Brains Turned by Reading

Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s career falls right in-between Shakespeare’s and Oscar Wilde’s, so if you know Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest, you’ll already have a decent sense of The Rivals: Captain Jack Absolute (Cary Donaldson), the wealthy son of Sir Anthony Absolute (Dan Daily), has fallen in love with Lydia Languish (Jessica Love).  But Lydia, an heiress herself, is obsessed with books with titles like The Fatal Connexion and The Mistakes of the Heart.  She dreams of spurning her inheritance for a man unworthy of her rank, a man who would prove anathema to her aunt and guardian Mrs. Malaprop (Carol Schultz)—whose name is the source of the word, not the other way around. Thus, Jack must “make love” to her as Ensign Beverley, a man whose poverty she can fetishize with the help of her sensation novels.  “All this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read,” mourns Sir Anthony.  “Had I a thousand daughters, by Heaven! I’d as soon have taught them the black art as their alphabet!” Continue reading “Brains Turned by Reading”

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Thrown into Outer Darkness

Richard Dresser’s Below the Belt is set in an unnamed location and inside a factory that manufactures an unknown product; but unlike, say, the “little nameless object” assembled by the Newsome family in Henry James’ The Ambassadors, Mr. Dresser’s company has mostly insidious overtones.  Globalization and colonialism are in the air, even if they are never mentioned.  Perhaps the military-industrial complex is involved.  But without a doubt, there are creatures that have broken into the compound, creatures that have gone unacknowledged by those on top, who bury any human or safety considerations under an avalanche of red tape and corporate jargon.  Zeroing in on a three-person cast, Below the Belt follows the “checkers” working for the company: Merkin (Cecelia Frontero), the petty boss who’s looking to move to Spain or at least find some sycophantic employees, Hanrahan (Andrew Van Dusen), a middle manager who defends his tiny pleasures like Cerberus guarding the underworld, and Dobbitt (Monroe Robertson), a new recruit who is only looking to ingratiate himself with the others. Continue reading “Thrown into Outer Darkness”

Artificial Joys or Sorrows

When James Baldwin published Giovanni’s Room in 1956, nobody knew what to make of it.  After his debut novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Baldwin was hailed as The Next Voice of Black America.  How to read, then, its follow up, which details the lives of gay, white expatriates in Paris?  It wasn’t until the 1980s and the rise of queer studies that Giovanni’s Room was canonized, largely because critics were finally able to categorize it: it was a Gay Novel. Continue reading “Artificial Joys or Sorrows”