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.