Some critics--Pauline Kael, for example--are better in ex post facto collections than within the confines of their journalistic forum. Stanley Kauffmann is unfortunately not of their number. His workmanlike virtues, useful enough in helping one to decide whether to blow fifteen dollars next Saturday night, subside into monotony en masse. Most of these pieces were written for the New Republic over the last six years; some date from Kauffmann's 1960s stints as drama critic of the New York Times and New York's PBS Channel 13; there is even a lengthy examination of Joseph Papp from The American Scholar. But the effect is much of a muchness: discreet, conscientious, informative, oddly muffled. Kauffmann is unawed by the glossy snow job of the season: Jim Dale's clowning in Scapino betrays a ""patronization' that makes the whole thing ""a synthetic experience""; Albee's Seascape is a gimmickily decorated clichÃ‰ which ""never demonstrates in any degree a real necessity to exist."" He gets down to reviewing a new Much Ado or A Doll's House with matter-of-fact efficiency rather than self-important demonstrations of intellectual grasp (the Greeks, however, elicit a smarmier piety). Yet an air of dutifulness settles like an unwanted relative on Kauffmann's solemn pursuit of ""issues"" (e.g., homosexuality; why does a critic write?) and attempts to measure the worldwide pulse of The Theater. The one moment in which argument, conviction, and imagination fuse into anything approaching eloquence is a passionate and unexpected tribute to Verdi: ""the strings beat softly, quickly to a close. And I am left, hungry, in the reality outside that music, the lesser reality in which, most of the time, I live""--and too often write.