however, wrote that Our Town was a response to his own loss of pleasure in going to the theater, missing plays that told stories, that made him feel the form of knowledge Plato called “recollection”: “This is the way things are. I have always known it without being fully aware that I knew it. Now in the presence of this play or novel or poem (or picture or piece of music) I know that I know it” (“Preface” 3 Plays, Harper Row, 1957, p. vii–viii). There have been many notable productions of Our Town: the first film version (1940) starred William Holden and Martha Scott, and Aaron Copland wrote the music; the 1977 filmed version starred Hal Holbrook, and the 2003 film adaptation starred Paul Newman. There was a stage version with Spalding Gray in 1989 that received scorching reviews, a musical called “Grover’s Corners,” which was shuttered by the Wilder estate, and an opera by Ned Rorem (neither published nor recorded). In addition there are South Korean, Hindi and Thai film versions, suggesting the play’s universality. David Cromer’s 2009 stage adaptation won luminous notices by immersing the audience in the production, making them neighbors in Grover’s Corners.

Replays Wilder’s Stage Manager anticipates the social changes Wilder himself lived through when he suggests that a copy of Our Town be placed in a cornerstone so that a thousand years in the future, people will know “the way we were: in our growing up and in our

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marrying and in our living and in our dying” (Harper Row, p. 32). But Wilder could not have imagined then those changes far beyond his own life (he died in 1975); he could not have imagined, for example, The Wooster Group’s replay of Our Town. Maybe nobody but Elizabeth LeCompte could have.

The Wooster Group, Route 1 and 9 (The Last Act), 1981 The Wooster Group’s much later show, Brace Up! is discussed in the Chekhov chapter; as an experimental company their mission is to create productions based on dismantling conventional texts. Their specialty is replays: taking iconic plays and recreating them in shocking, sometimes confusing ways, using gender-bending and race-bending casting and filling the stage with audio and video components. They continue to invent a radical form of theater, although in the more than three decades since their highly controversial deconstruction of Our Town, they have met with less resistance to their work as their extremist approach has become familiar. Public Broadcasting Service’s “Culture Shock” 1981 provides this excellent description of Route 1 and 9 (The Last Act): While videotaped excerpts of Our Town play on overhead monitors, the white male actors don exaggerated blackface and play the roles of stagehands who must build a house on stage. Loudspeakers broadcast a real phone conversation of two women as they try to order fried chicken from a series of uptown take-out restaurants. The onstage scene devolves into a Pigmeat Markham

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routine, using scatological humor, set at a party in which the men and the two women, also in blackface, have to leave the party to “send a telegram” (a euphemism for defecating in your pants) because Pigmeat has slipped castor oil into the punch (http:// www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/theater/wooster). Some critics interpret Routes 1 and 9 (the Last Act) as an effort to expose the racist assumptions contained under the prim surface of Our Town. Elizabeth LeCompte, the director of The Wooster Group, explained their point of view, saying Markham’s use of blackface as “both a. . .painful representation of blacks and also [as] wild, joyous, and nihilistic and, therefore, freeing” (David Savran, Breaking the Rules: The Wooster Group. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1986, p. 31). The extreme racial images on stage scandalized and repulsed some audiences and critics, including many in the progressive press who had long been defenders of the company. In 1982, the New York State Council on the Arts rescinded the company’s funding. The Wooster Group has gone on to produce acclaimed deconstructions of plays by Arthur Miller, Anton Chekhov, and Gertrude Stein. In 1991, the Village Voice awarded Elizabeth LeCompte the OBIE (Off-Broadway Theatre Awards) for fifteen years of sustained excellence, followed by The National Endowment for the Arts’ Distinguished Artists Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995, she won a MacArthur Fellowship. That same year, the Wooster Group’s sensational version of Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones starred a cross-dressing Kate Valk in blackface and Willem Dafoe in a Japanese kimono. It sparked no controversy. Whether this indicates a basic shift in contemporary awareness of racial attitudes,

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or a willingness to self-flagellate, or a ho-hum attitude toward racist and sexist depictions on stage, or whether it means that audiences are now able to admire and enjoy radical replays, it certainly suggests that times change.

Lanford Wilson, Book of Days, 1998 (New York: Grove Press, 2000) Although Book of Days follows the plot of Shaw’s Saint Joan, its atmosphere and its theatrical devices follow Our Town, to which it is often compared. The small rural town in Book of Days is Dublin, Missouri where three institutions govern people’s lives: a cheese factory, a fundamentalist church, and a community theater company. Ruth, the woman playing Joan in the current production of Shaw’s play is deeply immersed in her role, so much so that when she suspects the owner of the cheese factory has been murdered (the play will show us that she is right) and makes public her accusations, the forces of church and state, embodied by the Reverend Groves and Sheriff Atkins, crush her and her husband. Their naiveté—what would be an expectable level of honesty and trusting-ness in Grover’s Corners—is, like Joan’s, no match for the opposition, which turns out to include everyone in town. Wilson has all his characters onstage, watching each other, announcing how much time has passed. Unlike Wilder’s use of this metatheatrical device, in Book of Days the metatheatrics are literalized by a play within the play. A radical difference is that Wilson’s play includes a murder, greed, lying, sexual predation, hypocrisy, and stupidity—and is, thus, far more realistic, although

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not stylistically naturalistic, than Our Town; it is also emotionally and dramatically less satisfying than Our Town.

Scott Hamilton Kennedy, O.T.: Our Town (filmmovement.com: USA, 2002) This extraordinary documentary film by Scott Hamilton Kennedy follows the students at Dominguez High School as they prepare to put on Our Town, the school’s first theatrical production in twenty years; they have no budget, no theater, nothing but two passionate teachers and twenty-four students. Compton, California, a small town with no apparent similarity to the Grover’s Corners of exactly a century earlier, is an impoverished ghetto of AfricanAmericans and Mexican-Americans, known for its championship basketball players, gangster rap, and race riots. In 2002, Dominguez High School had the fewest students graduating in its history. But Compton California turned out to be “our town” too; as one proud mother said after the student performance, “We so rarely hear about Compton being like a regular community.” This moving and revelatory film is testimony to the power of theater and the universality of Wilder’s play. The differences between Grover’s Corners and Compton and between Our Town and O.T. are obvious: besides the immense issues of race and poverty, completely absent from Wilder’s play, most of the students in Compton come from fatherless households and are very conscious of and very angry about that lack. The boy playing the father in their production says he doesn’t understand the role: “I’ve never seen a real father figure.” The cycle of teenage

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pregnancy, ensuring yet another generation of fatherless children stands in stark contrast to the nonsexual lives Wilder’s teenagers live. The young man playing Simon Stimson is heartbreakingly cast, having had his stomach pumped twenty-six times from suicide attempts; he offhandedly mentions that he has known fifteen suicides in the past four years. The students are not entirely persuaded by the play; as one young man says, “This is fuckin’ weak—who talks like this?” A young woman who is very articulate and insightful plays the Stage Manager; she notes that many people who live in Compton are “ashamed,” an attitude in stark contrast to the quiet pride and affection the residents of Grover’s Corners have for their town. But it is she who adds that the play—and the production’s success—showed that “people are people; people aren’t so different but we’re way different from what you think we are.”

Susan Miller, It’s Our Town, Too (New York: Playscripts Inc., 2006) Miller’s short one-act is a homosexual version of Wilder’s play, wherein Emily and Elizabeth are a lesbian couple (we see their first high school kiss) who, twenty years later are about to watch their son, Chance (an egregiously obvious name) marry Molly, the daughter of a gay couple who live across the street. The Stage Manager starts the action by telling the audience, “Now we’re going to go back to the day two of our kind really saw each other for the first time” (6), and the phrase “our kind” suggests that the Stage Manager is, also, a lesbian, instructing us that there

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is “some future in it.” The phrase also assumes that lesbian women and gay men are not the same “kind” as heterosexual people, and this separation from the rest of humanity is exactly what the gay and lesbian community might well find offensive. Miller’s play ends where Wilder’s does, at a funeral in the graveyard, where Chance, who has been killed by “a stray bullet” (explaining, apparently, the destiny inherent in his name) is being buried and mourned. Besides random violence, Miller’s contemporary world is full of other dangers; Louis, Molly’s parent, we are told died of a disease that is obviously AIDS but apparently still cannot speak its name, even in 2006. The language throughout is faux folksy: “We come up thinking the world is sweet,” and often cloying: “three entire families swore they spotted a UFO, when it turned out to be Emily Rosen’s hopes making themselves known in a burst of light” (5). There is no grappling with difficulties, no conflict enacted. When the Angry Citizen interrupts the wedding with the metatheatrical accusation that the play celebrates “sodomizers” (12), he is immediately dismissed in mid-sentence, and never reappears. If the play’s lesson is stated in the title, “it’s our town, too,” most of the time it seems to forget its own message.

Will Eno, Middletown (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2010) Existential snark and melancholic anomie are the signatures of Eno’s reinvention of Our Town. Middletown addresses the same big events and emotions as Our Town: birth, death, joy, sorrow, and the experiences of what he calls “average” people (but, surely, they are

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the experiences of extraordinary people, too). In both Wilder’s play and Eno’s play, we first meet ordinary people living ordinary lives, although, tellingly, where Wilder’s first act begins at dawn, Eno’s curtain rises on a gloomy evening. Instead of Wilder’s respect for his characters, Eno reveals his contempt for them, albeit a pitying contempt. Where Wilder gives us connectedness, Eno gives us its lack, although people try their best to make friends, to help, to sympathize, however inadequately. The metatheatrical element Eno provides in place of the godlike Stage Manager is the Intermission Audience, seated onstage; they are a less transcendent presence, much more like us, the real audience, than the wise overseer of Our Town. We watch the onstage audience debate the benefits of an intermission (our intermission arrives at the end of this ersatz intermission scene); the Freelancer, writing a book about being an audience member in lieu of an autobiography, remarks, “It’s funny, though. Since you don’t know the end, you’re not sure what you’re in the middle of” (38), and the Aunt quickly points out “the town is called Middletown.” We, of course, know that the play they are in is also called Middletown and that their scene is in its middle, although we are “not sure what [we’re] in the middle of,” either theatrically or existentially. Thus the play becomes “our” town. There are specific updatings: unlike Wilder’s belief that everyone is married, Eno offers this from his character John Dodge, who laments his sad single “half-life,” and advises against divorce. Both John Dodge and the peculiar outsider called Mechanic are candidates for the suicidal Simon Stimson role.

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Eno’s word play is metaphysical and witty, although sometimes excessively whimsical, especially in the second act when he occasionally succumbs to the conspicuously cute; the Landscaper who has the goodness of heart to bury something just to give somebody something to find some day, discusses being a “person” with the Cop: “I’m a person. Been one for years, now. [. . .] Of course, I’m not going to do it forever” (47). This gambit of wordplay continues with Female Doctor punning that the word botulism sounds “like a philosophy of really bad choices” (57). Perhaps Mrs. Swanson sums up the debt to and distance from Our Town when she remarks about her absent, traveling husband, “We used to be just regular people. We said ‘good night’ and ‘good morning’ every day. All of a sudden we’re so modern” (32). Exactly so.

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12 Tennessee Williams

For Tennessee Williams, the relentless passage of time is the central fact of life. But, unlike Thornton Wilder who treated that passage of time with serenity, Williams finds it desperate and tragic. Having defined his characters—and himself—as “the fugitive kind,” Williams’ life was a drama of flight. He was a transient, his family having moved sixteen times in his first fifteen years, and as an adult, he admitted he felt more comfortable in hotels and airports than in any of the houses he owned. He moved from hotel to hotel, from lover to lover, from stranger to stranger, not all of whom were kind. Williams inhabited a dramatic world as highly sexualized as Strindberg’s, but instead of the battle between male and female, Williams’ battle was between Eros and Thanatos, between the pleasure principle and the death drive, between the longing for intimacy and the longing for cessation. All his plays, major and minor, focus on this battle, about which, for Williams, there is clearly nothing to be done.

