The Playgoer: Bizarro World Steppenwolf

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bizarro World Steppenwolf

Yay for Chris Jones for calling out mass media on yet another dumbing down of professional theatre:

Despite its Chicago setting, the CBS political drama "The Good Wife" films in New York. Just as well. After Tuesday night's snobby and dazzlingly ignorant slam of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the local arts and cultural community would have run the show out of town.
The first scene of Tuesday's episode, penned by Robert and Michelle King, was set at a fundraiser in a hotel ballroom. "And now as dinner is served," says the hostess, "Steppenwolf Theatre will entertain us with scenes from their hit play, 'The Cow With No Country.'"

Yeah, that's credible. Steppenwolf does bits of its shows in hotel ballrooms all the time. Just as the beef is served.

And with that introduction, a motley and pathetic little group of ragamuffin actors popped out, replete with their crude puppet-cow and all, and do some kind of whacked-out performance that lands somewhere between moronic Medieval drama, pantomime, Bertolt Brecht, "War Horse" and "Jack and the Beanstalk." English accents and all. We kid you not. What has that got to do with Steppenwolf?
Indeed the fact that the show isn't really a Chicago show despite ostensibly being set there might explain it.  Have any of the writers actually been to Steppenwolf? Or is it just the only name they could think of? Anyone hip to the company at all would know that the right way to spoof it would be two guys in t-shirts and jeans throwing each other against rubber walls and screaming obscenities!

But the insult is not just to Steppenwolf, of course, but all professional theatre.  Yet again what we get has nothing to do with the artform as currently practiced, but instead is all about college theatre, really.  Obviously the Good Wife writers need to get over whatever grudges they still bear against those pretentious "drama fags" in school who gave them the cold shoulder.

It makes the other recent theatrical tribute on The Office seem downright sophisticated. Which it was, kinda.  And at least that explicitly was about Community Theatre.

Of course neither hold a candle to Slings and Arrows--now streaming on Netflix!  But of course, that was Canadian TV...

5 comments:

Tom Loughlin said...

Ah. I see. It's OK to slam college theatre. Got it.

The Playgoer said...

Well not exactly what I meant to say... but fair enough.

I should have said: "a more apt spoof of bad college theatre."

Anonymous said...

Seems to me if this were done to Procter and Gamble, a rival network, or a social charity, the show might have a lawsuit on its hands.

I'm not litigious, but this looks like it could be "defamation." Does Steppenwolf have a case?

JBranch said...

Despite impressive recent evidence, mainly on cable, my rule of thumb for American TV is still: don't be surprised if you see something dumb; be surprised if you don't.

If you want TV about theater, Slings & Arrows is the way to go. As Playgoer has observed more than once.

Dave said...

Personally, I think this has less to do with Steppenwolf or regional theatre and more to do with parodying the oh-so-ripe-for-ridicule "War Horse."

The puppet work was incredible, but the story itself seemed calculated to make teenage girls cry in anguish.