My immediate response is "Burn This." GREAT(!) character in "Pale" but not a good play. Would have loved to have seen the character in a really good play. The other characters did not rise to the level of his. The other characters only react to hs antics. No real competetive antagaonist to an asshole. Any NYC woman I have ever known would have kicked him out of her loft (if not in the nuts) in an instant and called 911. Although it had a great line from Pale, "You show me a restaurant that is not connect (to the New Jersey/NYC mob) and I will show you a restaurant that serves neither food nor drink."
I would agree with Richard III. Great character in a not as good play.
I love "Our Town." It's the high school and college productions get sappy. There was a production at Madison Rep in Wisconsin last year that had every ethnic group in the world playing the parts that worked great! Andre De Shields (a black man) was the Stage Manager. Have you ever seen an adult production of it? It makes a big difference. I also like "The Skin of Our Teeth, with the proviso it may be because it was one of the first shows I ever acted in as Henry Antrobus, Jr. The sadness of Thornton Wilder is the directors who misinterpret him. He is not "quaint."
"Out Town" suffers from what somebody wrote about "Hamlet." "The only reason Hamlet is crazy is because of all the bad actors that have tried to play him!"
This is a good question. If there are more you can think of, please pass them along.
See how odd these things are? I love Burn This. But then I know Lanford and maybe I'm more prone to like his work. Pale is an incredible character in the hands of a good actor. Eric Roberts was in the B'way production for a time and Lanford felt he had ruined his play.
About thirty years ago I went from NYC to Madison to research the United Artists film collection at the State Historical Society. I loved hanging out at the Rathskeller in the student union building and listen to Kansas' "Blown in the Wind" over and over until running out of quarters. I was pulling stills for a book that was never actualized. I fell in love with Madison and often think how nice it might have been to settle there. I'm going to haunt the House on the Rock when I die. Are you from Madison? I just had a little play done there about a month ago--Civil Uniionized--did you happen to see it?
In spite of the fact that I do not appreciate Our Town I can only hide behind--de gustibus non est disputandum.
One of my early mentors once said,"Nobody wants to hear what you don't like. If you want to engage their interest, tell them what you do like." So, to honor him, allow me to tell you what I think is the most underrated play--Tiny Alice. I was stationed in New London (early 60s) and went into NYC for the weekend and saw the original production of Tiny Alice with Uta Hagan. I heard language in a totally new way, it was magic and I took flight. It was that very moment I knew that I was to write plays. I read Tiny Alice at least once a year. I keep a hardcover edition within an arms' reach from where I sit and work. I only wish I could meet Mr. Albee and say "Thank you."
lol. I'm "trying" to read an anthology of his work. It is a huge book and very intimidating. But I like its title (taken from Waiting . . .), "I can't go on, I'll go on." It gives me a kick in the ass everytime I'm feeling resigned.
Agree with you about Tiny Alice (although that was Irene Worth, spectacular with John Gielgud and, if I recall correctly, William Prince). Our Town is annoying: sentimental, predictable, pat, and I'm in tears at the end without fail, so it works.
But most overrated play? Classic: Measure for Measure. Thoroughly unpleasant. Poor Isabella, who only wants to be a nun, gets passed around like a garden knome. Contemporary: The Beauty Queen of Leenane -- relies on shock rather than drama and on letters read aloud for basic exposition. Sloppy work.
Of course! You see what old age does to you! I saw Uta Hagan in Virginia Wolfe--another peak experience. Of course it was Irene Worth and John Gielgud. The lawyer/Cardinal exchange at the beginning is worth the price of admission.
Tiny Alice was the first play I saw.
[If you stand for an anecdote.]
We moved to London. My Auntie Gladys flew in from Los Angeles and swept us off to the theatre as a housewarming present- kids included.
I think my parents were mislead by the title- which suggested something suitable for children [cf: Alice in Wonderland.]
What an introduction.
This play and later, “Sleuth” by Anthony Shaffer [with Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter] I think made me want to write.
I agree about the scene between the Lawyer and The Cardinal.
They get onto the money: “We have come off our plural, have we not?”
On underrated plays:
Have you seen Tom Stoppard’s “Enter a Free Man”?
This was his first play, written I think in the early sixties, but not produced until after he was established [with Michael Horden in the lead role].
It’s always instructive to look at the first efforts of any artist.
Enter a Free Man has all the strengths and weaknesses of a first play:
Freshness, originality and the sense of a beginner coming to terms with his talent.