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A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947 Like so many plays, American and otherwise, modern and otherwise, A Streetcar Named Desire is a drama about a dysfunctional family. The best of these (consider the Oresteia, consider Lear) pivot on issues larger than the merely personal. In American drama we usually find warring brothers battling about inheritance. But for sisters, the battle is about sex; in A Streetcar Named Desire, Stella and Blanche are defined by the men who have molded their lives; these women are trapped by their sexuality as well as their gender as well all the midtwentieth-century social assumptions and expectations about gender roles and female sexuality. It is desire, eros, which shapes their lives. Blanche du Bois arrives by streetcar at her destination and her destiny in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana, a neighborhood called Elysian Fields, the first of the play’s many meaningful names. That Blanche’s name means “white” in French suggests her hopeless obsession with purity and with lost innocence, and seems to explain her constant bathing, trying to cleanse herself of her past, a past lived out at Belle Reve (“beautiful dream”), the family plantation that has been lost through the “epic fornications” of their male ancestors. The beautiful dream is over, not only for the duBois family, but, to read the play socio-politically, for the Old South as well. Blanche has sunk into degradation, a journey begun by the blatantly named Mr Graves, the school superintendent who fired her from her teaching position; she has been evicted from her ancestral land and her hometown. Note that her sister, “Stella for star,” has a resonant name, but “Stanley Kowalski”—the embodiment of the male, the muscular, the uncultured, the new—is just a name.

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The neighborhood, Elysian Fields—a real place name in New Orleans, as is Desire Street, still the actual destination posted on the streetcar—was in mythology the place in which Homeric heroes spent the afterlife, and in Virgil it is the home of dead who are worthy of the happiness of spending eternity with music and poetry; thus Blanche’s desperate advice to Stella near the end of Scene Four is additionally meaningful: “Such things . . . poetry and music—such kinds of light have come into the world [. . . .] In this dark march toward whatever it is we’re approaching. . . . Don’t hang back with the brutes! ” There is heavy irony in Williams’ use of this place name since the rundown neighborhood Stella and Stanley live in is far from paradisial and, more significantly, Blanche’s final resting place will not be Elysian Fields (mythological or geographical) but the insane asylum to which Stanley sends her after his brutal rape tips her precarious psychological state over the edge into madness. Blanche desperately tries to mythologize everyone; she tells the paperboy that he looks like “a young Prince out of the Arabian Nights” and calls her lumbering suitor Mitch her “Rosenkavalier” as if a name will elevate them all and romanticize her life. Williams changed the play’s name from the original, prosaic “The Poker Night,” although that retains its significance during Blanche and Stanley’s first confrontation and she realizes that she has to: “Lay . . . her cards on the table.” The poker game the men play is “seven card stud,” a name repeated as the last line of the play when, as Stanley seduces Stella back to him, “voluptuously, soothingly,” Steve, declaring Stanley and his pitiless manhood the winner, says, “This game is seven-card stud.”

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Film Acceding to the restrictive demands of the Hollywood rating system, Williams allowed many changes to the script so that the screenplay would be acceptable to the censors and to the movie-going public (as distinct, in mid-twentieth century, from the theater-going public). In an essay Williams wrote for the New York Times, “On a Streetcar Named Success,” published four days before the Broadway opening, the playwright acknowledged the tyranny of success, “the Bitch Goddess” who had nearly destroyed him as an artist as it estranged him from friends, rendered him unable to accept admiration from fans, leaving him disgusted with his louche life enabled by his royalty checks. The propensity to careen downhill out of control would be an ongoing fact of his life and eventual death, and in Blanche’s past we see a version of Williams’ future as he feared it. Although he rescued himself at this early moment in his career, “traveling” would finally “wear him out” and Thanatos would triumph. Of the many changes Williams permitted to the script of Streetcar, the most significant two are the screenplay’s excising of all mention of Blanche’s young, tormented husband’s homosexuality, rendering his suicide incomprehensible, and the altered conclusion of the screenplay, in which Stella righteously refuses to return to Stanley, taking her baby and seeking refuge in Eunice’s upstairs apartment. This stands in sharp contrast to the play’s conclusion where she falls into Stanley’s arms with “luxurious sobbing.” The original movie, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh is so famous and powerful that subsequent film versions, including teleplays, pale by comparison.

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Woody Allen’s 2013 film, Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett as the Blanche character. She is here called Jasmine (Blanchett played Blanche on Broadway in 2009 where her performance was described as “heart stopping”). Blanche is now a privileged Park Avenue sophisticate and a drunk, whose husband is a high-finance swindler, and once the money is gone and her husband in prison she is forced to move in with her working-class sister. The debt to Williams is obvious, but the context has changed and the scandal is his wrongdoing, far more blameworthy to the movie-going public than Blanche’s sexual profligacy would be.

Replays Rosalyn Drexler, Lobby (in Transients Welcome. New York: Broadway Play Publishing, Inc., 1984) These three one-acts (Lobby, Utopia Parkway, and Room 17C which is discussed in the Arthur Miller chapter as a replay of Death of a Salesman) are published under the umbrella title, Transients Welcome, a title that seems perfect for the Williams replay it includes. Williams’ characters are always transients, and the most famous among them is the moth-like Blanche, hovering around her paper lantern, having fled even the “Tarantula Arms” hotel, the wretched place she ended up before fleeing again to her sister’s apartment, and from there onward to the madhouse. In Drexler’s conception, Blanche, whom she describes as “An aging Southern belle,” has been ousted from her hotel room by a fire, and the play takes place,

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Drexler’s directions tell us, in the lobby of a hotel somewhat like the legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Of all unlikely companions, this postsanatorium Blanche meets post-prison Oscar Wilde, and there is much soap-operatic whining about art and suffering. Blanche declares that “the streetcar has been renamed: Despair” (32). Wilde has a pompous Voltairian moment when he declares that he still believes that “this is the best of all possible worlds. [. . .] that all trials are trials for one’s life.” (35). Drexler’s play sheds little light on either Williams’ play or Wilde’s life.

Bette Bourne, Peggy Shaw, Paul Shaw, and Lois Weaver, Belle Reprieve (in Gay and Lesbian Plays Today, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1991) Split Britches is an American feminist gay/lesbian/camp company, and their cross-dressed Belle Reprieve is a challenge both to conventional representations of sexuality and to conventional drama, veering into vaudeville, cabaret, British music hall skits, bathhouse humor, and tap-dancing. Bloolips, a British drag company, collaborated with Split Britches to create and perform Belle Reprieve. The YouTube film from University of Michigan includes a clip from the original production of Belle Reprieve, which Lois Weaver introduces as an “intervention,” and an “exploration of the masculinity inherent in the text of Streetcar Named Desire.” Unfortunately the audience’s raucous laughter interferes with hearing the dialogue and lyrics of the central song, “I’m a Man” sung by Peggy Shaw; reading the script reveals it to be much funnier

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than the video clip. The character list identifies Mitch as “a fairy disguised as a man,” Stella as “a woman disguised as a woman,” Stanley as a “butch lesbian” and Blanche as “a man in a dress.” This contemporary replay is blatantly (and often hilariously) self-reflexive; the characters are aware of being trapped in an iconic play. Stella complains that although she has changed the script, she is still stuck: “I’m supposed to wander around in a state of narcotized sensuality. That’s my part” (6). Blanche not only knows she is in A Streetcar Named Desire and was famously played by Vivien Leigh, but she knows she is in Belle Reprieve: “‘Drag Queen Dissolves in Bathtub,’ that’ll be the headline” (13). Stanley’s smell makes Blanche suspect his masculinity: “the way he walks like Mae West, [. . .] this is no garage-mechanic working-class boy, this is planned behavior.” (26). After Mitch sings “The Fairy Song” with tap-dancing actors dressed as Chinese lanterns, Blanche loses patience with metadrama and replays: “I want to be in a real play! With real scenery! White telephones, French windows, a beginning, a middle, and an end!” (33) to which Stella replies, echoing Blanche’s famous line in Scene Nine of Streetcar, “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” Then they play Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh playing Stanley and Blanche. Then they all finally understand that they are all acting all the time, a very Williams lesson. Belle Reprieve, ends with a metasong, “I love my art.” This yearning among replay characters to be in a “real play” where there are fully developed unself-conscious characters and an engrossing narrative arc—we see this in Jon Jory’s Anton in Show Business, for example—is a tell-tale symptom of this contemporary impulse to rewrite and rethink iconic modern

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plays; the playwrights themselves seem to wish that they could write a “real play.”

Christopher Durang, Desire, Desire, Desire (in Naomi in the Living Room and Other Short Plays, New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1998) The most interesting—and revealing—thing about Durang’s replay is that it begins in mockery, as so many contemporary revisionings do, but ends in sympathy, the same trajectory we find in his Chekhov replay, Sonya and Vanya and Masha and Spike. In this replay Blanche, languid and neurasthenic, has been stuck in the apartment with Stanley for six years, waiting for her sister Stella to return with that lemon coke. She does turn up, briefly, only to be sent back to the store since she mistakenly brings a cherry coke. Stanley bellows “Stella!” periodically. A census-taker and a paperboy are The Young Man, and Blanche punctuates the Durang dialogue with lines from Streetcar : “Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t an hour—but a little drop of eternity dropped into your hands?” The Young Man replies, “Not really.” And Blanche says, “Well, fuck you” (196). Not content with parodying merely Streetcar, Durang adds Maggie the Cat, another victim of desire desire desire, smuggled in from Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Stanley briefly turns into Brick when Big Daddy appears and then disappears in quest of peanut brittle, suggesting that one guy is much like another (there are significant allusions to Hemingway, too). Cora, from O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, who is yet another victim of desire desire desire, makes a cameo appearance, and the dialogue will incorporate

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allusions to the suicidal daughter in Marsha Norman’s ‘Night, Mother, as well as Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, Coleridge’s The Ancient Mariner, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Chase’s Harvey, the gigantic imaginary rabbit. They all materialize out of Blanche’s desperation, and this little play, laugh-out-loud funny throughout, becomes surprisingly sympathetic to the whole litany of characters dying of loneliness. When Blanche makes her panicked phone call to Western Union, in the Durang version it’s because “Oh my God, I’m alone!” (201) and the telegram’s message is: “Help, help, caught in a trap, can’t stand solitude, am afraid I’ll go mad.” (201). Harvey takes off his rabbit head to reveal Stanley, who once again bellows “Stella!!!!” Blanche puts on the rabbit head and, as the final stage directions tell us, “She sits there, tragically, sadly.” Durang is not merely a parodist, but reveals himself as a profound interpreter of the modern plays that he recreates.

Andre Previn and Philip Littell, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1995 (New York: G. Schirmer’s Collection, 1999) The premiere of the genre-jumping jazzy opera by Andre Previn with a libretto by Philip Littell featured as Blanche the worldrenowned soprano Renée Fleming whose voice, often described as “gleaming,” can be seen singing Blanche’s aria on YouTube; she is, of course, wearing “Della Robia blue.” Previn toys with time passing (more fundamental to music than to the spoken word) during the wretched birthday dinner when Mitch never arrives. The scene becomes surreal and the action is highly stylized; the actors move around the stage in slow motion, “A series of tableaux

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of waiting” (60) as Blanche sings repeatedly, “What time is it?” and Stanley and Stella answer her, “Six twenty” then “Six forty-five” and so on and on until “He’s late.” Although the music follows the sensual, mournful spirit of the play and the libretto follows the script fairly faithfully, it is significant that the controversy over the two conclusions—the contrast between the stage and film versions—has been obviated in Littell’s libretto where the focus, the stage directions tell us, is on Blanche who has been held face down on the floor by the Nurse and is helped to her feet by the Doctor. Blanche sings, “Whoever you are,/I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” and “As she leaves, she leaves the whole scene behind [. . .] all recede into the fog from which she entered at the beginning of the opera.” And the opera ends with Blanche singing, “Whoever you are/Whoever you are/Whoever you are/Whoever you are” (87). Blanche owns the opera, and the issues of the play have vanished into the haze of her damaged mind and into the soaring music. Only a few years later Ionesco would challenge Williams’ realism, drenched as it is with lyricism, with what Ionesco called “tragic farce.” Looking at Streetcar from another angle—one much closer to the opera’s angle of vision—the gritty naturalistic world of Stanley Kowalski yields to a kind of “tragic farce,” an over-the-edge version of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music; but unlike Desiree, Blanche cannot see herself as farcical, as one of the “clowns.”

