The Actors Theater of Louisville's 10th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays--the most important showcase in the American theater--is off and running, headed for a big Visitors' Weekend March 21-23.
The visitors grow more numerous every year, looking for another "Gin Game" or "Crimes of the Heart," two scripts that came to national attention via Louisville.
This year there's a play from Los Angeles. It's John Steppling's dark drama of two burned-out surfers, "The Shaper," presented last season by L.A. Theatre Works.
Other plays are set all over the United States. Constance Congdon's "No Mercy" happens in New Mexico; Claudia Reilley's "Astronauts" in Forest Hills, Long Island; Mary Gallagher's "How to Say Goodbye" in Cleveland; Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller's "Smitty's News" in Camden, N.J. Larry Larson and Levi Lee's "Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends" happens in an unlocalized "church sanctuary"--but chances are it's in the South.
None of the plays is set in a Manhattan penthouse. We are making progress.
Attacking the classics in Athens:
Berlin's Schaunbuehne am Lehniner Platz presented its nine-hour version of Aeschylus' "Oresteia" trilogy in a marble quarry at the foot of Mt. Parnes.
The critic for the daily Vima liked director Peter Stein's decision not to transform the Furies into the benevolent Eumenides in the last play, as in the original. He praised Stein's courage in "deliberately calling into question the tragedy's religious dimension--a dimension that today's audience has lost."
Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude" also came up for reinterpretation in a production at the Bretania Theatre. The director cut away almost all of the interior monologues.
"The result was a much faster-paced play which still managed to tell the whole story," reports Eugene K. Hanson in the Eugene O'Neill Newsletter. "It was not Reader's Digest at its worst, but the comparison is inescapable."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK. Lyn Gardner, interviewing playwright Edward Bond in London's City Limits Magazine: "He is smaller and lighter than I expected. But then one's heroes are often less substantial in the flesh."