May 9, 2006

Meme Me

What Parabasis calls "the Teachout meme" has picked up some steam. It started with Terry Teachout essentially dismissing D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation as a historically important work that did its job for its time but isn't worth revisiting, and now there are several posts on Parabasis nominating films that should similarly be retired (Dazed and Confused? C'mon, man). As a former silent film buff myself, I've often wondered about this, too; how well does my youthful enthusiasm for Chaplin and Keaton really hold up? I've been almost afraid to revisit City Lights and The General for fear they won't live up to my sweet memory.

But I digress. Since this is nominally a theater-related blog, and so are About Last Night and Parabasis, I wondered: Why not apply the meme to plays? Are there plays we think aren't worth revisiting? (Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, anyone?) And then I recalled that my former colleague at Back Stage West, the estimable Scott Proudfit, once polled all the critics who wrote for the paper on just this question (and also what plays they'd like to see on the West Coast). I've posted the whole story here (and no, I don't mind that my filetrees are public there, thanks for asking). But I've taken the liberty of pasting the lists below. Keep in mind this is nearly four years old and was compiled from critics who covered West Coast theater for BSW at the time. I could make many snarky comments in hindsight, but I think they speak for themselves.

The following shows are among those plays that, as far as we're concerned, can be retired permanently.

Book musicals: Annie, Babes in Arms, Brigadoon, 42nd Street, Grease!, Happy End, Hello, Dolly!, Paint Your Wagon, Miss Saigon, On the Twentieth Century, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (come to think of it, any stage version of a musical film). Musical revues/ anthologies/etc.: Blame It on the Movies, Fosse, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The 1940s Radio Hour, any revues of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, or Noël Coward. Webber musicals (apparently our critics felt he deserved his own category): Evita, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Phantom of the Opera. Hoary chestnuts: Arsenic and Old Lace, Charley's Aunt, The Time of Your Life, 12 Angry Men. Contemporary chestnuts: The Boys Next Door, Bus Stop, Butterflies Are Free, Driving Miss Daisy, Escape From Happiness, Fortinbras, The Gin Game, A Life in the Theatre, Love Letters, On Golden Pond, Tracers, Whose Life Is It Anyway? Recent perennials: Art, Eastern Standard, Collected Stories, Fully Committed, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Two Rooms. Stunts/novelties: The Compleat Works of Shakespeare Abrgd., one-word specialty shows (Swing!, Blast!, Stomp!, Aeros, etc.). Neil Simon (again apparently deserving of his own category): Barefoot in the Park, California Suite, Come Blow Your Horn. Little seen, and keep it that way: Corpus Christi, Tennessee Williams' American Blues. Any "original comedy" about advertising, Hollywood, agents, politics, business or telemarketing, or any "searing drama" about any form of addiction, abuse, disability, or dysfunction. Pretty much any evening of one-acts.


The following shows are great, but give them a break for a year or four.

Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Merchant of Venice. Classics: All My Sons, Antigone, Blood Wedding, The Cherry Orchard, Doctor Faustus, The Glass Menagerie, The Importance of Being Earnest, Our Town, The Servant of Two Masters, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tartuffe, Uncle Vanya, The Crucible. Musicals: Annie Get Your Gun, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret, Carousel, A Chorus Line, The Fantasticks, Fiddler on the Roof, Forever Plaid, Godspell, Hair, The King and I, Mamma Mia!, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, The Threepenny Opera. Played-out recent plays: All in the Timing, Dinner With Friends, Master Harold… and the Boys, Old Wicked Songs, Over the River and Through the Woods, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Sisters Rosensweig, Skylight, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, Sylvia. Contemporary chestnuts: American Buffalo, Bent, Burn This, Equus, Glengarry Glen Ross, Golden Boy, The Hostage, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Maids, Marat/Sade, Noises Off, Oleanna, Savage in Limbo. Perennials: A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Odd Couple, Private Lives, You Can't Take It With You. Sam Shepard: Fool for Love, True West. Nun novelties: Late-Nite Catechism, Nunsense.


The following shows are ones we'd love to review ASAP. We've even provided certain playwrights' names to make it easier.