I've worked at Madison Rep. Nice place. Lovely area. I enjoyed it very much. Not as much of a city for me though. I need a real city. It is about two and a half hours and seemingly a 100 years away from Chicago. It is getting a lot of sprawl up there, and by supposedly "Green Liberals." Ruin the farmland, stake your claim AND THEN become "Green!" McMansion stuff. Ugly condos, townhouses. Their newly renovated arts center is first rate though in the downtown.
One thing I noticed though - and oddly it really stuck out - is that the bathrooms in the bars where the cast would have a beer once in awhile along State Steet were as clean as a whistle! And this is in a Big Ten university town! Good farm boy training, I guess!
Congratulations on your play being produced there. What theatre?
Love Madison. None of my children will go to school there so I have few excuses to visit.
I love this thread! I hated OUR TOWN until I saw it well done. I expect that is how it is with many plays. Never liked MEASURE FOR MEASURE - was cast in it once and ultimately did not acccept because I couldn't figure out how to play the character.
What I have are a lot of plays I do not need ever to see again unless there is an actor/director who interests me. That includes much of O'Neill (I wants Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst back), much of Ibsen (Liv Ullman did not do well in A DOLL'S HOUSE - nobody I see seems to do well in that).
When I was acting I took classes at HB Studios. One teacher handed you a list of scenes on the first day. They were scenes that he decided he never needed to see again played by acting students. Now, in my 19th year of teaching theatre to teens, I have compiled my own list.
And asking for advice: my daughter's high school is doing HAMLET. (Why? Why?) I sub there and teach theatre there in the summer. I know the entire cast. I need an excuse as to why I will (regretfully) have to miss all 12 performances. (My daughter opted out so I do not need to go to see her). Anybody wanting to see a high school do HAMLET?
Interesting you mentioned "Beauty Queen of Leenane" Alan. I actually think it's a good play...but what I think is overrated are the other Martin McDonogh plays that have everyone raving these days. I think they're all good, but he has written basically the same play time and time again. Compare "Lonesome West", "The Pillowman" and "Lieutenant of Inishmore", if you will. Feuding brothers, one an idiot and one a little less so, killing parents, fighting over ridiculous things, the same references to things Irish...I do like them all, but overrated is what comes to mind.
As for Our Town, I think it's simply important to remember how groundbreaking it was back in the thirties. Direct audience address, non-linear structure, etc...stuff that we take for granted these days.
Pillowman has to be one of my favourite plays of recent times (that and pretty much anything by David Greig) and I thought it was far better than his more Irish pieces (although curiously written before a fair share of them).
For me the most overrated play I can think, in my opinion obviously, has to be Shopping and Fucking. I just didn't "get it", I'm afraid. (Saw a very good talk by Mark Ravenhill some years later though, when he said that he drove the director mad by not giving his characters names, only succumbing just before rehearsals were due to start, naming each of them - bar one - after members of boyband Take That!)
It would be worth attending the high school Hamlet, just so you could write and share the experience with us.
Personally, I'd rather saw off my big toe with a rusty Swiss Army knife.
It would probably be better than the Hamlet I saw just a few years ago in a regional theatre that was an "all leather" Hamlet.
Continuing with under rated plays: "Lettice and Lovage." It was written for Maggie Smith and everyone said only she could do it. I have seen two other actresses do it. A beautiful play.
Another is "Jitters' by David French. A Backstage "play within a play." Sort of a literate "Noises Off" which I also adore. But "Jitters" is one of the few plays I haved laughed out loud while reading it. It has one of the best stage directions ever written "THE WRITER REACTS." I saw one production of it in LA 10 years ago. Not a great production, but it still made me see the terrific play that it is.
Another is "To Grandmothers House We Go" by Joanna Glass and "Trying" by the same author. Fritz Weaver was eloquent in his performance two years ago. Beautiful writing.
Tell them it reminds you too much of your own upbringing. It might start you drinking again.
David French wrote "Jitters."
"THE DEAD!" I could not agree with you more! Vastly underrated. A Christmas show for adults. Court Theatre in Chicago did it two years in a row at the Christmas season slot. HAD to see it twice. Top notch cast. If not done with a top rated cast, I could see how it could falter poorly. A real adult show with adult emotions. A subtle musical. And gorgeous and true to the stunning short story by James Joyce.
The pity is there is no Cast Album. And it has such beautiful songs.
Re: Albee. I love Albee's work. And I fortunately got to thank him for his work on the AMTRAK Metroliner from NYC to Baltimore. He could not have been more gracious. I waited till we were departing and quietly introduced myself so as not to attract attention.
