THE THEATRE OF COMMITMENT by Eric Bentley

THE THEATRE OF COMMITMENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Most of the essays in Eric Bentley's latest collection date from the Fifties, a time when New York intellectuals were talking about the end of ideology, Marxist vulgarity, and the apolitical purity of true art. Here is Bentley indicting the fake radicalism of Arthur Miller: ""The CrucibLe is a play for people who think that pleading the Fifth Amendment is not only a white badge of purity but also a red badge of courage."" Bentley is attacking the ambiguity of Miller's stance, and beyond that the whole self-regarding aura of Broadway ""social-consciousness."" But Bentley himself is even more ambiguous: whether talking of theatre in general or ""Taking Ibsen Personally,"" he seems to waver between the claims of the individual and those of the group. Usually he leans toward the former, but being a Brechtian scholar he also appreciates the didactic view of art. He argues with subtlety and grace, and yet his positions seem vague and self-enclosed. And all along he appears to be apologizing for the dichotomies he creates, since the true genius transcends them anyway. He is brilliant on ""The Pro and Con of Political Theatre,"" but hardly engage. Finally we come to the Sixties and the title-essay in which Bentley casts his lot with ""commitment,"" The Deputy, the need for propaganda and contemporary political debates on stage. It is the least convincing piece in the collection. A very curious volume.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1967
Publisher: Atheneum