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13 Eugene Ionesco

The Chairs, 1951 Ionesco’s now-iconic play is subtitled “a tragic farce,” inventing a form, which some would say Chekhov had already created within a naturalistic framework, and which Beckett would put to great use a few years later. “Tragic farce” is a more insistent variation on Ionesco’s earlier paradoxical subtitles: he dubbed The Bald Soprano (1950) an “Anti-play” and The Lesson (1951) “A Comic Drama.” It is astounding that these one-acts have been performed continuously in Paris since 1957; this longest of runs is particularly suited to these plays, since The Bald Soprano is written as a continuous loop (the final stage directions read “The play begins again [. . .] while the curtain softly falls” and The Lesson ends with yet another new pupil ringing the door bell, as the Maid rushes to answer it with the same lines she spoke at the start of the play. The shock value (“insolite,” is the French word most often used to describe that astonishment caused by the eccentricity of Ionesco’s plays) is the point; as Ionesco insisted: “Explanation separates us from astonishment, which is the only gateway to the incomprehensible.”

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In his famous debate with Kenneth Tynan in The Observer in 1958, Tynan warned that Ionesco might become “the messiah of anti-theatre,” to which Ionesco replied, “I simply hold that it is difficult to make oneself understood not absolutely impossible” (for a fuller account of this controversy, see Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, Third Edition. New York: Penguin, 1982, pp. 128ff). Ionesco relies on his audience to go beyond the surface and figure it out for themselves rather than having a character explain it all as is frequently the case in conventional drama. For Ionesco, even Brechtian theatre was not “alienating” enough; he referred to Sartre, Brecht, Miller, and Osborne as “auteurs du boulevard,” scorning them as examples of left-wing conformity. His impatience with protest theater is summed up in this central statement: “No society has been able to abolish human sadness, no political system can deliver us from the pain of living, from our fear of death, our thirst for the absolute; it is the human condition that directs the social condition, not vice versa” (Esslin, 129–30). That The Chairs has been performed steadily since its premiere, in every imaginable language, is testimony not only to its enduring philosophy, but also to its drastic theatricality. The plot, such as it is, concerns an old woman and an old man living on an isolated island in what is, presumably, a lighthouse (the double joke being both the circularity and the task of guidance to safe harbour). Their roles suggest Ionesco’s profound understanding of old age, of long marriage, and of cultural gender designations (men are infantile, women are maternal). Their mutual dependence and their mutual devotion as well as their terrifying loneliness— all demonstrated but never explicitly spoken of—results in their

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culminating plan: invite the world to hear the wisdom of long-life experience and hire an orator to deliver the message. The platitudes of their dialogue and their delusions of a purposeful life adding up to valuable knowledge are what Ionesco explodes at the conclusion, when the unintelligible Orator arrives to deliver the message. (It is an outstanding addition to the absurdity and the play’s “message” that in the original production Ionesco played the Orator.) The dislocating shock value of a real person arriving just when we expected yet another invisible guest is intensified by the Orator’s costume; he is dressed, the stage directions tell us, like “a typical painter or poet of the nineteenth century, [. . .] very histrionic in manner.” Most significant is Ionesco’s caution: “ just as the invisible people must be as real as possible, the Orator must appear unreal.” His costume and manner suggest the hopelessly romantic and dated notion of Art Ionesco is skewering, as well as the idea that the purpose of a play is to deliver to the audience a takeaway life lesson. The indictment of the public’s blind worship of authority, however hollow that authority may be (the Emperor here is not only without clothes but without any corporeal form) tells us what Ionesco thought about governments: the body politic gets the leaders it deserves. Of course, Rhinoceros and The Lesson both show us the contempt in which he held all authority, but especially political authority. But The Chairs has more profound skewerings in mind. He suggests that people generally, but playwrights specifically, delude themselves in believing they have something to say and that someone will understand it. Further, the play suggests the inevitable disappointment playwrights must feel when actors, hired to deliver

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their words, as the Orator has been hired, produce only a garbled or diminished version. Even further, it suggests that the audience, we who are the inhabitants of those empty chairs, are the final betrayers who fail to find meaning in what we have been shown. The efficacy of language as a means of communicating is seen to be merely a consolatory fable. Martin Crimp’s translation of The Chairs, (London: Faber and Faber, 1997) for Theatre de Complicite’s celebrated production differs in interesting ways from Donald M. Allen’s translation (New York: Grove Press, 1958), although both reveal the play’s odd and very theatrical power. Most interesting is the difference in the Orator’s message at the conclusion. In the Allen translation, the deaf mute Orator makes desperate efforts to make himself understood; then he coughs, groans, utters the guttural sounds of a mute: “He mme, mm, mm. Ju gou hou, hou. Heu heu, gu gou gueue” (159). After indicating his helpless despair, he “has an idea” and, finding a piece of chalk in his pocket, writes on the blackboard, “ANGELFOOD NNAA NNM NWNWNW V” (159). After more unintelligible attempts at speech, but still “not satisfied,” he erases the chalk letters and writes, still in large capitals: “ΛADIEU ΛADIEU ΛPΛ” (160). This looks more or less like the French for “goodbye”—or perhaps an invocation to god, literalizing the word. After getting no satisfying response from the audience (both the empty chairs and us), and, after bowing to the invisible Emperor, he leaves the stage; “The main door is wide open onto darkness.” In Crimp’s translation the Orator makes the same unintelligible attempts at speech, but then writes on the blackboard: “ANGELSWEEP” (57) followed by the same meaningless series of

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letters, followed by the same meaningless noises. He then writes, “XP ΛGOD IS ΛGONE IΣ (57). This shift to theological despair (or perhaps, Ionesco would say, not despair but just reportage) is a Neitszchian message indeed. Or perhaps rather than “gone” God is suffering, an agon. It also creates a demonstration of the human need to interpret, to make meaning where there seems to be none, on which the Theatre of the Absurd depends. Noteworthy, too, is that in Ionesco’s “Notes,” #5 tells us “In [the first] performance, the curtain fell with the groaning of the dumb Orator. The blackboard was cut” (Crimp, 60). This abrupt conclusion places a greater interpretive burden on the audience; the conclusion now becomes both more disturbing and more entertaining: we hear sounds from the invisible people in the very visible chairs: rustling, shushing, laughter, and “ironical coughing.” This surely echoes exactly what the real audience is doing as they are confronted with the stunning conclusion of the performance, suggesting that we are no more real than the invisible guests, or that they are no less real than we are. That there is only one replay of The Chairs seems significant: Ionesco may have gone about as far as anyone can go.

Replay Steven Dietz, Lonely Planet (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1994) This contemporary drama is far less radical than the original modern work it replays, although given Ionesco, and that The Chairs more or less defined the Theatre of the Absurd, this is not

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surprising; how could this play be further radicalized? Dietz insists on explicit symbolic realism of the kind that embodies exactly the qualities that Ionesco found so embarrassing about conventional theatre. Dietz’s play is about the AIDS epidemic. Two men are friends. Jody owns a map store, and it is the ironic paradox that governs Lonely Planet, that he refuses to go outside. His friend Carl keeps bringing chairs into the shop. This proliferation of chairs does not carry the visual hilarity and absurdist meaning it does in Ionesco’s The Chairs, where the proliferation of objects as they crowd us out of our living spaces is part of Ionesco’s point. The excess of chairs in Dietz’s play becomes more and more doleful with each addition, since each chair, we learn, belonged to a friend who has just died; Carl’s mission has been to minister to those sick and dying. When, having finally persuaded Jody to leave the store and confront his fears and be tested for HIV, Carl returns with his own chair, silently giving Jody and us the bad news. But, Dietz warns, the bad news is really in the many many chairs, confronting the audience with a medical catastrophe rather than Ionesco’s existential catastrophe. Perhaps the best gloss on Dietz’s play comes from Ionesco himself; in the Notes following Martin Crimp’s translation of the script #3 seems particularly pertinent: “The number of chairs brought on stage is clearly important—a good forty at least—more if possible. They come on thick and fast. They pile up. The stage should be invaded by these chairs— this crowd of present absences” (59). Like Ionesco, Dietz uses the proliferation of chairs as a concrete image, although unlike Ionesco, Dietz explains his visual metaphor, making it far more accessible

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and far less absurd, and, by making it far less absurd, makes the catastrophe literal, realistic and physical rather than metaphysical. Lonely Planet is a protest play, quiet and decorous but nevertheless a protest play, while Ionesco’s The Chairs can find no one to protest to since there is “nothing to be done.” Time has shown that there was indeed something to be done about the AIDS epidemic, and it is being done. Dietz’s other metaphor—also literalized—is maps. Maps inevitably distort the world (the Mercator problem): “A map maker takes a messy round world and puts it neat and flat” adding that “a map maker must decide which distortions, which faulty perceptions he can live with” (20). The play’s epigraph is a line from The Chairs: “We will leave some traces, for we are people, and not cities,” which Dietz seems to mean more literally and certainly more sentimentally, than Ionesco, whose couple vanishes into the sea. But why only one Ionesco replay? One answer is that there are more out there I have overlooked; another is that Ionesco is so radical and innovative in his playwriting, that he had already done what a contemporary playwright might want to do to him. In his rejection of stage naturalism, Ionesco had created an Absurdist theater, and while this is no longer so disconcerting to a contemporary audience, it is, similarly, no longer aesthetically provocative or technically interesting to the contemporary playwright. In the 1984 volume of Paris Review (Fall, 1984, No. 93) devoted to Ionesco, Sasha Gupty refers to him as a “tragic clown,” the “Shakespeare of the Absurd,” the “Enfant Terrible of the Avant-Garde,” and the “Inventor of the Metaphysical Farce”; these splendid epithets leave very little room for contemporary reinvention.

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Another answer as to why there is only one Ionesco replay might be that we have so thoroughly assimilated Ionesco’s vision that there is no longer any need to make the point; contemporary cynicism has caught up to Ionesco who told his interviewer in The Paris Review, “our characters. . . . have no metaphysics, no order, no law. They are miserable and they don’t know why. They are puppets, undone. In short, they represent modern man. Their situation is not tragic, since it has no relation to a higher order. Instead, it’s ridiculous, laughable, and derisory.” Ionesco got the joke of us long before we did, and having been “gotten,” contemporary playwrights acknowledge with silence the preemptive strike.

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14 Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot, 1953 Waiting for Godot is, arguably, the most influential play of the twentieth century. Endlessly quoted, reimagined, redesigned, reproduced, both parodied and revered, Waiting for Godot is a landmark play of modern drama. There is probably not a day when somewhere in the world there is not production of this play (Enoch Brater’s 10 Ways of Thinking About Samuel Beckett traces recent production history). Reading Godot is a far purer experience than seeing it, since any production is likely to be interpretive, where somebody—a director with a High Concept, or a nation with a current event—has tried to decide for us what the play means. As for plot, Vivien Mercier’s much-quoted witticism is sufficient description: “nothing happens—twice.” Two timeworn guys, friends from way back, find themselves—again! ( groan)—stuck in the middle of nowhere (where else is there?), bored, endlessly waiting for something that doesn’t happen, someone who does not arrive. Vladimir, the philosophical questioner, is most concerned with the mind, while Estragon is most concerned with the body. Perhaps

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together they represent universal man, the Cartesian mind/body split on its feet, a notion explored by the contemporary Irish playwright Enda Walsh in his very Beckettian play, Penelope where one character remarks, “The day the head and the body part company is a tragic day for the self” (Penelope, London: Nick Hern Books, 2010, p. 11). Beckett’s Everymen do what we all do: eat, sleep, dream, argue, make up, chat with passers-by, complain about their health, exercise, sing songs, tell stories, reminisce, and wonder if the god they pray to is paying any attention. The play’s signature is the particular brand of bewildered wit, the ironic humor called Beckettian; this quality proves hard to recreate, much as the Chekhovian does, so that there is frequently a sense of straining for effect in Godot ’s replays. My own reading of the play hinges on an early line; Vladimir says to Estragon, “Hope deferred maketh the something sick, who said that?” Besides opening up nearly all the thematic concerns, his question (the answer is that the Bible, Proverbs 13.12, to be exact, “said that”) offers a key to the two other vital theatrical ways plays speak meaning: structure and set. When Beckett was asked why Godot had two acts, he famously replied, “three would have been too many and one would have been too few,” implying that with just one act, there would have been no sense of repetition, while with three acts, the point having already been made with the second act, another act would have been pointless by merely underscoring what was already obvious. The duality of the structure is echoed in the pair of characters Gogo and Didi (even the syllables of their names are duplicated) who meet another pair of characters, plus the pair of boys who are Godot’s messengers.

