THE NEW WOMEN'S THEATRE: Ten Plays by Contemporary American Women by Honor--Ed. Moore

THE NEW WOMEN'S THEATRE: Ten Plays by Contemporary American Women

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Every movement must have its growing pains--and two aspirin will go nicely with this militant mixture of tedium, arrogance, ineptitude, and talent. The ineptitude is mostly editor Moore's: her choices don't add up; her introduction seems to be a history of women playwrights, but it's the sort of squeeze-and-slant survey that makes room for the comedies of Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim (a 10th-century Saxon nun) but ignores Lorraine Hansberry (!), Carson McCullers, The Women, and Dorothy Fields; and her own autobiographical play, Mourning Pictures, is mawkish wallow--through ""poetry"" and songs--in the cancer death of a mother. (Moore blames the maleness of critics for the play's open-and-close Broadway failure: ""they all write from one point of view."") The mourning theme reappears--in a tiresome, dead-father monologue by Myrna Lamb (""Oh God. I didn't know I loved him this much"") and in Corinne Jacker's fascinating Bits and Pieces: flashbacks of a marriage are triggered by a grieving, journeying wife's meetings with the recipients of her husband's bequeathed-to-science organs. The only other fully realized work is Alice Childress' Wedding Band (produced at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre and on television), a flawed but arresting rotogravure of interracial love in 1918 South Carolina, a human document that Moore's catchphrasing (""a rite of autonomy"") can't reduce to a feminist mold. Still further from a true example of ""New Women's Theatre"" is Joanna Kraus' perfectly fine children's play, The Ice Wolf, but Out of Our Fathers' House--one of those diary-based patchworks that's easily, therefore frequently, produced--is didactic enough for anybody, as is Joanna Russ' admittedly amusing vaudeville sketch, Window Dressing. Worst of all: Ruth Wolff's Christina-of-Sweden pageant, The Abdication (a film version managed to lethargize Liv Ullmann; a preface has Wolff disparaging Shakespeare's women); Ursule Molinaro's mother-daughter duologue (final stage direction: Choke and strangle each other. Push each other. Fall into harp cases); and Tina Howe's Birth and Afterbirth (""NICKY bursts into the room, dressed up in SANDY's underwear""). Childress and Jacker aside, only the most movement-oriented theater-women will find this collection stimulating reading or stage-worthy inspiration.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Random House