Pedro Calderon de la Barca is often called "the Spanish Shakespeare". His play, "Life is a Dream", is enjoying a superb production at SIU Edwardsville. This play, from 1635, is one of the brightest gems of the Golden Age of Spanish Drama. I thank the gods for university theatres; they seem the only producers who have the desire and the ability to present such classical wonders.
How often have you seen a modern play that was not written in America or England? Most St. Louis companies produce them rarely or never. How can we not be provincial in our outlook if we close our eyes and ears to most of the world? Phillip Boehm's Upstream Theater is a precious bulwark against that provincialism: they do only international plays. And they do them very well.
I went to "Blue Man Group" at the Peabody last night and my eyes, my ears, my intelligence, my taste and my patience were all violently assaulted. This sort of production is aimed at audiences who won't be satisfied unless they're left staggering out the doors, reeling from sensory overload.
The Webster Conservatory has mounted a simply terrific "Into the Woods"! I always say that your best bang for the buck in entertainment comes from university theatres—and the Conservatory is right at the top of my list when it comes to unfailingly excellent musical theatre.
What can one make of "Hamlet"? Last night I learned that if someone is very intelligent and gifted she can "Make Hamlet" into a refreshing, gripping delight.
It's been two-and-a-half years since Deanna Jent's remarkable play, "Falling", premiered at the Mustard Seed Theatre. This has been a busy time for Ms. Jent and her play. An off-Broadway production in 2012 was met with glowing reviews (and a nomination for a Drama Desk Award for "Outstanding Play"). "Falling" was produced in Los Angeles in 2013 and is appearing all over the country this year. Next year Brazil!
When I went to grad school at the University of Leeds in England—way back in 1960—some of the theatre folks there still told tales of a "crazy Nigerian" student who used to hang by his heels at cast parties. Well, that crazy Nigerian was Wole Soyinka and he went on to become one of Africa's greatest playwrights and novelists. In 1986 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Webster Conservatory has revived Craig Lucas’ fantastical little comedy, "Reckless", from 1983. We find Rachel, a pretty young wife and mother, experiencing an attack of euphoria on Christmas Eve. Rachel (as more than one critic has said) is something of a Candide in her irrepressibly optimistic attitude toward life. But she’s blended with a large dose of June Cleaver (for those of you old enough to remember “Leave it to Beaver”). She’s blissful in her conventional domestic role.
Harold Pinter is one of the few playwrights who have become adjectives: you know, like “Shakespearean”, “Shavian”, “Chekhovian”, “Brechtian”. We so easily say “Pinteresque” to convey that sense of muted menace seeping through the cracks of mundane detail in his dialogue. In Pinter the pauses seem to carry far weightier meaning than the words themselves.
"Never Mind the Why and Wherefore" is still merrily dancing and skipping in my ear. Will I ever get it out? Why in the world would I want to?