You can rent "A Delicate Balance" starring Paul Scofield, Katherine Hepburn, Joseph Cotten, Kate Reid and Lee Remick. (What a cast!) They are filmed stage plays from American Film Theatre produced by Ely Landau. He did a bunch of plays like that, including "The Iceman Cometh." Brilliant stuff. Google "American Film Theatre" for more info.
Thornton Wilder is one of my top five playwrights of all time. If THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH is playing at the theater in heaven, that'd be fine for eternity. I LOVE that play. I directed a production of it with a group of high school students a few years ago, and we found the play addressed some pertinent issues -- umm -- global disaster (floods and ice ages), world conflict, the sexual misconduct of presidents, and so on and so on... plus it is just plain whacky.
I have also read Mr. Wilder's essays on American character, and on theater. He was an amazing man and thinker. Definately one of my heros. Have you read the introduction to the collection of his three full-length plays? If you haven't, then you must. It is a concise analysis of what makes theater tick, and it still holds water today.
Over-rated play? I don't think there is one. They vary too much from production to production. Over-rated film or novel I could chime in on. They are fixed. GONE WITH THE WIND is one thing.
OUR TOWN? OUR TOWN is brilliant on the page, fantastic with the right cast and direction, down-right silly when played poorly. Same with ROMEO AND JULLIET, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT -- well -- you get the picture.
Is it your contention that there is no place in the theater for didactic intentions?
The theater is so vast and fascinating a realm that there is room in it for preachers and moralists and pamphleteers. As to the highest function of the theater, I rest my case with Shakespeare—Twelfth Night as well as Macbeth.
. . .
I wonder if you don't hammer your point pretty hard because actually you have a considerable element of the didactic in you.
Yes, of course. I've spent a large part of my life trying to sit on it, to keep it down. The pages and pages I've had to tear up! I think the struggle with it may have brought a certain kind of objectivity into my work.
In Media Res: I must apologize! I must already have a detached retina (thank-you, Leon) for you clearly wrote the author's name of JITTERS and I 'clearly' did not see it.
I cannot tell my students their HAMLET would drive me back to drink because I still drink.
I am toying with a youth play (cookie-cutter - yeah, but fun) with various companies doing HAMLET. The motorcycle leather HAMLET intrigued me. I've seen quite a few "Nazi Hamlets." Then there was in the NYC Park with Sam Waterston doing a very petulant, 14-year old HAMLET. Of course all the modern dress HAMLETS, HAMLET as Greek Theatre .... and soon there will be the definitive "high school" HAMLET in which I will pray that my detached retina has not healed yet.
Katoagogo: I sort of agree with "no overrated plays" in which we all have such different sensibilities, there seems to be room for everyone. What excites one theatre-goer might appall another but the discovery is always fun. I have an ongoing discussion-argument over the wonder of Maggie Smith in a play (Maggie Smiith does not "work for her" and always works for me!) So, fun to see her brought up in LETTICE AND LOVAGE. Saw a community theatre production of it years ago - and no - it did not work. Deadly.
What is exciting is when you've seen a "classic" piece many times and think you never have to see it again and then someone does something that reaches out to you and you discover it all over again.
Here is one of my favorite quotes about drinking by Clarence Darrow, of "Inherit the Wind" fame:
“Take out of this world the men who have drunk, down through the past, and you would take away all the poetry and literature and practically all the works of genius that the world has produced. What kind of a poem do you suppose you would get out of a glass of ice-water?” - Clarence Darrow from his book, “Verdicts Out Of Court”
Of course I agree with the basic idea that no play is over or underrated. It is a matter of taste. But, I have performed in new playsin full professional productions where 70% of an audience has walked out at intermission - rarely thank god. (I knew every one was bad going in, but the money was good enough, so you hold your nose a bit.) I think that is the sign of a bad production if not a bad play. But, with the concept of "groupthink" that can infiltrate through the networking of the theatrical publicity machine, these plays can go on and on to other theatres. However, I am grateful for evey royalty paid to evey playwright whether I liked a particular play production or not. At least people are going to the theatre. And it gives actors work.
If you read it, post your thoughts about "Jitters" if you get a chance.