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As duplication becomes replication we see that the same lines end both Act One and Act Two: “Well, shall we go?”/“Yes, let’s go” and the stage directions read, “They do not move. Curtain.” The cruel song about the dog begins Act Two and seems with each verse about to end, only to begin again, just like the play. We see down this long corridor of replication where everything is deferred—especially conclusions, resolutions, endings. Structure reveals how hope is deferred and simultaneously defers it. The set directions seem to supply the second half of that line from Proverbs, which Vladimir only partly remembers: “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh it is a tree of life.” Beckett’s directions for Act Two specify that the bare tree of Act One now has “4 or 5 leaves,” but if this is the tree of life that is the image of desire, we feel the full force of ironical set design, since there is plenty of desire here, but not much fulfillment. The waiting is all there is; like Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” these poor players keep on creeping and the pace is surely petty. It is worth remembering here the passage from Beckett on Proust: “There is no escape from the hours and the days. Neither from tomorrow nor from yesterday because yesterday has deformed us, or been deformed by us. We are not merely more weary because of yesterday, we are other, no longer what we were before the calamity of yesterday” (Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit, London: John Calder, 1965, p. 13). The “calamity of yesterday” has been, unhappily, literalized in high-profile productions. For example, in 1993 Susan Sontag, the widely respected American writer and celebrity intellectual,

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staged a much-discussed Godot in war-torn Sarajevo during the city’s long siege; the production was performed in Bosnian, and Sontag eliminated Act Two as well as tripling the couples (two men, two women, one man, and one woman). The setting, both a product of and comment on the historical context, was no longer “a country road” but urban ruins: crowded, ugly, dangerous, griefstricken. When Sontag introduced the production, shelling shook the neighborhood near the theater, causing her to remark, “It’s not Godot I am waiting for [. . .] Like most people in Sarajevo, I am waiting for Clinton” (John F. Burns, New York Times, August 19, 1993). Her assumption, that there is a solution to the problem Godot presents and a military and/or political solution at that, distances the production from the play. The same impulse must have informed artist Paul Chan’s 2007 production of Godot staged outdoors in the ruined streets of New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in Louisiana. Many contemporary plays by major playwrights have been so strongly influenced by Waiting for Godot (note the “Wham, bam, thank you Sam” in Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers) that they might be considered replays: Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter, Edward Albee’s Zoo Story, Sam Shepard’s True West, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog, to offer just the short list. One might well ask with Son in Mark Doherty’s Trad (a contemporary Irish play deeply in Godot ’s debt but not really a replay): “Is that what tradition is? Everyone standing still and facin’ backwards?” (in The Tiger in Winter : Six Contemporary Irish Plays, ed. John Fairleigh, London: Methuen, 2006). Note the similarities: each play is about two men who spend their time waiting; they are marooned in their lives,

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pondering unanswerable questions, and their relationship in each case is both strained and touching; in each, the two roles seem obviously divided between the rational and the emotional, between the intellectual and the physical, just as they are in Godot. In each, there is storytelling and singing and game playing. Significant differences between these contemporary plays and Godot require notice: all the above-named plays end in violence. The kindness and tolerant stamina of Gogo and Didi are gone, and by the end of each of these contemporary plays, one of the pair is murdered by the other, which is, of course, one way to end the waiting. It is also a way of ending the play dramatically—in both senses of that word— and this is a significant structural departure from Godot, since the endlessness of that play speaks its meaning. By contrast to these homicidal characters, Gogo and Didi are champions of civilized behavior. Godot is a study of friendship; unlike the relationships between the characters in these contemporary plays, Gogo’s and Didi’s relationship endures. The second crucial difference between Godot and above mentioned plays (and no doubt the reader has already lengthened the list) is that each of these newer plays is plot-driven and to some degree stylistically realistic, albeit the realism is tweaked in odd and quirky ways. These plays retreat from Beckett’s radical experiment and are less absurd, less metaphoric and thus less universal, since the very specificity of each play makes us step back from identifying completely with their characters: we are not Pinter’s hired guns, we are not Albee’s deranged derelict we are not street scammers. But several major contemporary plays can fairly be considered replays, and that debt is rich and various.

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Replays Athol Fugard, The Blood Knot, 1961 (Blood Knot and other Plays, TCG, 1991) Athol Fugard, the courageous South African playwright whose voice was raised against apartheid during the long decades when it was dangerous to speak out, told an interviewer for a Pretoria newspaper, shortly after Blood Knot opened, “the greatest influence on me has been Beckett. I’ve been very much influenced by the attitudes underlying his work” (quoted by Albert Wertheim, The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001). The influence of Waiting for Godot on Fugard is clear in The Blood Knot as well as in his Boesman and Lena, and, less overtly but still strong in The Island and Sizwe Bans is Dead, although all of these have, obviously, been transformed by time and place. Unlike the politicized productions of Godot, Fugard’s obviously political plays do the opposite, but universalizing what would seem to be a specific situation. If Morrie and Zach are a South African Vladimir and Estragon, the Godot they are waiting for would seem to be the end of apartheid—a very distant and long-deferred hope in 1961 when the play opened in South Africa. South Africa was then, and perhaps still is, a world filled with Pozzos whose claims to the land were driven by a dire sense of entitlement. Fugard’s deep political need to establish the universality of these characters is made clear in his “Introduction” to the play that begins with “You and me. [. . .] If there is a human predicament, this is it” (New York: Samuel French, 1964, p. 4). This is not only a protest against racial discrimination, but

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by extension the larger “predicament” of selfhood, the battleground where the claims of our cherished individuality and our equally necessary participation in the human community, between selfinterest and altruism, struggle. Like Waiting for Godot, The Blood Knot begins with sore feet. Zachariah, Fugard’s Estragon, has sore feet from standing all day long on his job, a black man guarding the gates to a whites-only park. In the course of the play Zach will discover his exploitation, as Zach and Morrie act out an improvised scene while wearing a suit that becomes the costume of privilege; each man, black and white, will discover his rage against the representative Other. This brutal game will become their pastime in the long years to come. When, in Scene Five, they playact an exercise of power, Morrie tries on the hat, as Beckett’s Vladimir does, and the Godot similarities continue in the small details as well as in the larger meaning. Eventually Morrie and Zach’s “game” will literalize the metatheatrical act—putting on costumes, assuming a walk, an accent, an attitude—to allow a man to become someone who is apparently other than himself, as Morris did during years of “passing” for white. Acting, in Blood Knot is not merely a matter of pretending to be someone you are not, but becomes a means to reveal self to self, thus mirroring the actor’s experience and the character’s. Just as Zach and Morrie share the one dress-up suit, they share the one female pen pal: “One’s enough,” Morrie tells Zach, and their dual one-ness is established. The play is a parable of oneness, or wished-for one-ness, or imagined one-ness, and Fugard gives us the Beckettian stalemate at the end, as the political and the ontological meet. When Morris, in Scene Seven, loses heart

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and tells Zachariah, “I can’t carry on,” Zach tries to talk him out of his discouraged mood. Although Morrie was packed and ready to leave (like Clov at the end of Endgame), he does not leave; he is rescued from his debilitating despair by “the game,” as they play at power, their disenfranchisement being so extreme that the only enemy they can see is each other. In The Blood Knot ’s final Beckettian moment of “hope deferred,” Zachariah tells Morris, “it’s a good thing we got the game. Because we got a lot of time left, you know . . . Stretching ahead in here . . .” (72). The “game,” the act of making theater in this metatheatrical play, reveals Fugard’s political allegory.

Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (New York: Samuel French, 1967) Stoppard’s brilliant conceit in this metaphysical comedy, is that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from Hamlet are brought in from the wings to become this play’s major characters. They are bewildered; they know they were “summoned” but have no idea why, and, like all of us, have to figure things out as they go along. “We have not been . . . picked out . . . simply to be abandoned . . . set loose to find our own way. . .We are entitled to some direction . . . I would have thought” (14). This sounds much like Vladimir’s “What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. [. . .] We are waiting for Godot to come.” Vladimir in turn, sounds much like Hamlet’s “To be or not be/That is the question” whose role Stoppard has relegated to, mostly, somewhere offstage.

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Ros is Stoppard’s Gogo, and Guil is his Didi. It is only once they intersect with the characters from Hamlet and are asked by the King and Queen to “glean” what ails Hamlet that they have any direction whatsoever (the metatheatrical pun on “direction” endures through both Beckett’s and Stoppard’s plays). They play games—ball and word—and entertain themselves in a variety of ways, but since they are fixed by Shakespeare’s plot, they cannot save themselves (nor can Stoppard save them), and Claudius’ letter to the King of England (Lear, by Stoppard’s chronological calculation) must still order their executions. Echoing his early remark, Guil tells Ros at the end, “We move idly toward eternity without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation” (94), as do we all. This longed-for clarity is their Godot, never arriving, always promised; nothing less than the mystery of life is Stoppard’s subject. If for Gogo and Didi fifty-fifty is a “reasonable percentage” since “one of the thieves was saved” as Beckett tells us, Stoppard supplies this riposte: “Life is a gamble, at terrible odds—if it was a bet you wouldn’t take it” (90). One of the crucial aspects of contemporary replays is made most vivid here: the loss of the lush language available to past playwrights. The contrast between the richness of Elizabethan poetry and the flatness of contemporary speech is strikingly clear in the scenes in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern when the two theatrical worlds collide. In Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are mostly comic relief—smarmy, sycophantic, fearful, and not-too-bright; we are on Hamlet’s side as he teases them and outwits them. But, if we shift our loyalties and identify where it is much more likely we should (since we are not tragic royalty but rather befuddled and outclassed

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minor characters waiting in the wings for whatever drama our lives will contain), we find that Stoppard’s elaborate re-invention of Godot speaks for us, in both meaning and feeling. Stoppard’s shift from Shakespearean tragedy to Beckettian tragicomedy suggests what Godot has shown us all along: it doesn’t help to take yourself too seriously, and yet, given the seriousness of the situation, how else should we take ourselves? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not die in this play, but vanish into the silence (“the rest is . . .”). As the Player tells both Ros and Guil early on, “every exit [is] an entrance somewhere else” (21), which is, more or less, a description of this book, as a modern play ends and becomes an entrance into a contemporary replay.

Steve Tesich, On the Open Road (New York: Applause, 1992) This is what might be described as a situation parable (sit-par?). Heavily credentialed in commercial screenwriting (Four Friends, The World According to Garp, Eleni, and the Oscar-winning, Breaking Away), Tesich here forays unconvincingly into serious drama. His country road is through a land wrecked by endless war. A man called Al, pulling a cart filled with masterpiece paintings rescued from wrecked museums, saves a man called Angel who has been strung up to be hanged and then abandoned. Al’s motives are not humane but exploitative—he needs somebody to pull the cart. In the course of their travels Al will teach Angel the basic facts of their culture: how to supply artist name and dates when he sees a picture and to recognize a snippet of a famous piece of music and supply

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composer and dates. Whether the pair are to be read as Pozzo and Lucky or a diminished Gogo and Didi, is unclear, especially as they become by the end the two thieves who were crucified beside Jesus— who has already turned up, unlike Godot, and been murdered. Tesich’s heavy-handed protest against war, against hypocritical religion, against rote education, and against the supposed guardians of high culture is often clever but never profound, choosing the commercial audience-flattering route of the faux intellectual. His play is sprinkled with allusions as he tests us, beginning with Endgame’s ladder and ending with the Boy—here blind and leading a Monk (Tieresias in Oedipus the King?), who is also blind (Pozzo and Lucky again?)—who finds the road to the promised land. Tesich includes little sermons on the difference between life and art: “Art defines the darkness we’re in, it elevates us to a promontory from where we can see the way” (43). And the Monk, who will murder Jesus when Al and Angel balk at the task, tells them that Jesus has to die so they can “make moral integrity accessible to everyone. [. . .] if you let all standards float, like currency, then everyone’s got a shot” (77). Unlike Beckett, Tesich does not trust the audience to understand his allegory, and so falls into the trap of what Beckett called “explicitation.”

Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford, All Wear Bowlers (Rainpan 43, Philadelphia, 2003, unpublished) Taking its title from stage directions in Waiting for Godot, “All Wear Bowlers” nods cleverly not only to Beckett but also to Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and Magritte. A vaudevillian riff on existential angst, it is a showcase for the precision-instrument

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performances of two intellectual clowns who authored the piece and who have toured the world with it. Their characters, named Earnest Matters (the Vladimir figure) and Wyatt R. Levine (the Estragon figure) are trapped in a blackand-white silent film where as two tiny figures they exist in a bleak Beckettian landscape. Suddenly they are expelled from the screen onto the stage and discover they are able to leap up and back between the two media with metavirtuosity. The show’s philosophic inquiries about the nature of reality and the reality of performance end when the film burns up, trapping them in their corporeal bodies onstage.

Sam Shepard, Ages of the Moon, 2009 (premiere New York: Atlantic Theatre Co., 2010, unpublished) This is not the Sam Shepard who was “the rock ‘n’ roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth” who blazed across the off-Broadway sky forty years ago, but the author in later middle age, in a meditative mood, ruminating on life, hilariously and painfully. Shepard’s Ages of the Moon is an Americanization of Waiting for Godot, revealing cultural differences (there are guns, there is bourbon, there is physical violence) but maintaining the spirit of the original. Gogo and Didi are now two old cowboys, friends for fifty years, finally reunited. Gogo and Didi’s religious debate about why only one Gospels reports that “one of the thieves was saved,” here becomes a debate about Sanctuario de Chimaya where the Virgin Mary appeared to “peasants” in the eye of a dead chicken, although the issue is not the miraculous but the sociological: “There’s no such thing as a peasant anymore. What age do you think we’re living in?”

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Written for the great Irish actors Stephen Rea and Sean McGinley, Shepard’s play premiered at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and then transferred to the Atlantic Theatre in New York, all traces of Irish accents erased. Ames has been holed up in a cabin in the woods; he has phoned his old friend Byron, weeping and howling in suicidal desperation. Ames is a battered, volatile drunk; Byron is neat and tidy and sensible. Ames is living in the cabin because his wife found a note scribbled by an instantly forgotten girl after a meaningless dalliance on a fishing trip. He laments that he is “Banished. . . . Exiled. Never to return. No more, no more” (3). Any American of a certain age will find those words lurking in their minds, only to discover they are singing the Ray Charles song, Hit the Road, Jack. Ames is devastated by his loss, and reminisces about a long-ago night when his gorgeous wife knocked a pot of hot coffee into the lap of country music star Roger Miller. Byron is at first astonished to hear the story. But then Ames begins to wonder: was Byron there? Yes, he can see him in his mind’s eye. Did he cause the accident by groping Ames’ wife under the table and startling her? Why, yes! A ridiculous geezer fight ensues. But mainly, the two men sit on the porch to philosophize, reminisce, drink, argue, knock each other around, and reconcile. There is a contretemps with an electric fan that Ames finally shoots in exasperation. Ultimately, after several evasions, Byron reveals that his wife Lacey has died, and that he carried her around town on his back, as if she were asleep. It is a tender and sad story, and his heartbreak is later literalized when, after a scuffle with Ames, he claims something has come apart in his chest. We begin to wonder if

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these lost wives are the same wife, if these men are the same man, if this is, perhaps, as is Godot, perhaps, a Cartesian monodrama. A whole day has passed onstage, sunlight fading first into dusk, and then, as the playwright’s directions tell us, “black night with full moon effect occurring slowly like a stripe of white light, gradually narrowing to a knife’s edge by end of play.” Like Beckett, Shepard has always depended on extreme lighting for making meaning visible. As in Godot, night falls, and there is a long silence in which “The sun sets, the moon rises.” Ames and Byron decide to watch the eclipse— literal and metaphoric—together acknowledging, “This might be a once in a lifetime deal.” They are first silhouetted, and then eclipsed as the play ends. The locale of Ages of the Moon is kept indefinite; a bit of early dialogue in Ages of the Moon calls to the mind’s eye Godot’s set design when Byron remarks on Ames’ good fortune in having the cabin, that he has it “Made in the shade if the tree don’t fall” (5). There is no tree onstage, but there is plenty of shade, literal and metaphoric. The play’s plot moves toward the lunar eclipse; the sky darkens, and an inhospitable cosmos confines the two men to the safety of their little arena in space as well as their little arena in time. Referring to the Field Guide to the Night Sky, Ames tells Byron that the moon is “Four point six thousand million years old. . . . I can’t even picture it. I can’t even picture yesterday, tell you the truth. Can you?” Byron replies, “When did I get here? When did I arrive?” (45). The echoes of Godot are nearly verbatim. Shepard’s final tableau shows us paradoxically both friendship and isolation, both comfort and calamity. Consider the iconic black and white cover image of the

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old Grove edition of Waiting for Godot: two men silhouetted against a night sky, with a pale moon above them. Finally, Ames says, “We gotta do something, Byron.[. . .] What are we gonna do, Byron?” Byron replies, “There’s nothing to do” (63). As Billie Whitelaw remarked when she saw the wig she was to wear for Rockaby, “We’ve been here before, friends.” Shepard’s 1980 play, True West, seems a direct precedent for Ages of the Moon and thus an earlier Shepard replay of Godot. There, a Hollywood producer (a kind of a Pozzo figure, the man who at first holds all the power) seems to think that the brothers—Lee, a nasty drifter and Austin, a respectable screenwriter—are the same person. It is easy to imagine Ames and Byron as Lee and Austin grown older—Ames seems to be wearing Lee’s repulsive wardrobe all those years later—pointy-toed shoes without socks, too-short pants, stained shirt. It may well be that Lee’s wardrobe was handme-down from Gogo and Didi, although in Shepard none wears a bowler. The brothers’ standoff concludes True West: “ lights fade softly into moonlight, the figures of the brothers now appear to be caught in a vast desert-like landscape” (Sam Shepard Seven Plays, New York: Bantam, 1981, p. 59). They do not move.

The prison productions The storied San Quentin production in 1957 by the San Francisco Actors’ Workshop, directed by Herbert Blau, is part of the mythos of Waiting for Godot. As Martin Esslin tells it in his landmark work, The Theatre of the Absurd, the prisoners’ reviews of

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this production in the San Quentin newsletter revealed how profoundly and immediately the inmates understood the play which was, in 1957, so new and so startling a form of theater that the sophisticated audiences of Paris, London, and New York had been baffled by it. The prisoners saw that Beckett’s play distilled to its essence the prison condition: the literalizing of endless waiting, the impossibility of “going,” the excruciating deferring of hope. Other prisoners in San Quentin made this same discovery decades later when Jan Jonson, the Swedish director, created a production of Godot with inmates as the actors. This remarkable project in 1987–88 was recorded in a documentary film (Waiting for Godot at San Quentin, by John Reilly, New York: Global Village, 1988). The power of the film is not the quality of the acting—these men are all untrained—but the effect of the prison context. San Quentin is a maximum-security prison and many of the inmates are serving life sentences, although they speak movingly of the hope of parole and the inevitability of that hope dashed. Lines suddenly spring into new meaning: Vladimir’s performance of the “Song of the Dog” becomes a prison song (complete with the actor’s self-ironizing, in ultra-cool “shades” and a falsetto that grows higher and higher with each verse). Suddenly the dog that stole a crust of bread and was beaten to death for it, becoming a warning to all the dogs to come, seems a comment on the penitentiary system as a deterrent. When Jonson arrives one day, he sees a prisoner, chained, taking tiny steps, escorted by guards, and the film follows this image with a rehearsal image of Pozzo holding Lucky’s rope. The drama is intensified by the visual images; long, empty, bleak corridors; a hand reaching between the bars holding a fragment of

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a mirror so that the reflected eye of the prisoner can see that empty corridor. In a conversation inside a cell, Donald “Twin” James who plays Vladimir and Reginald “Happy” Wilson who plays Estragon talk about how they often stand by the bars listening to the silence; suddenly Beckett’s most familiar stage direction (“Long silence”) takes on large and additional meaning. “Twin” and “Happy” (their prison nicknames seem like Beckett character names) explain how some inmates go insane from waiting and hang themselves. After the applause and bouquets of flowers following the final performance, the actors’ relatives, mostly women, rush toward the prisoners in this rare chance to hug and kiss them. Although it is impossible not to be moved, the situation changes the way one is moved by the play: the documentary is about the metaproject, the doing of Godot in this notorious prison; the universal truths of the play, brought home to us in the text, lose power by being literalized. When “Twin” speculates: “Beckett must have had some captivity in his life, too—because this is too real, man, it’s too real.” That sums up the effective change from the original to this variation on a replay: it is all about context. The bare stage set becomes less a factor in the play’s meaning when it is shifted from theater to prison, and the revelations of the sudden literalizing of the meaning of the lines makes the play less absurd and less funny and less intellectual. We are distanced from the play by sympathy for the actors rather than the characters; we realize our privilege rather than the condition we all share with Gogo and Didi. We pity these players, and pity, as Blake taught us, “would be no more/If we did not make somebody poor” and, in professing sorrow for those we punish, we, like Blake’s Urizen, “wept and called it Pity.”

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Sitting in that original 1957 audience of 1,400 maximum security prisoners in San Quentin watching the San Francisco Actors’ Workshop production was Rick Cluchey, sentenced to “life without possibility of parole” for armed robbery and kidnapping. The production so moved him that he started to read; then he started to write, and the resulting play, The Cage, dramatized the need for prison reform. He formed a troupe called San Quentin Drama Workshop, and, eventually, after his sentence was commuted, toured the world. Eventually, he worked with/for Beckett for seven years, serving as the playwright’s assistant director on a production of Waiting for Godot in Berlin. Cluchey’s son, named Samuel Beckett Cluchey, plays the boy in the production of Godot in the film series called Beckett Directs Beckett. In Chicago, in May 2013, Cluchey performed “Sam and Rick,” a one-act solo show about his personal experiences with Beckett. The film, Weeds (1987) directed by John Hancock, who cowrote the screenplay with Dorothy Tristan, is a Hollywood version of Cluchey’s story where Nick Nolte plays the Cluchey character. We see scenes from Cluchey’s play, The Cage, part surreal musical, part social commentary. The movie is about a man who, having seen the Waiting for Godot production in San Quentin, starts to read serious literature, and, with only a sixth grade education, having never been in a theater, creates a play that becomes, eventually, a Broadway hit. It is a success story, with some screwball and some calamitous missteps. But the dramatic effect of the film could not be further from the effect of Godot: unlike Gogo and Didi, Lee and his fellow parolees have hope and embrace life; they recognize the possibility of change and, ultimately, achieve freedom. Being paroled, these men can “go”

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and thus the film betrays the Beckettian vision, lacking the courage, as so many replays do, of the iconic progenitor. The movie is about inspirational rehabilitation, and the final scene has the triumphant cast joined onstage in song—clenched fists raised to deafening applause—as they are joined by the ghosts of their dead friends. When the warden early on says, “We don’t do rehabilitation, we do punishment,” we can hear Godot talking, but that is the only genuine glimpse of the original.

Parodies There are seemingly endless parodies of Waiting for Godot ; some are witty, many are witless but all are testimony to the fact that Godot has been thoroughly received into the culture, almost osmotically, since it often looks as though the creators of the parodies have not read the play but merely heard about it, or, if they have read it, have not quite understood it. There are full-length movies, video games, one-act plays, and animations. My favorite is a cartoon by the legendary Charles Addams showing a waiting room. Four men in chairs are wearing t-shirts, emblazoned: “GODOT,” “The Sun Shines Nellie,” “Lefty” and “The Robert E. Lee.” The 2013 New York Fringe Festival presented a play by Dave Hanson, a meta- Godot called Waiting for Waiting for Godot, in which two understudies wait in the wings for a chance to go on. In Beckett’s immortal words: Estragon:

I can’t go on like this.

Vladimir:

That’s what you think.

