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.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Whole of Humana

Charles Isherwood has this excellent summation in the NY Times on the six full-lengths produced at this year's Humana Festival in Louisville:

"Accusations that the American theater has gently accepted its cultural irrelevance and withdrawn into an aesthetic neverland were once again belied by the raised voices on the stages of the Actors Theater of Louisville, the host of this efficiently run, always convivial festival.... But if the playwrights showing new works at the festival earned marks in the category of social significance, their grades in other, more artistically relevant subjects were middling at best. Admiration for their desire to inspire audience interest in tangled social and political issues mingled with disappointment at their inability to channel these concerns into potent theatrical forms."

There's definitely a critical consensus on this year's crop. Michael Phillips in The Chicago Tribune calls for wholesale change for the Festival.

"The festival, a venerable and well-known showcase for new work, needs reorganization, a fresh angle, a renewed reason for being in a theatrical world very different from the one in which it began.... Oddly, the 2005 slate was among the most politically despairing in recent years. Why odd? Because the despair came to such weak theatrical ends. Surely the excesses of the current administration deserve a better counterpunch."

The only piece with a real potential commercial future seems to be Carlyle Brown's "Pure Confidence," but it didn't inspire great affection.