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Readers expecting a lighthearted romp through the nightspots of Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries are bound to be disappointed with this survey of ""turn-of-the-century cabarets."" Segel (Slavic Languages, Columbia Univ.) takes a scholarly approach to his subject, one that will provide serious students of the drama with valuable insights but may prove heavy going for less dedicated theater buffs. Segel ranges from Paris, Barcelona. Berlin, and Munich to Vienna, Cracow, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Zurich in his search for such similarities as iconoclasm and parody and such differences as censorship and foreign influences in the various manifestations of the fin de siècle, cabaret phenomenon. Along the way, he encounters such renowned artists, writers and rÉgisscurs as Picasso, Frank Wedekind, Bertolt Brecht and Max Reinhardt, together with scores of lesser-known practioners of the diminutive and artist-oriented form. Segel's chapters dealing with Paris' Chat Noir and Zurich's ""Cabaret Voltaire"" come off most successfully, in large part because in Paris the cabaret sensibility was linked to the Post-Impressionist movement (Toulouse-Lautrec, Aristide Bruant, Yvette Guilberg) and in Zurich to the Dadaist revolution (Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, Vasilly Kandinsky). Elsewhere, its impact was less fruitful, though in Russia such groups as Moscow's ""The Bat"" (and its French reincarnation Chauve Souris) and the St. Petersburg ""The Stray Dog"" did produce innovators such as Vsevolod Meyerhold, Alexander Blok, and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Segel might have enlivened his history--without compromising its value--by incorporating more personal anecdotes into the narrative. But though short on style and wit--as well as a bit long on the repetitive arguments--this is, still, a work that's likely to interest a select readership.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1987
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press