Books by Robert Brustein

An Ivy League-pedigreed teacher, actor, director, playwright, critic, and lifelong supporter of the theater, Robert Brustein has taught countless current stage and screen superstars, supervised well over 200 theatrical productions, acted in 8, directed 12


NON-FICTION
Released: Oct. 5, 2001

"An encore performance."
Essays, reviews, and occasional miscellaneous pieces by a central player in American theatre. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Oct. 14, 1994

A clever title for what is essentially a grab-bag collection of think pieces, reviews, and profiles by the founder of the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard and drama critic for The New Republic. Brustein (Who Needs Theatre, 1987, etc.) is a sheep in wolf's clothing. He attacks causes like multiculturalism and political correctness, but hiding beneath his tough-guy, Bill Buckley exterior is a squishy, liberal heart of gold. He fears that multiculturalism in the theater is ``turning [it] into an area of entitlement rather than a place for art.'' He faults message-plays (what he calls ``the theatre of guilt'') because ``the artist [is] not in a position to chastise others before exploring the darkness in his own soul.'' He is a classicist in drama, preferring plays in which the characters discover that (to paraphrase Shakespeare) the fault lies in themselves, not in the stars. But his taste in the theater is fairly broad: Anyone who can find common ground between the one-woman shows of sociologist/cultural critic Anna DeVeare Smith and acerbic comedian Jackie Mason can't be all bad. Brustein is also a canny critic of what motivates both theater creators and theatergoers. Of Peter Brook's lengthy production of the Mahabharata, he writes that the director seemed intent on transforming ``well-padded bourgeois theatergoers into butt-weary acolytes of arcane Eastern mysteries.'' And Brustein is capable of turning his keen eye on more mundane affairs, writing a searing account of the Clarence Thomas hearings as high-camp theater, categorizing the roles of the unwitting senators: Alan Simpson as ``Mr. Nasty Badman''; Arlen Specter as the ``remorseless small-town prosecutor''; and Joseph Biden as unable to ``even manage a coherent line of dialogue.'' To-the-point essays on the role of drama in America and, indirectly, the life and health of the arts. Read full book review >