I sometimes comment on articles and reviews over at the NYTimes. Here is a comment I made to an article by my favorite arbiter of taste, Mr. Charles Isherwood. The article was on Direct Address. (Mr. Isherwood does not enjoy it. Nor do I!) You can read the article here:
Here is my comment:
Here here, Mr. Isherwood! When I attend the theater, the last thing I want is for the play, the writer, or the actors to talk to me! People talk to me all the time, every day. But when I go to the theater, I expect to be able to relax, get comfortable, maybe take a nice nap, and be left alone!
The audacity of writers who feel they can use just any narrative technique when they write a play! What is the theater coming to? There are clear rules on how this sort of thing is properly done. Deviation is disgrace–and the desire for deviation represents the deviation of desire! Speaking of which, I’m surprised Mr. Isherwood gave a pass to Wilder and Williams–the former is much too surreal, and the latter is much too erotically sensationalist to be taken seriously (and really, who talks like a character in a Williams play?) but perhaps Mr. Isherwood was just being kind. Well! Kindness is not what is called for–from strangers or from critics! We need more discipline! And while I applaud Mr. Isherwood for articulating the rules our more unruly artists should naturally follow, I fear he is unwilling to go further. We need more rules in the arts! Not less!
But regardless: bravo, Mr. Isherwood, bravo! Please keep directing your shining and piercing critical gaze (and wit!) into the dark corners of theatrical practice. You are doing us all a great service in sweeping out the muck with your penetrating insights. Your light is a beacon to all right-thinking patrons of the theater. What this broken world needs now more than ever is more theater critics (like you)!
P.S.: I am afraid you are quite incorrect regarding Chekhov. But you are correct in your implication that no serious contenders for the title of greatest modern playwright (a coveted and important title, I am sure!) have arisen since the turn of the 20th Century. Our culture is in a state of collapse! Where are the playwrights who will pick up the sputtering torch of drama clearly dropped in the 19th Century?
I hope you agree!