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Criticism of 'Methuselah' Overlooks Its Worthiness

March 17, 1997|PETER ELLENSTEIN | Peter Ellenstein is producing director of L.A. Repertory Co

I take issue with Laurie Winer's review of Los Angeles Repertory Co.'s production of George Bernard Shaw's magnum opus "Back to Methuselah" ("It's Long, It's Loopy, It's Shaw," Calendar, March 11). What she fails to say is that this is likely the only chance for people to see a fully realized production of "Methuselah."

There is so much in the production that is wonderful, vintage Shaw, performed by an excellent troupe of actors, that it would be a shame if this lost theatrical treasure isn't seen by anyone interested in the history of theater, religion and Western thought simply because we opened a few days early and hadn't the foresight to postpone the reviewers a couple of days.

I take full responsibility for the elements of the production (mostly technical) that were not yet ready for opening night. But we have continued to work on it. Now that the show has had a few performances to settle in, we have cut more than half-hour off the running time. The technical miscues have been fixed and the audiences are giving us standing ovations.

Shaw is arguably one of the two or three greatest English-language playwrights. He was also one of the great minds of the last hundred years. I was surprised by Winer's dismissal of Shaw's ideas as "loopy."

It was distressing that the review's only mention of designer Doug Spesert's 50 remarkable costumes, which have been swooned at by nearly every audience member, was a negative dig at one costume, and she failed to mention Esquire Jauchem's imposingly beautiful set at all.

Regardless of the opening night troubles, this is a play of ideas, intended to make people think. Instead of concentrating on the negative aspects of a problem-plagued opening night, whose errors have been corrected in the running, she would better serve her audience to tell them that if they like Shaw, they will like "Methuselah."

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