Kato, it all boils down to taste. I thought this was about personal preference. I don't like Our Town and I don't care what critics or the academics say. I am thrilled you love it. A lot of people love it as well they should. It was groundbreaking. It has its place in history. I find it a museum piece. Bad me. I love Proust, Goethe and Pinky and the Brain. I think Pinky and the Brain is the best animated cartoon ever. It don't mean a thing. It's all about taste. I decide for myself. We all should. I've always rebelled against what the academics declared great. I like to make up my own mind. Yep, I love Pinky and the Brain, Tarantino and The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade--I think they're all underrated. :)
It is all about taste, certainly. I share the antipathy towards Cats, not toward Our Town. As for teenaged Hamlets--Claudia, perhaps you could lose your keys so you can't get there, and discover that far too late to call a cab? Another good one (and this has actuallyhappened to us): college roomate calls just as you're about to leave and is suicidal and you have to talk her out of it and it takes three hours.
Both are one shot, however. Do you have a novelty shop nearby where you can buy a foot cast? Broken ankles can be quite painful.
Or you can find fault with the text they're using. Doesn't matter how they're doing it--you can always argue that unless they do the correct text, as S wrote it, it's pointless to do an adulterated version. The beauty part of course is that we don't have any idea what S's original text was like, so you're covered.
Or there's the "I've seen the perfect Hamlet in x's performance, and no matter how praiseworthy someone else may be, I don't want to destroy that wonderful experience by seeing another production" approach.
Agree on OUR TOWN, and anything else by Thornton Wilder.
THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. By a mile. And I'm a woman. (I have a CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, too - isn't it a miracle? You really can't live without one of those. When's somebody going to write the jazz-music-themed dance appreciation of that -- SPINAL TAP? Sorry. Bad. I know.)
LOOK BACK IN ANGER. When women get threatened and angry, it's bitchy feminism. When men get threatened and angry (and subliminally homophobic), it's poignant mythic universal angst. And I politely grinned through a residency at Jimmy Porter's creator/alter ego's former house.
the very worst night i ever spent in a theater was new year's eve 1999-2000.
we have a first night celebration here every new year's eve - an all-day & all-night celebration of numerous offerings for family viewing/participation (concerts, plays, exhibits, readings, dance performances, parade, fireworks, town photo, etc.)
because julie harris is a resident, if she is around, she often participates by doing a reading/performance. for some reason, this particular year, she chose to read "the dead."
it was soul-crushing.
she started at 10 pm so everyone was already a bit tired. it went on for almost 2 hours.
on & on & on she read...somewhere, in some alternate universe, she is still reading it. and audience members are banging their heads on the floor in a desperate attempt to take their minds somewhere else...
I think it's all down to cultural differences, but a couple years ago I saw a hyped-up production of 'Death of a Salesman'. I know it's a classic in the US but I think it isn't right for Australians, especially the younger ones, and I couldn't understand what was driving the characters and only near the end when I asked my mother what the big deal was did I work out the man was suicidal. The play inevitably dragged on for me while the actors didtheir best American accents and failed once or twice.
If I grew up in another part of the world, I probably would have enjoyed it. Just things like the football talk I didn't get either. Not the writer's fault, obviously. Arthur Miller was a great. That masterpiece was just wasted on an ignorant me.
Another overrated play I saw - at no criticism to the writer - but the venue, duration and time worked against it. The play was 'Night Letters'. It got good reviews, was a part of the 'Adeladie Festival of Arts' and hyped up as a great new local work.
It went for 3 acts, started at 8pm and finished at 12am. The venue was a tin shed and we were sitting on plastic chairs. My prosterior was numb before Act 1 finished. Then the actors were drowned out by rain on the corrigated iron roof.
By Act 3 I was beyond caring what happens to the characters. It was eleven o'clock at night, it was raining and my car was parked 10 minutes away. When it finished I basically dashed for my car so I could drive home on comfortable seats and drop into bed! I completely forgot about what exactly happened during the play, but I remember the rain and how my rear felt on those plastic seats!
From what I remember of your introduction you are a rather young person blessed with the desire and ability to write at a very early age. (I was blessed with bubbles in my head well into my thirties.) I don't think your not being impressed with Death of a Salesman had much to do with our different cultures, but more to do with your not being ready for it when you saw it. As a teenager I would have hated it. Perhaps, if you revisited it now, or in a couple years from now, you might see it differently.
Earlier on this thread I said that I didn't like Our Town. After thinking about it for awhile I realized that I hadn't seen it since high school. So I have already gone to the bookstore and have gotten a copy to read. We would miss out on so much of art and life were we to allow those early impressions to inform and dictate our here and now. I'm sixty-two and I refuse to stop exploring and learning till the day to take me out of this apartment feet first.
I've seen most of his plays, as they've been revived in London, and seen actors as diverse as
Max Wall and Billie Whitelaw.
