The Playgoer: Roundabout Reasoning

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Roundabout Reasoning

Michael Feingold asks the big question hanging over Roundabout's curious revival of John Van Druten's 1940 comedy Old Acquaintance.

Van Druten, a solid craftsman rather than a genius to be rediscovered, wrote better as well as worse plays than this—and maybe the better ones would have been more worth reviving. One of the problems of life in New York these days is that the theaters with the biggest resources seem to have the vaguest artistic policies. The Roundabout has an artistic director who is, by his own admission, a money man (he has put the theater in a solid financial position) with no particular artistic grounding. In the past, theaters like this were run more purposively, and—though Old Acquaintance is charmingly done and quite enjoyable—with considerably better artistic results overall.
Just to clarify, he's referring to one Todd Haimes. Many theatres have a separate Artistic Director (the art person) and Managing Director (the business person). Part of the key to Roundabout's "success," for better or worse, is that Haimes effectively functions as both.

Look, I'm as big a sucker as they come for dusting off the old American repertory. But the question here is not why do Old Acquaintance at all, but why devote the precious and enormous resources of the Roundabout "American Airlines" mainstage to it?

By the way, Harriet Harris fans (who disliked my last post relating to this production) may be more amenable to Feingold's more nuanced appraisal, which is enthusiastic, yet "It's hard to say whether she's wrecking Van Druten's play or transfiguring it."


Anonymous said...

I thought we had a truce!

I am NOT a Harriet Harris fan. I just thought that as a critic, you should be more careful in spreading second-hand opinions without having the authority of your own to balance it (or tip it) with.

Do I need to go over the Iraq analogy again?

Playgoer said...

Anon--Since I do wish our "truce" to last longer than any Sunni-Shia truce IN Iraq, let me apologize if I misinterpreted you.

But since Ms Harris was the one criticized in the previous quoted review, I thought why not balance it with another indicating at least some praise. (I should also point out Hilton Als in the New Yorker downright loved her.)

You know, I never even knew who Harriet Harris was before this show! So I'm not going to spend any more time worrying about her.

"Authority" of MY little opinion? I can only dream...