The Playgoer: Teasing "Relevance"

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Teasing "Relevance"

SF critic/blogger Chloe Veltman makes the valuable point that the mere fact that a play might seems to be "about" politics does not make it a "political play." A common mistake in finding excuses to program the same old classic chestnuts.

It's an election year, and theatre companies are tripping over themselves to put on plays with political content.

One such play, Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, is currently receiving a revival at the California Shakespeare Theater. Wilde's potent 1895 social comedy is, at least on the surface, an ideal kind of election year play. Telling the story of a politically-ambitious woman's attempt to bring down an up-and-coming statesman by exposing a dirty secret from his past, the work satirizes the sordid deals that underpin many political careers, showing us that life in Victorian England isn't so very different from American culture today.

...It leaves us thoroughly entertained and not a little bemused. There are no great and worthy truths about the democratic process to take home from the production. Only a sense of cleverly-crafted confusion about the way the world works, of which both Wilde and Lord Goring would have approved.
Then again, maybe a more daring production might work against Wilde and bring out political resonances he never could have imagine?

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