WHAT'S IN A PLAY? by Jan Austell


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What's In a Play? According to this abbreviated definition, ""the same things. . . that are in a movie or a novel."" A brief introduction pursues this rather dubious point and then the ""main ideas"" of three plays are hashed rather than thrashed out, along with minutely detailed staging directions. Our Town is an old high school choice, and the few worthwhile observations about a relatively predetermined play are overshadowed by the tiresomely over-explicated test. What the author overlooks -- in the subsequent discussions of Macheth and The Glass Menagerie especially -- is the value, the necessity of spontaneity, the pleasure of ingenuity. Instead, he writes that the director must ""plan the actors movements precisely"" and his elucidation reduces the director to a kind of inobtrusive middleman, the characters to a jumble of ""should"" and ""could"" be's. Macheth's witches are seen as embodiments of evil, the glass menagerie is catalogued symbol by symbol, and neither interpretation is original or even striking. The suggestions for blocking, lighting and costuming will probably be the most useful parts of this book, for they do refer to sounder principles. The rest, however, takes the initiative away from a live director and stunts the imagination of the cast.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1968
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World