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Conclusion

The audience cannot grasp everything; nor did the author. We quarrel to love. The critic must suffer like everyone else. The play is important. The audience is divided and goes home disturbed or amazed. HOWARD BARKER, The Catastrophic Theatre As I gave this manuscript a final re-read, I was shocked (shocked!) to see I had used the words, “shocking,” “alarming,” “startling,” “horrifying,” “dire,” “grim,” “outrageous,” “grotesque,” and “ludicrous” over and over again. While editing and trying to expand my vocabulary, I realized that they were the watchwords, the hallmarks of contemporary replays, and that the very repetition spoke meaning. Of course, not all the replays are shocking, or even interesting, while some are brilliant and exciting and beautiful while shocking.

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Some of these new versions of iconic plays seem nostalgic for the modernist past but the playwrights recognize that you can’t go home again, try though they might, and their plays seem born out of envious regret or longing. Others seem to feel the need to assert themselves over these past masters and rewrite them, heaping scorn upon them, while others have taken the lazy way out of playwriting and hitched a free ride. Mostly, though, the very impulse to replay rises from admiration, a sense of indebtedness, a tip of the hat. But regardless of whether the replay is an attack or an homage, deferential or imitative or corrective, the inclination seems always to launch a conversation with the past; we watch the contemporary playwright talking to the modern playwright, and as we are allowed into their discussion, our own attitudes are redefined. A fanciful generic reinvention I proposed years ago as a way of thinking about contemporary plays might shed light on some of these replays: sit-trag, (that is, situation tragedy). Here the sit-com has been replaced by a dourer, but no less superficial vision of life. In the situation tragedy, the sit-com, the problem, or predicament, has to be resolvable and provide comic redemption in the form of a future; in sit-trag, the problem, the “situation,” is unresolvable, and the result is bleakness. Sit-trag is unlike true tragedy where the character learns a profound truth, albeit too late. It is unlike tragicomedy where the recognition of the sadness of life is laced with recognition of its preposterousness, and where the character—and thus the audience/ reader – is capable of a rueful smile of self-awareness. But in sit-trag, nobody learns anything. The uses of humor in replays are particularly intriguing, and, with Stephen Sondheim’s lyric from A Funny Thing Happened

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CONCLUSION

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on the Way to the Forum running through my mind, “Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight,” I thought about a subgenre label I had invented while working on Edward Albee’s The Goat : satyrtragedy. My notion stems from the satyr plays in ancient Greek theatre festivals; the tragedies were, of course, the main event, but there were also short satyr plays, named for the forest gods who were half-human, half-goat, and who manifested the basest varieties of freedom through lust and drunkenness. These ribald plays refused to share in the general misery, refused to empathize, and broke the tension of the festival’s tragic trilogy by mocking the plight of the tragic characters. So if tragicomedy was the new twentieth-century form (Chekhov, Ionesco, Beckett), a way of “laughing wild amid severest woe,” satyrtragedy may be the twenty-first century’s new version of that, a returning of the power to the primal and switching the restorative, tonic order from tragicomedy to comitragedy: we laugh first and weep later. Call it sat-trag. To borrow from so magnificent a source as Virginia Woolf ’s luminous last novel, Between the Acts: near the end there is a village pageant; era after era parades before the assembled audience until, suddenly, children emerge from the bushes holding up tin cans and mirrors, candlesticks and shards of glass, anything shiny and reflective, however cracked or broken, “Anything that’s bright enough to reflect, presumably, ourselves? Ourselves! Ourselves!” The pageant continues with fragments of quotations from famous poems and plays, a mishmash of literature and culture, until the players stop, hold up their mirrors, and reveal the audience to themselves, “as we are, here and now.”

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And that has been the premise of this book: the play reflects the playgoers, civilization is built by “Orts, scraps and fragments,” and the pageant continues. Theater must always hold a mirror up to nature, as Hamlet told the Players, and as that nature changes, as the audience alters, so does the play. No matter how many theatrical transgressions are committed or fourth walls demolished, these classic modern plays and their contemporary replays give us “ourselves,” “not whole by any means,” but a reflection of the world we live in. Woolf ’s last line is this: “Then the curtain rose. They spoke.” Dialogue is basic to all dramatic work—even a pageant or a one-person play or a mime creates dialogue as long as there is an audience—and this book is more or less a transcription of the silent conversation I have been having with myself, and with these playwrights, and with their characters, and, of course, with you.

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ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF PLAYWRIGHTS, PLAYS AND PRODUCTIONS

see also General Index Albee, Edward, The Goat 251 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 146 Zoo Story 232 Barker, Howard, (Uncle)Vanya 10 Beckett, Samuel, All That Fall 3 Endgame 236, 239 Happy Days 105, 219 Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit 231 Waiting for Godot 3, 82, 109, 219, 229–33 films 246–7 Beckett Directs Beckett 246 The Cage 246 Waiting for Godot at San Quentin 244 Weeds 246 parodies 247 Waiting for Waiting for Godot 247 prison productions, the 243–7 San Quentin production in 1957 243–4

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replays 234–43 Athol Fugard, The Blood Knot 234–6 Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford, All Wear Bowlers 239–40 Sam Shepard, Ages of the Moon 240–3 Steve Tesich, On the Open Road 238–9 Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead 236–8 Brecht, Bertolt, Mother Courage and Her Children 61 replays 68–72 Joan Littlewood, Oh! What a Lovely War 68 Lynn Nottage, Ruined 69–72 Ntozake Shange, Mother Courage and Her Children 68–9 Büchner, Georg, Woyzeck 13–22 exotic replays 22 Jeff Cohen, Whoa Jack 22 films 22 notable productions 16–17 replays 17–22 Alban Berg, Wozzeck 17 Naomi Iizuka, Skin 19–20

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Punchdrunk Company, The Drowned Man 21–2 Simon Stephens, Motortown 20–1 Werner Herzog, Wozzeck 18 Woyzeck on the Highveld 18–19 Chase, Mary, Harvey 219 Chekhov, Anton, The Cherry Orchard 116, 174, 181, 194–7 composite Chekhov 188–98 Brian Friel, Afterplay 190–3 Christopher Durang,Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike 197–8, 218 Guillermo Calderon, Neva 195–7 Marina Carr, 16 Possible Glimpses 193–4 Neil Simon, The Good Doctor 188–90 Pig Iron Theatre Company, Chekhov Lizardbrain 194–5 The Seagull 197 The Three Sisters 170–1, 194, 195, 197 film adaptations 187 Hannah and Her Sisters 187 The Sisters 187 replays 171–86 Beth Henley, Crimes of the Heart 171–2 Blake Morrison, We Are Three Sisters 182–3 Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman, Three Sisters on Hope Street 180–1

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Jane Martin, Anton in Show Business 175–6 Kristen Kosmos, There There 183–5 Michel Nadeau, Lentement la beauté (And Slowly Beauty) 185–6 Mustapha Matura, Three Sisters, After Chekhov 178–80 Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Break of Day 174–5 Wendy Wasserstein, The Sisters Rosensweig 172–4 The Wooster Group, Brace Up! 177–8, 202 Uncle Vanya 160–1, 194, 197 film replays 167–70 Cold Souls 169 Country Life 168–9 Vanya on 42nd Street 166, 167 opera 169 Sonya’s Story 169 replays 161–7 Alan Ayckbourn, Dear Uncle 165 Annie Baker, Uncle Vanya 165–6 Howard Barker, (Uncle) Vanya 161–3 Mallory Catlett, This Was the End 166–7 Sam Holcroft, Vanya 163–4 Doherty, Mark, Trad 232 Fugard, Athol, Boesman and Lena 234 The Island 234 Sizwe Bans is Dead 234

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ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF PLAYS AND PRODUCTIONS

Granville Barker, Harley, Farewell to the Theatre 75–7 replay 77–9 Richard Nelson, Farewell to the Theatre 77–9 The Voysey Inheritance 74 2006 production at the National Theatre in London 74 replay 74–5 David Mamet, The Voysey Inheritance 74–5 Hansberry, Lorraine, A Raisin in the Sun 113–16 film 119 replays 116–33 Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park 121–9 George C. Wolfe, “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” 117–21 Kwame Kwei-Armah, Beneatha’s Place 129–33 Robert Nemiroff, Charlotte Zalatzberg, Raisin 116–17 Ibsen, Henrik, A Doll’s House 1, 26–38, 51, 139, 170 Egyptian dance (Nora’s Doors) 31 Indian adaptation for dance and puppets 30–1 notable productions 27–31 replays 31–8 Charles F. (OyamO) Gordon, A Selfish Sacrifice 32–4 Elfriede Jelinek, What Happened after Nora Left . . . 31–2

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Rebecca Gilman, Dollhouse 34–6 Theresa Rebeck, Dollhouse 36–8 Turkish version (Nora Nure) 31 Hedda Gabler 38–50, 51, 139, 170 replays 40–50 Caroline Kava, Hedda Gabler 44 David Henderson, A Woman Scorned: . . . 45–6 Elizabeth Meriwether, Heddatron 46–7 Jeff Whitty, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler 47–50 Maria Irene Fornes, The Summer at Gossensass 41–2 Philip Kan Gotanda, The Wind Cries Mary 42–4 Ionesco, Eugene, The Bald Soprano 221 The Chairs 221–5 replay 225–8 Steven Dietz, Lonely Planet 225–8 The Lesson 221, 223 Rhinoceros 223 Mamet, David, Glengarry Glen Ross 116 Miller, Arthur, All My Sons 2, 99, 101 Death of a Salesman 84, 100–11, 115 CBS television adaptation 103 notable stage productions 103–4 replays 104–11 600 Highwaymen, This Great Country 111

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Donald Margulies, The Loman Family Picnic 107–9 Paula Vogel, The Oldest Profession 110–11 Rosalyn Drexler, Room 17C 104–7 Finishing the Picture 101 Resurrection Blues 101 The Ride down Mt.Morgan 101 Salesman in Beijing 101, 102 Norman, Marsha, Night Mother 219 O’Neill, Eugene, The Emperor Jones 203 The Iceman Cometh 218 A Long Day’s Journey into Night 99, 115, 145 Osborne, John, The Entertainer 95 Look Back in Anger 95 Pinter, Harold, The Dumb Waiter 232 Pirandello, Luigi, Six Characters in Search of an Author 10 Rattigan, Terence, The Browning Version 81, 89–93 replay 93 David Hare, South Downs 93 The Sleeping Prince 93–4 film 94 replay 94–5 My Week with Marilyn 94–5 The Winslow Boy 74, 82–5 replay 85–9 David Mamet, The Winslow Boy in The Spanish Prisoner 85–9

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Sartre, Jean-Paul, No Exit 145, 146 Shakespeare, William, Hamlet 10, 236, 237 Shaw, George Bernard, Heartbreak House 51 Major Barbara 51 Pygmalion 51–3 films 57–9 Mannequin, Matthew Gottlieb 57 The Opening of Misty Beethoven 59 Pretty Woman, Garry Marshall 58 The Princess Diaries, Garry Marshall 58–9 Santu Rangili 59 She’s All That, Robert Iscove 58 Warner Bros., USA, My Fair Lady 54–5 replays 54–7 Loewe and Lerner, My Fair Lady 54 Simon Gray, Butley 55 Willy Russell, Educating Rita 55–7 TV sitcoms 59 Saint Joan 51, 204 Shepard, Sam, Buried Child 99 True West 99, 232, 243 Stoppard, Tom, Jumpers 232 Strindberg, August, The Confession of a Fool 138 The Dance of Death 144–6 replays 146–8 Friedrich Durrenmatt, Play Strindberg 146–7 Michael Meyer, Lunatic and Lover 147–8

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ALPHABETICAL LISTING OF PLAYS AND PRODUCTIONS

The Father 138, 148 Miss Julie 29, 138–9 replays 140–4 Ingmar Bergman, Julie 140–1 Patrick Marber, After Miss Julie 141–4 Tesich, Steve, Breaking Away 238 Eleni 238 Four Friends 238 The World According to Garp 238 Wilde, Oscar, The Importance of Being Earnest 149–51 biographical replays 157–8 Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde 158 The Invention of Love 158 Oscar 158 Wilde: The Story of the First Modern Man 158 replays 152–7 Anne Croswell and Lee Pockriss, Earnest in Love 152 David Zippel, Earnest 157 Gerald Barry, Earnest 156–7 Mark Ravenhill, Handbag 153–6 Tom Stoppard, Travesties 152–3 Wilder, Thornton, The Bridge of San Luis Rey 199 Hello, Dolly! 199

