The Top Ten Plays of 2012

This was a year of reinterpretation: only four of the plays on this list are new, and of those four, one is a rewriting of a classic American play, another a take on a ‘seventies American sitcom, and a third a celebration of a great (but dead) British playwright.  In fact, only Tribes, which clocks in at Number 10, is wholly “new.”  Still, these are ideal revivals, featuring smart directors and first-rate casts.  Some, like ‘Tis Pity, are radically reimagined, and others, like Death of a Salesman, stylistically evoke the original productions; all are emotionally and intellectually faithful to the source material.  Unfortunately, due to unconscionable actions on the part of the copyright holders of Three’s Company3C, one of the year’s best, will likely never be seen again. Continue reading “The Top Ten Plays of 2012”

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What Was He Doing—Down in the Reeds By the River?

About halfway through Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan, an elderly babysitter, Polly (Joyce Van Patten), says to one of her former children, Jamie (Jeremy Strong), “Look at you.  You’re so old.  You have wrinkles here and here.”  “It’s not polite to point out a gentleman’s wrinkles,” Jamie replies, somewhat good-naturedly.  It’s a small, almost disposable moment, but epitomizes the entire play.  Ms. Herzog is obsessed with bodies—with how they change, with how we will them to change, and with how damage done to them, long healed, can come back to emotionally drown us. Continue reading “What Was He Doing—Down in the Reeds By the River?”

Stay Golden, Joey Boy

The script for Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy reads like the third movie you would see at a Film Forum triple feature, like one of those early, sixty-five minute talkies with bad sound and stock characters.  People say things like “Use your noodle,” “cock-eyed gutter rat,” and “phonus bolonus” without a trace of irony, which makes it pretty difficult to take seriously. Continue reading “Stay Golden, Joey Boy”

Who Killed David Mamet? It Was You and Me.

Critics are having a blast beating David Mamet’s newest play, The Anarchist, to a pulp, but something about this strikes me as culturally self-mutilating.  Of course, we have a history of snubbing our greatest playwrights.  How often do we see a Broadway revival of Williams that is not Streetcar or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?  Of Albee that is not Virginia Woolf?  Of Shepard that is not True West or Buried Child?  By my count, there are twenty-two by Miller that have never even made it to the Great White Way.  We love our masterpieces, our canonized plays, but we rarely venture into unknown or more challenging territory.  Better the disposable, the shallow, and the celebrity-ridden than an interesting if imperfect new work by one of our few living masters.  There is an unattractive glee in this conspiratorial turn against Mamet—I suspect it has something to do with his recent party swapping—that makes us all come out looking bad.  A brief glance at Time Out London reveals that this week the city has its choice of three Shakespearean revivals.  They know how to treat their own over there.  We, on the other hand, lionize two hours and fifteen minutes of puerile humor while writing The Anarchist into an early grave. Continue reading “Who Killed David Mamet? It Was You and Me.”