Archive for July 2013


I placed the climactic sex scene in the house of a friend of mine in Baltimore’s Federal Hill. I knew exactly, from well before I wrote it, what the characters would do, and what they would say — and what music I wanted playing when, later on, someone made a movie of it.

Star-Crossed Revivals

That is the ultimate temptation inherent in turning classic plays into vehicles for screen stars. Those stars pull in audiences filled with the uninitiated, with people who fundamentally do not know how to watch a play, and who are too easily satisfied. Commercial success can be achieved with something half-baked. And half-baked seems to be more the norm than the exception with the successes that do result. Classic plays tend to require directorial shaping; stars tend to tempt directors to slack off. It’s not a good thing.

IN THE HEIGHTS at Toby’s – Energetic But Inaudible

Knowing going in what it means for someone to say she comes from La Vibora or from Vega Alta (things I had to look up after the fact) or what kind of comestible a mamey might be (ditto), or what it means to yell ‘Wepa!’ (ditto again) would be helpful in this rap-centered and inaudible production. While all of us should constantly be looking to broaden our horizons, as much help as possible should be extended to make the proceedings as comprehensible as possible for Anglo newbies. And sadly, barring a half-page insert of explanation in the program, that kind of help was in scant evidence in Toby’s new production.

Poetic, Exotic, Amoral, and Fascinating: Oscar Wilde’s SALOME at SCENA

This is poetry, poetry for the mind to sink into and be overwhelmed. To paraphrase Mae West, goodness has nothing to do with it. Nor does badness. It comes from some amoral place in Wilde’s psyche and appeals to that place in ours.

Old Hat But Interesting: Shepard’s HEARTLESS at Shepherdstown’s CATF

I am not sure what Shepard is doing in Shepherdstown. The Contemporary American Theater Festival held there is dedicated to performing ‘new American plays.’ There’s nothing new to me about Sam Shepard’s play Heartless; it seems distinctly old hat. I went back to a review I wrote of one of his plays for my college newspaper in 1970, and a number of the things I wrote about that play (The Holy Ghostly) could be said about Heartless. I commented how characters migrate into each other, how they become composites of various characters, how there is no predictable logic to their interactions, and how the drama loses the sense of being story-telling about distinct persons. I compared what Shepard did to abstract painting. And, on the evidence of Heartless, it’s still true.

Likeable Frenemies in St. Germain’s SCOTT AND HEM at CATF

‘Every good story’s a war story,’ says a character in Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah, premiering at the Contemporary American Theater Festival. That certainly seems to be playwright Mark St. Germain’s approach in imagining a 1937 encounter between writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Of Dual Citizenship and Pulled Rugs: MODERN TERRORISM at CATF

All of them, then, have one foot in Muslim culture and one in the Western culture Muslim terrorists affect to despise, and that is part of the point author Jon Kern is making about them. Whether they like it or not, they are dual citizens. What enrages them is also a part of them, and it means that in waging war on Americans, they are also waging war on themselves.

Art, Life, and the Meaning of It All Up For Discussion – and Combat – in H2O at CATF

H2O will leave you dealing not only with your feelings about the characters, but also reconsidering art, life, and The Meaning of It All.

Satan from Within: A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World at Contemporary American Theater Festival

If George Bernard Shaw had taken it into his head to write a sequel to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, with an assist from William Shakespeare, he might have come up with something much like Liz Duffy Adams’s A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World.

Thurgood, Perry, and the Long-Ago Thirties

Thurgood Marshall’s 1930s world formed by the separate but equal doctrine, and Perry Mason’s fictional 1930s world in which lawyer ethics were still optional, seem very strange. What will our world seem like in 80 years?