Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective

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Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Sheridan Serendipity

Why does it always happen that theatres produce similar plays around the same time? A couple of years ago, everyone was doing the Greeks. That was followed by articles about how Greek tragedies reflected on something very post-9/11. OK, maybe that's true.

So how to explain the sudden serendipity of Richard Brinsley Sheridan revivals on both coasts? "The Rivals" has just opened at Lincoln Center in NY, directed by former Hartford Stage artistic director Mark Lamos, while at the Mark Taper in Los Angeles, Brian Bedford stages "The School for Scandal." That latter is getting better reviews, but I must admit to great fondness for "The Rivals" having played a small role in a college production many moons ago.

Sheridan wrote in the last quarter of the 18th Century, and his plays fall directly in between the Restoration comedies of manners from folks like William Congreve (a hundred years earlier) and the Victorian comedies of manners from Oscar Wilde (a hundred years later).

They're wonderful plays, and aside from some dusty language, they're really quite contemporary in tone. I've always thought today's Americans could recognize themselves more in Sheridan than in Moliere.

Still, it would be completely pretentious to suggest that I have any insight into why, or whether, now is a particularly Sheridanian moment. Let's just chalk it up to coincidence, enjoy, and hope we don't have to wait too long for some more.