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The Theater Lives

March 11, 2000

I know it is screamingly incorrect politically, but my reaction to seeing August Wilson's "Jitney" at the Mark Taper Forum was to wish that I was black . . . er . . . African American.

If theater is a reflection of culture, the black culture represented in Wilson's play is alive and vital. In contrast, the white culture, if it is represented in Taper plays like "The Dinner Party," "Tongue of a Bird" and "How I Learned to Drive," is whiny, small-minded and anemic.

At the conclusion of the latter plays, the audience applauded politely and wandered lethargically away, leaving those of us who love the theater to bewail its imminent demise. In contrast, at the end of "Jitney," the audience rose up as one and thundered. Wilson's opposition to "colorblind casting" is certainly understandable. I don't think that John Ritter would have worked in "Jitney."

Although Michael Phillips did manage a hint of enthusiasm in his review, he did his usual careful analyzing, which came off as belittling ("A 'Jitney' Ride Through Life," Feb. 4). He seems like an intelligent fellow, but sometimes I long to have a reviewer rise up and shout, "Hooray! The American theater is alive!" Which it is, thanks to August Wilson.

VICTORIA E. THOMPSON

Sherman Oaks

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