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The Matchmaker 199 Our Town 199–201 film versions 201 opera by Rorem 201 replays 201–9 Lanford Wilson, Book of Days 204–5 Scott Hamilton Kennedy, O.T.: Our Town 205–6 Susan Miller, It’s Our Town, Too 206–7 Will Eno, Middletown 207–9 The Wooster Group, Route 1 and 9 (The Last Act) 202–4 The Skin of Our Teeth 199 Williams, Tennessee, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 84, 116, 218 A Streetcar Named Desire 116, 212–13 film 214–15 Blue Jasmine (2013) 215 replays 215–20 Andre Previn and Philip Littell, A Streetcar Named Desire 219–20 Bette Bourne, Belle Reprieve 216–18 Christopher Durang, Desire, Desire, Desire 218–19 Rosalyn Drexler, Lobby 215–16 Wilson, August, Radio Golf 116 Wolfe, George C., The Colored Museum 123

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GENERAL INDEX

Abbado, Claudio 17 Abbey Theatre in Dublin 241 Abrahams, Nadia 21 Addams, Charles 247 Akalaitis, JoAnn 16 Albee, Edward 145, 146, 232, 251 The Goat 251 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 145, 146 Zoo Story 232 Alfieri, Richard 187 alienation effect 62, 65, 70 Allen, Donald M. 224 Allen, Woody 187, 215 Als, Hilton 196 American Civil War 99 the American Dream 101, 102, 103, 115 Annan, Francis 22 Aristotle 9 Metaphysics 9 Asquith, Anthony 85, 90 Atlantic Theatre in New York 241 Attenborough, Richard 68 Ayckbourn, Alan 165 Bailey, Anthony 193 Baker, Annie 165–6 Baldwin, James 114 Baraka, Amiri 113 Barker, Howard 10, 161–3, 249 (Uncle)Vanya 10 Barry, Gerald 156 Barthe, Sophie 169

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Bates, Alan 55 Beckett, Samuel 3, 82, 105, 135, 219, 221, 229–47, 251 All That Fall 3 Endgame 236, 239 Happy Days 105, 219 Proust and Three Dialogues with Georges Duthuit 231 Waiting for Godot 3, 82, 109, 219, 229–33 replays 234–47 Bedford, Brian 151 Bentley, Eric 51, 62, 63, 65, 139 The Brecht Commentaries 65 The Playwright as Thinker 139 Berg, Alban 17 Bergman, Ingmar 16, 29, 140–1 Julie 140–1 A Project for the Theatre 29, 140 Scenes from a Marriage 140 Bergman, Ingrid 39 the Berliner Ensemble 63 Billington, Michael 92 Blakemore, Michael 168 Blanchett, Cate 215 Blau, Herbert 243 Bloom, Claire 28 Bogarde, Dirk 68 Bradshaw, Jon 153 Brandes, Edward 138 Brando, Marlon 214, 217 Brater, Enoch 229 10 Ways of Thinking About Samuel Beckett 229

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Brecht, Bertolt 2, 222 Mother Courage and Her Children 61 Brecht’s use of the Thirty Years War 63 Brennan, Clare 165 Brennan, Kathleen 17 Breuer, Lee 29 Brittan, Robert 116 The Browning Version 81, 89–93 replay 93 David Hare, South Downs 93 Büchner, Georg 13–21 Woyzeck 13–22 exotic replays 22 notable productions 16–17 replays 17–22 Woyzeck as antihero 16 Burns, John F. 232 Caine, Michael 56 Calderon, Guillermo 195–6 capitalism 72, 74 Carr, Marina 193 Catlett, Mallory 166–7 Cause Célèbre 81 Chaikin, Joseph 16 The Chairs 221–5 replay 225–8 Steven Dietz, Lonely Planet 225–8 Chan, Paul 232 Chaney, Elizabeth 22 Channing, Stockard 151 Chase, Mary 219 Harvey 219 Chekhov, Anton 3, 4, 25, 116, 159–98, 203, 218, 221, 251 “The Black Monk” 193 The Cherry Orchard 116, 174, 181, 194, 195, 196, 197

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composite Chekhov 188–98 The Seagull 197 The Three Sisters 170–1, 194, 195, 197 film adaptations 187 replays 171–86 Uncle Vanya 160–1, 194, 197 film replays 167–70 replays 161–7 China Daily 102 the Chinese Dream 103 civil war in Congo 70 Clark, Colin 94 cliché 5 Clinton, Hilary 70 Cluchey, Rick 246 Cobb, Lee J. 103 Cohen, Jeff 22 Whoa Jack 22 Cohn, Ruby 1, 2 Modern Shakespeare Offshoots 1 Colbert, Steven 51 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor 219 “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” 219 Copland, Aaron 201 Corrigan, Robert W. 14 Costigan, James 28 Cracknell, Carrie 17 Crimp, Martin 224, 226 Cromer, David 201 Croswell, Anne 152 Cukor, George 54 Curtis, Simon 94, 95 The Dance of Death 144–6 replays 146–8 Friedrich Durrenmatt, Play Strindberg 146–7 Michael Meyer, Lunatic and Lover 147–8

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GENERAL INDEX

Death of a Salesman 100–11 CBS television adaptation 103 notable stage productions 103–4 replays 104–11 600 Highwaymen, This Great Country 111 Donald Margulies, The Loman Family Picnic 107–9 Paula Vogel, The Oldest Profession 110–11 Rosalyn Drexler, Room 17C 104–7 The Deep Blue Sea 81 Denby, David 73 Dench, Judi 62, 91, 151 Dessau, Paul 66 Dick, Philip K. 10 Dickens, Charles 151 David Copperfield 151 Dietz, Steven 225–7 Doherty, Mark 232 Trad 232 A Doll’s House 31–8 replays 31–8 Charles F. (OyamO) Gordon, A Selfish Sacrifice 32–4 Elfriede Jelinek, What Happened after Nora Left… 31–2 Rebecca Gilman, Dollhouse 34–6 Theresa Rebeck, Dollhouse 36–8 Drexler, Rosalyn 104–6, 215–16 Duchamp, Marcel 153 Dukakis, Olympia 62 Durang, Christopher 197–8, 218–19 Durrenmatt, Friedrich 146–7

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Ek, Mats 22 Eliot, T. S. 153 Ellman, Richard 158 Emma (film) 89 Emrich, Wilhelm 13 Eno, Will 207–9 Eros 211 Esslin, Martin 222, 243 The Theatre of the Absurd 222, 243 Evans, Edith 151 Facebook 8 Farewell to the Theatre 75–7 replay 77–9 Richard Nelson, Farewell to the Theatre 77–9 Figgis, Mike 91 Financial Times 165 Finney, Albert 91 First World War 17, 87 Flare Path 81 Flaubert, Gustave 40 Fonda, Jane 28 Foreman, Richard 16 Fornes, Maria Irene 41–2 Frayn, Michael 159, 182 French, Samuel 234 French without Tears 81 Friel, Brian 159, 190–3 Fry, Stephen 151, 156, 158 Fugard, Athol 234–6 Boesman and Lena 234 The Island 234 Sizwe Bans is Dead 234 Garland, Patrick 28 Gaskill, William 63 Gates, Henry Louis 120, 121 The Signifying Monkey 121 Genzlinger, Neil 187 Gerard, Jeremy 118

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GENERAL INDEX

Gere, Richard 58 Gielgud, John 68 Gilman, Rebecca 34–6 globalization 3 Goold, Rupert 10 Gordon, Charles F. 32–3 Gorky, Maxim 160 Gotanda, Philip Kan 42–3 Gottlieb, Matthew 57 Grandin, Temple 194 Animals in Translation 194 Granville Barker, Harley 2, 73–9 Farewell to the Theatre 75–9 The Voysey Inheritance 74 Gray, Simon 55 Green, Graham 97 Gregory, Andre 167 Grogan, Molly 167 The Guardian 165 Gupty, Sasha 227 Gussow, Mel 109 Hancock, John 246 Handspring Puppet Theatre 18 Hansberry, Lorraine 2, 113–33 A Raisin in the Sun 113–16 Hare, David 63, 64, 65, 67, 92, 158 Harris, Julie 28 Harrison, Rex 54 Hawthorne, Nathaniel 151 The Blithedale Romance 151 Haywood, Ronald 91 Hedda Gabler 38–50 English-speaking stage Heddas 39–40 replays 40–50 Caroline Kava, Hedda Gabler 44 David Henderson, A Woman Scorned: . . . 45–6 Elizabeth Meriwether, Heddatron 46–7

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Jeff Whitty, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler 47–50 Maria Irene Fornes, The Summer at Gossensass 41–2 Philip Kan Gotanda, The Wind Cries Mary 42–4 Hegel, G. W. F. 4 Hemingway, Ernest 218 Henderson, David 45 Henley, Beth 171 Hepburn, Audrey 54 Herzog, Werner 18 Hickling, Alfred 165 Hiller, Wendy 57 Hitler, Adolf 32 Holbrook, Hal 201 Holcroft, Sam 163–4 Holden, William 201 Holm, Ian 68, 91 Hopkins, Anthony 28 Housman, A. E. 158 Howard, Leslie 57 Hughes, Langston 115 “A Dream Deferred” 115 humanism 2, 7, 44, 114, 128 Humphreys, Arthur L. 150 Ibsen, Henrik 1, 2, 4, 25–50, 51, 139, 170 A Doll’s House 1, 26–38, 51, 139, 170 Egyptian dance (Nora’s Doors) 31 Indian adaptation for dance and puppets 30–1 notable productions 27–31 replays 31–8 Turkish version (Nora Nure) 31 Hedda Gabler 38–50, 51, 139, 170 replays 40–50 “Notes for a Modern Tragedy” 26

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GENERAL INDEX

An Ideal Husband (film) 89 idealism 3, 4 Iizuka, Naomi 19–20 The Importance of Being Earnest 149–51 biographical replays 157–8 Gross Indecency:The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde 158 The Invention of Love 158 Oscar 158 Wilde: The Story of the First Modern Man 158 replays 152–7 Anne Croswell and Lee Pockriss, Earnest in Love 152 David Zippel, Earnest 157 Gerald Barry, Earnest 156–7 Mark Ravenhill, Handbag 153–6 Tom Stoppard, Travesties 152–3 The Independent 156 Instagram 8 International Ibsen conference (Skien) 31 Ionesco, Eugene 3, 135, 220, 221–8, 251 The Bald Soprano 221 The Chairs 221–5 replay 225–8 The Lesson 221, 223 Rhinoceros 223 Irish Repertory Theatre (New York) 152 Iscove, Robert 58 Isherwood, Charles 84, 197 Jackson, Glenda 39 Janos, Szasz 22 Jelinek, Elfriede 31–2 The Piano Teacher 32 John, Emma 92

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Jonson, Jan 244 Joyce, James 152 Kafka, Franz 105, 106 Metamorphosis 105 Kalb, Jonathan 16 Kalfaktorn 22 Kaufman, Moises 158 Kava, Caroline 44 Kazan, Elia 103 Kennedy, Scott Hamilton 205 Kent, Jonathan 64 Kinski, Klaus 18 Knipper, Olga 195 Kosmos, Kristen 183–4 Kuhn, Thomas 6, 7 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 6 Kushner, Tony 63, 64, 65, 66 Kwei-Armah, Kwame 129–33 Labonté, Maureen 185 Langella, Frank 81 Langtree, Lily 41 LeCompte, Elizabeth 177, 202, 203 awarded the OBIE 203 Leigh, Vivien 93, 214, 217 Lenin, Vladimir 152 Lerner, Alan Jay 54 Letts, Tracy 159 Levine, Wyatt R. 240 Littell, Philip 219–20 Littlewood, Joan 68 Loewe, Frederick 54 London’s Royal Court Theatre 20 Losey, David 28 Lyford, Trey 239 McCann Jackson, Devon 9 McFarlane, James 38 McGinley, Sean 241 MacLean, Paul D. 194