Welcome to L.A.: Anton in Show Business (Jane Martin), Be Aggressive (Annie Weisman), Betty's Summer Vacation (Christopher Durang), Fuddy Meers (David Lindsay-Abaire), Killer Joe (Tracy Letts), Passion (Lapine/Sondheim), Polaroid Stories (Naomi Iizuka), Shakespeare's R&J (Joe Calarco), Stop Kiss (Diana Son), Urinetown, the Musical, The Young Man From Atlanta (Horton Foote). For rescue and rediscovery: Adaptation/Next (Elaine May & Terrence McNally), Alice's Adventures Underground (Christopher Hampton), The Art of Dining (Tina Howe), The Bundle (Edward Bond), The Colored Museum (George C. Wolfe), The Comedians (Trevor Griffiths), The Chalk Garden (Enid Bagnold), Dear World (Jerry Herman), The Entertainer (John Osborne), Les Blancs (Lorraine Hansberry), Purlie Victorious (Ossie Davis), The Revengers' Comedies (Alan Ayckbourn), Safety (Sarah Morton), Three Postcards (Craig Lucas & Craig Carnelia), Thrillsville (Sarah Morton), Tom Cobb (W. S. Gilbert), Vampire (Snoo Wilson), Vilna's Got a Golem (Ernest Joselevitz), Visit to a Small Planet (Gore Vidal), The Waltz Invention (Vladimir Nabokov). Overdue revivals, classical division: Faust (Marlowe), Peer Gynt, She Stoops To Conquer. Overdue revivals, contemporary division: Awake and Sing, Cavalcade, The Country Girl, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Murder in the Cathedral, The Petrified Forest, Spring Awakening, Torch Song Trilogy, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, The Visit, Woyzeck, Zoot Suit. Overdue revivals, musical division: Applause, Boy Meets Boy, Goblin Market, Zorba. Bring 'em back, we can't get enough: The Adding Machine, Counsellor-at-Law, Design for Living, The Duchess of Malfi (as adapted by Brecht and Auden), Endgame, Habeus Corpus, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Homecoming, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Memorandum (Vaclav Havel), Rhinoceros, Sweeney Todd, Volpone. Edward Albee: The Play About the Baby, Seascape, Tiny Alice, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Bertolt Brecht: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Galileo, The Good Person of Setzuan, In the Jungle of the Cities, Mother Courage, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Caryl Churchill: Blue Heart, Hot Fudge, Serious Money, Vinegar Tom. Jean Genet: The Blacks, The Screens. Erik Ehn: anything. Lillian Hellman: anything. Suzan Lori-Parks: anything. Charles Mee: Big Love, Summertime. Eugene O'Neill: Desire Under the Elms, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Mourning Becomes Electra, Strange Interlude. Luigi Pirandello: Enrico IV, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Shakespeare: Anthony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Henry IV Part I (in fact, most of the histories), King John, Pericles, Richard II, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, The Winter's Tale. George Bernard Shaw: Heartbreak House, Man and Superman, Pygmalion, Saint Joan. Wallace Shawn: Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Designated Mourner, The Fever, Marie and Bruce. Tom Stoppard: Arcadia, Hapgood, The Invention of Love, Jumpers, The Real Thing, Travesties. August Strindberg: A Dream Play, The Ghost Sonata, Miss Julie. Mac Wellman: anything.

I should note, in a grain-of-salt spirit, that within a year of this list's appearance I was involved as a musician in fine productions of Vanya and Twelfth Night (both in the "sit on it" category), and I did review several in that column, and favorably (even Midsummer, believe it or not.

1 comment:

Les Spindle said...

Wow. Nothing like catching a blooper years later. In the Back Stage West list of old shows needing a rest (or permanent retirement), whoever supplied the parenthetical comment following a mention of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"--calling for nixing any stage version of a musical film-- was clealry ignorant that the 1964 Debbie Reynolds/Harve Presnell film tuner was definitely not an original screen musical later brought to the stage, a la "Singin' in the Rain" or "mary Poppins." The film was indeed a celluloid adaptation of Meredith Willson's 1960 stage tuner of the same name starring Tammy Grimes and Harve Presnell (the first "Titanic" musical).