The Playgoer: "Stuff" DOESN'T Happen in NY

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Stuff" DOESN'T Happen in NY

While Broadway delusionally feted itself with its barely watched Tony awards... a quiet US premiere opened on the other side of the continent, in that supposed cultural wasteland, Los Angeles, of David Hare's Stuff Happens. In case you don't follow the London scene, Stuff is an epic play denouncing the war in Iraq. Its characters are Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, etc. Their real names, not fictionalized, and often quoted verbatim. This play opened at the Royal National Theatre last fall. The reviews were mixed, and even some liberals don't go for Hare's heady preaching and unsubtle polemics.

But can you imagine any theatre in New York (let alone on B'way) staging at the current time a play where actors--impersonating our leaders--stand downstage center and criticize the US Government and the war? So bravo to the Marc Taper Forum's Gordon Davidson, who has chosen this sure-to-be controversial play as his grand send-off. In his words:

"Initially, I wanted to 'retreat' into the world of the classics to say goodbye, but I could not escape my feelings about our society, about where we are now and how we got there.”
I dare say, a Profile in Theatrical Courage?


Anonymous said...

A "Profile in Theatrical Courage"? I'm not so sure.

Call me a reactionary, but I don't think it's all that courageous to mount a production critical of Bush, Cheney et. al. at a large, cushy regional theater in left-leaning Los Angeles.

In fact, with a brand name playwright and a Royal National Theatre pedigree, this seems about the safest bet the folks at the Mark Taper Forum could make.

A vituperative rant of a play by an unknown writer? That would be something.

A work that challenged the values of the Taper's upper-middle class, liberal audience? That might be impressive.

Granted, Davidson may not be pandering to his "base"--he may actually believe in this play. But scheduling it is hardly courageous.

Playgoer said...

Touchee... Perhaps I should have qualified by saying something like: "How sad that the ONLY way for a prominent American theatre company to produce an anti-War play is in Hollywood and if it has a classy British pedigree."... I'm also waiting for someone to say "Hey, Playgoer--what about Tim Robbins's Embedded? That played at the Public last year and now is going to be a movie." Yeah, but too bad Embdedded sucked!

Anonymous said...

I agree with this poster. David Hare's simple polemics may not be "wrong" but are they useful? Allowing a smug upper-middle-class white audience to feel even more smug about their privilege, which they justify by going to plays like this one, is hardly a risk. In fact, many of the "classics" into which Gordon might have "retreated" offer a far more provocative and challenging take on contemporary life: Oedipus, Hamlet, or Rosemersholm, anyone? Gordon might have looked at his own demons by staging The Master Builder -- now THAT would have been a way to go out.

Anonymous said...

Rumors are it will be in NYC after all...