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GENERAL INDEX

McNeil, Claudia 119 Malle, Louis 167 Mamet, David 74, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 116, 159, 167 Glengarry Glen Ross 116 Man and Boy 81 Mann, Emily 159 Marber, Patrick 141–3 Margulies, Donald 107–9 Marker, Frederick J. 29, 140 Marker, Lise-Lone 29, 140 Marshall, Garry 58 Martin, Jane 175 Marx, Eleanor 27 Marx, Karl 4 materialism 2, 35, 100, 114 Matura, Mustapha 178–80 Mauckingbird Theatre Company 44 Maxwell, Dominic 165 Mercier, Vivien 229 Meriwether, Elizabeth 46 “meta” 9 Meyer, Michael 40, 147–8 Miller, Arthur 2, 86, 99–111, 113, 114, 203, 222 “About Theatre Language” 109 All My Sons 2, 99, 101 Death of a Salesman 84, 100–11, 115 intended title 107 Finishing the Picture 101 Resurrection Blues 101 The Ride down Mt. Morgan 101 Salesman in Beijing 101, 102 Miller, Susan 206–7 Mills, John 68 Miss Julie 138–9 replays 140–4 Ingmar Bergman, Julie 140–1 Patrick Marber, After Miss Julie 141–4

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Mitchell, Julian 158 Modine, Matthew 91 Monroe, Marilyn 94, 106 Morath, Inge 102 Morrison, Blake 182–3 Morrison, Theodore 158 Mother Courage and Her Children 62–72 replays 68–72 Joan Littlewood, Oh! What a Lovely War 68 Lynn Nottage, Ruined 69–72 Ntozake Shange, Mother Courage and Her Children 68–9 Nadeau, Michel 185–6 National Socialism 32 National Theatre in London 64 naturalism 113 Neill, Sam 168 Nelson, Richard 77, 78, 79 Nemiroff, Robert 116 New York Fringe Festival (2013) 247 New York Times 64, 111, 118, 158, 187, 197, 199, 214, 232 The New Yorker 73, 196 Newman, Paul 201 Nietzsche, Friedrich 13, 138 Nixon, Penelope 200 Thornton Wilder:A Life 200 Nora see A Doll’s House as Medea 30 played by Claire Bloom 28 played by Eleanor Marx 27 played by Jane Fonda 28 played by Julie Harris 28 played by Juliet Stevenson 28 “Nora” (short film on YouTube) 28

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GENERAL INDEX

Nora Nure 31 Norman, Marsha 219 Night Mother 219 Norris, Bruce 121–3, 125, 127, 128, 129 Northam, Jeremy 88, 89 Nottage, Lynn 69–72 Nunn, Trevor 39 Oberman, Tracy-Ann 180–1 The Observer 92, 165, 222 Oestreich, James 158 Olivier, Lawrence 68, 93, 94 O’Neill, Eugene 99, 115, 145, 203, 218 The Emperor Jones 203 The Iceman Cometh 218 A Long Day’s Journey into Night 99, 115, 145 Oresteia (by Aeschylus) 212 Orwell, George 8, 131 1984 131 “Politics and the English Language” 8 Osborne, John 95, 97, 222 The Entertainer 95 Look Back in Anger 95 Ostermeier, Thomas 30 Our Town 199–201 film versions 201 replays 201–9 Lanford Wilson, Book of Days 204–5 Scott Hamilton Kennedy, O.T.: Our Town 205–6 Susan Miller, It’s Our Town, Too 206–7 Will Eno, Middletown 207–9 The Wooster Group, Route 1 and 9 (The Last Act) 202–4 Ovid 52

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paradigm shift 5–9 Kuhnian theory of 6–7 Paris Review 227, 228 Parks, Suzan-Lori 99, 232 Topdog/Underdog 99, 232 Pascal, Gabriel 57 Peking People’s Art Theatre 101 Picard, Anna 156 Pidgeon, Rebecca 87 Pinter, Harold 55, 97, 232 The Dumb Waiter 232 Pirandello, Luigi 10 Six Characters in Search of an Author 10 Plato 201 Plummer, Christopher 28 Pockriss, Lee 152 Poitier, Sidney 119 postcolonialism 131 Power, Ben 10 Previn, Andre 219 Priestly, J. B. 97 Pygmalion 51–9 films 57–9 Mannequin, Matthew Gottlieb 57 The Opening of Misty Beethoven 59 Pretty Woman, Garry Marshall 58 The Princess Diaries, Garry Marshall 58–9 Santu Rangili 59 She’s All That, Robert Iscove 58 Warner Bros., USA, My Fair Lady 54–5 and the male gaze 52 replays 54–7 Loewe and Lerner, My Fair Lady 54 Simon Gray, Butley 55

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GENERAL INDEX

Willy Russell, Educating Rita 55–7 TV sitcoms 59 the Pygmalion myth 52 Rabe, David 193 A Raisin in the Sun 113–33 Baraka on 113 film 119 replays 116–33 Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park 121–9 George C. Wolfe, “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” 117–21 Kwame Kwei-Armah, Beneatha’s Place 129–33 Robert Nemiroff, Charlotte Zalatzberg, Raisin 116–17 The Rattigan Renaissance 81 Rattigan, Terence 2, 74, 81–97 The Browning Version 89–93 The Sleeping Prince 93–7 The Winslow Boy 74, 82–9 Ravenhill, Mark 153–6, 189 Rea, Stephen 241 realism 7 Rebeck, Theresa 36–7 Reddy, Helen 28 Redgrave, Michael 90, 93 Redgrave, Vanessa 68 Rich, Frank 69 Richard Mueller, Carl 14 Richards, Lloyd 114 Richardson, Ralph 68 Rigg, Diana 62, 64 Roberts, Julia 58 Robins, Elizabeth 41 Robinson, Michael 144, 145 Rorem, Ned 201 Ruhl, Sarah 159

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Rush, Geoffrey 151 Russell, Willy 55 Sadari Movement Laboratory 22 Samuels, Diane 180–1 Sartre, Jean-Paul 145, 146, 222 No Exit 145, 146 Savran, David 203 Scaachi, Gretta 91, 168 Schmidt, Henry J. 13, 14, 16, 21 Scott, Martha 201 Shakespeare, William 10, 237 Hamlet 10, 236, 237 King Lear 212 Shange, Ntozake 68 Shaw, Fiona 62, 64, 156 Shaw, George Bernard 2, 27, 51–9, 149, 204 Heartbreak House 51 Major Barbara 51 Pygmalion 51–9 Saint Joan 51, 204 Shaw, Peggy 216 Shaw Festival in Canada (2012) 81 Shepard, Sam 99, 232, 240–3 Buried Child 99 True West 99, 232, 243 Shuttleworth, Ian 165 Siedelman, Arthur Allan 187 Simon, Neil 188–90 Simpson, Michael 91 The Sleeping Prince 93–4 film 94 replay 94–5 My Week with Marilyn 94–5 Smith, Maggie 68, 151 Sobelle, Geoff 239 Sondheim, Stephen 220, 250 A Little Night Music 220 Sontag, Susan 231, 232 Stein, Gertrude 203

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GENERAL INDEX

Stephens, Simon 20–1 interview in TimeOut 21 Stevenson, Juliet 28 Stewart, Jon 51 Stoppard, Tom 152–3, 158, 159, 232, 236–8 Jumpers 232 Streep, Meryl 62, 64 A Streetcar Named Desire 212–13 film 214–15 Blue Jasmine (2013) 215 replays 215–20 Andre Previn and Philip Littell, A Streetcar Named Desire 219–20 Bette Bourne, Belle Reprieve 216–18 Christopher Durang, Desire, Desire, Desire 218–19 Rosalyn Drexler, Lobby 215–16 Strindberg, August 3, 29, 106, 135, 136, 137–48, 149, 211 The Confession of a Fool 138 The Dance of Death 144–6 replays 146–8 The Father 138, 148 Miss Julie 29, 138–9 replays 140–4 personal life of 137 surrealism 113 Suzman, Janet 39 Takarazuka Revue 152 Teachout, Terry 152 Tesich, Steve 238–9 Breaking Away 238 Eleni 238 Four Friends 238 The World According to Garp 238 Tesori, Jeanine 66 Thacker, David 28

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Thanatos 211 Theatre of the Absurd 113, 135, 225 Thomas, David 38 Thorton, Neal 169 The Three Sisters 170–1 film adaptations 187 Hannah and Her Sisters 187 The Sisters 187 replays 171–86 Beth Henley, Crimes of the Heart 171–2 Blake Morrison, We Are Three Sisters 182–3 Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman, Three Sisters on Hope Street 180–1 Jane Martin, Anton in Show Business 175–6 Kristen Kosmos, There There 183–5 Michel Nadeau, Lentement la beauté (And Slowly Beauty) 185–6 Mustapha Matura, Three Sisters, After Chekhov 178–80 Timberlake Wertenbaker, The Break of Day 174–5 Wendy Wasserstein, The Sisters Rosensweig 172–4 The Wooster Group, Brace Up! 177–8, 202 The Times 165 Transients Welcome 215 triune brain theory 194 Tynan, Kenneth 222 Uncle Vanya 160–1 film replays 167–70 Cold Souls 169 Country Life 168–9 Vanya on 42nd Street 166, 167

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opera 169 Sonya’s Story 169 replays 161–7 Alan Ayckbourn, Dear Uncle 165 Annie Baker, Uncle Vanya 165–6 Howard Barker, (Uncle) Vanya 161–3 Mallory Catlett, This Was the End 166–7 Sam Holcroft, Vanya 163–4 Venkataraman, Leela 30 Village Voice 203 Virgil 213 Vogel, Paula 110–11 The Voysey Inheritance 74 2006 production at the National Theatre in London 74 replay 74–5 David Mamet, The Voysey Inheritance 74–5 Waiting for Godot 229–33 films 246–7 Beckett Directs Beckett 246 The Cage 246 Weeds 246 parodies 247 Waiting for Waiting for Godot 247 prison productions 243–7 San Quentin production in 1957 243–4 Waiting for Godot at San Quentin (film) 244 replays 234–43 Waits, Tom 17 Walsh, Enda 230 Penelope 230

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Walters, Julie 56 Warner, David 28 Warner, Deborah 64 Wasserstein, Wendy 172–4 Waugh, Evelyn 47 A Handful of Dust 47 Weaver, Lois 216 Weigel, Helene 62 Wertenbaker, Timberlake 174 Wertheim, Albert 234 The Dramatic Art of Athol Fugard 234 Whitaker, Thomas 153 Whitty, Jeff 10, 47–9 The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler 10 Whoa Jack 22 Whorisky, Kate 69 Wilde, Oscar 3, 149–58 The Importance of Being Earnest 149–51 biographical replays 157–8 replays 152–7 Wilder, Thornton 3, 199–209 The Bridge of San Luis Rey 199 Hello, Dolly! 199 The Matchmaker 199 Our Town 199–201 replays 201–9 The Skin of Our Teeth 199 Williams, Tennessee 3, 84, 211–20 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 84, 116, 218 A Streetcar Named Desire 116, 212–13 film 214–15 replays 215–20 Wilson, August 114, 116 Radio Golf 116 Wilson, Lanford 204 Wilson, Robert 16

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GENERAL INDEX

The Winslow Boy 81, 82–9, 93 replay 85–9 David Mamet, The Winslow Boy in The Spanish Prisoner 85–9 Woldin, Judd 116 Wolfe, George C. 64, 65, 66, 117–21, 129 The Colored Museum 117, 120, 123 Woolf, Virginia 251 Between the Acts 251 Wordsworth, William 152 Woyzeck 13–22 exotic replays 22 films 22 notable productions 16–17 replays 17–22 Alban Berg, Wozzeck 17

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Naomi Iizuka, Skin 19–20 Punchdrunk Company, The Drowned Man 21–2 Simon Stephens, Motortown 20–1 Werner Herzog, Wozzeck 18 Woyzeck on the Highveld 18–19 Woyzeck as antihero 16 Wright, Nicholas 95–7 Rattigan’s Nijinsky 95–7 York, Susannah 68 Zalatzberg, Charlotte 116 Zhou, Raymond 102 Zippel, David 157 Zvonkov, Dmitry 185

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Toby Zinman is Professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she was awarded the prize for “Distinguished Teaching.” She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama; this is her fifth book. Zinman is also a widely published arts journalist and the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was recently named by American Theatre magazine, “one of the twelve most influential critics in America.”

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