I wish I could say, I enjoyed the experience.
There are magical moments certainly, but I've always found it a long evening.
Am I missing something?
My copy of "Malone" is there on the shelf- next to "Finnegan's Wake"- both unread.
Btw, Ralph Richardson was offered "Waiting For Godot" when it premiered in London- he was as puzzled as the rest of us.
So, he took the script to John Gielgud;
"John, this is either a work of genius or complete rubbish?"
John Gielgud: " Oh, absolute rubbish, and you should have nothing to do with it"
I personally think that Beckett belongs to a rare epoch of playwrights.
The problems I see in Beckett are two-fold: first, he's really hard to get, and really hard to get into. Second, he has inspired almost as many awful imitators as Plath and the rest of the confessionalists, who birthed, and continue to birth, swells of adolescent poetic swill.
People misread Beckett in the context of his copycats and think that he's obfuscative and obtuse, which is really not the case. All it takes is one superb performance of Godot or Play, or a reading of Malloy to begin to love him.
By the way, Beckett has also birthed some really good imitators: Albee, Pinter, Shepard, Churchill, and so forth, and as much as I love all of them, Beckett had it like they can't hope to.
As for most overrated plays, I would say, generally speaking, the comedies of Shakespeare. The man could not write comedy, and all the academic attempts to label his antics "malpropism" and so forth reek of a sad unwillingness to give up the ghost and admit it doesn't play well.
I almost feel, and I may be copping a Douglas Adams theory here, that Shakespeare's total lack of flair for comedy, coupled with his inflated value to our theatrical and literary culture, are responsible for the English language's lack of respect for comedy as art.
Think about it... those that grew up in the light of Chekov, Moliere, Cervantes, Amado and the rest don't have nearly as much trouble giving comedy a place on the mantle.
To return to the subject of the most overrated play:
The worst night I've spent in the theatre, was way back in the early days of The National Theatre after it opened in its new building.
John Osborne's "Watch It Come Down".
The theatre was far from full, and there were a few mutterings among the audience during Act One.
After the interval, I was surprised to find myself alone in the front row- more than half the audience had given up and gone home.
My surprise was nothing compared to the look of anguish on the face of the first actor on- I can't remember if it was Alan Bates or Micheal Gough.
A bad movie is watchable. If a play is in trouble; the pain suffered by the actor is real enough and hard to watch without sympathy.
This is the nature of theatre- real people a few feet away expressing [within the context of the play] genuine emotion.
Earlier on this thread someone mentioned "Look Back In Anger"- which is considered a ground-breaking drama.
I guess taken out of it's socio-political context and reviewed today- it does appear to be as dated as the "drawing room" plays it supplanted.
I didn't realize there was so much vitriol directed at John Osborne. I've never been a disciple, but I've generally liked his work.
I work a lot with Curious Theatre Branch, who this year are devoting an entire season to the centennial of Beckett's birth. I have to say, as much as I love the guy, after the Rhinoceros Fringe Fest is over, in which thirty-seven shows written either by, about, or in response to Beckett, I'm probably going to be just about spent.
On a note of self-promotion, one of the Rhino pieces about Beckett, The Observer is a new solo piece concerning Beckett, by me. Check out http://www.rhinofest.com for my neat little blurb... My blurbs are far better than my actual work, sadly.
Rhinofest? It does look like the place to go, Mark.
I guess his public profile as a polemicist got in the way of people appreciating his talent.
A lot of his journalism was intended to provoke those whom he thought needed a kick up the btm.
He was a gifted actor, and he loved the theatre in all its forms from vaudeville to Greek tragedy; and this too, comes across in his writing-
perhaps he was regarded [in that nasty English phrase] "as being too clever by half".
Ah, apparently the rhinofest calander isn't up as neatly as it should be yet... There's a pdf available with the "inside" info...
by Mark Chrisler, directed by Michael Martin
days, Sept14–Oct12 9:30 PM
Was Quantum Leap actor Dean Stockwell the most important figure in both scientific and literary history? Through studies of nuclear geo-politics, quantum mechanics, game theory, obsessive-compulsive disorder, the firebombing of Kobe and the game of cricket, Chrisler suspects that attempting to scientifically validate absurdism might lead to optimistic results. In this lecture-style solo show, he proves himself very, very wrong.
Hi everyone. I am new...new to writing a play anyway and have much to learn. Anybody here want to point me in the direction of some websites with good basic information on getting your work read.....all ideas welcome. Thanks, JM