The Playgoer: Public on a Roll?

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Public on a Roll?

As perhaps a counterweight to the sudden crisis over the Delacorte...the Sun's David Blum offers a downright encomium for Oskar Eustis for his past season at the Public, crediting particularly the recent summer offerings of Passing Strange and the R&J in the park with reviving hopes for the institution as a whole. I saw neither myself, but I did note how the buzz for both was unusually strong. And the upcoming season tempts me enough to click and subscribe myself for the first time.

Blum might rustle some feathers for his pointed criticisms of George Wolfe's tenure, blaming him for starfucking and even lack of "diversity"--that is, not "maintaining the diversity and cacophony of its offerings under Mr. Papp." Well, the Wolfe years were spotty and, of course, it'll always be hard for him to live down the ill-conceived On the Town and Wild Party B'way transfers (whatever the merits of those shows). But I do think he offered diversity in many ways.

However, Blum's account of an ill-fated Wolfe-LaBute collaboration hits the mark:

As I watched Mr. Wolfe's 2005 mounting of "This Is How It Goes," the star-studded production of Neil LaBute's then-latest mediocre meditation on the evils that men do, I wondered if its title stood more as metaphor than anything else. This is how it goes when theater companies get desperate: The Public Theater needed Ben Stiller and Amanda Peet to draw people in to its meager offering, and the movie stars needed the LaBute name to justify their presence on a tiny off-Broadway stage, even one as once celebrated as the Public's Anspacher Theater. The work of overrated playwrights wasn't going to turn things around for a company that had once so dominated the New York cultural scene. With productions like that, it seemed possible that the Public Theater might never recapture its original spirit, and would instead shovel the ill-considered work of Mr. LaBute — who, after a rousing start to his career, has lately taken to writing bad plays with alarming frequency — at subscribers too weary to complain.

Then again, the Eustis administration did bring us Wrecks.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Read the last sentence of that David Blum piece. I don't think he understands what "shuffle off that mortal coil" means.

Anonymous said...

That last sentence is embarrassing.

Edward Einhorn said...

Watch the American Theater Wing interview with Artistic Directors http://www.americantheatrewing.org/seminars/. A good look at what Oscar Eustis has to say, which I find very encouraging. Also, I saw R&J in the park, and I agree completely with the article--the first fully satisfying Shakespeare in the Park I've seen. And as a 365 Plays/365 Days participant, I do feel like there is a new commitment to incorporate more of the downtown world into the work there.

Edward Einhorn

Anonymous said...

LOL! The Public is dead... long live the Public (and its mortal coil)!!

Anonymous said...

Edward Einhorn? Watch out! He's gonna sue!

Edward Einhorn said...

I find that an oddly hostile (anonymous?) comment to appear after my posting regarding the Public. It's true that I was involved in a lawsuit a while ago regarding a play I was never paid for that also included some copyright issues. That suit was resolved and I was paid. But that lawsuit was a relatively small incident in my larger writing/directing career and certainly has no relevance to this issue.

The Playgoer said...

I guess I skimmed the piece so fast I didn't notice that last sentence. How odd. Either Blum has a new reading of Hamlet's line or he's saying the Public has died!

Let me also express my bemusement over the anti-Einhorn comment. I too remember the directors-rights lawsuit issue, but hardly relevant to this. Sorry, Ed, but I guess you're used to some playwrights being mad at you by now...

But let's please not turn this comments section into another debate over creative copyright. If you want to do so on YOUR blog, you can put a link here. Otherwise I'll delete off-topic stuff

Anonymous said...

I assumed Blum meant the shuffling off the Wolfe era, and the birth of the Eustis era. What else could it have meant? The guy obviously knows a lot about theatre. I don't agree with him about Wolfe as a theatre director, but it was a smart analysis of what went wrong at the Public. Wolfe drove audiences away, and Eustis is bringing them back. What good is theatre without an audience?

Nancy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Playgoer said...

"Nancy"--sorry, but as I clearly stated above my policy is to delete off-topic comments, whatever the subject.

Nancy said...

I think I should have a right to respond to Einhorn's comments about the lawsuit, which were also not on-topic.

And it was the most interesting comment on the thread.

Seems pretty odd to be so strict about your comments on a personal blog - it isn't like you're innundated with comments. Well I guess that's going to be deleted too.

Nevermind, I'll comment about this thread on my own blog. Einhorn cannot be allowed to spread his usual disinformation.