Superfluities quotes from Howard Barker on the Theatre of Catastrophe.
"The real end of drama in this period must be not the reproduction of reality, critical or otherwise ( ... socialistic, voyeuristic), but speculation–not what is (now unbearably decadent) but what might be, what is imaginable. The subject
then becomes not man-in-society, but knowledge itself, and the protagonist not the man of action (rebel or capitalist as source of pure energy) but the struggler with self."
Thus continues the long decline from James Joyce at the Pinnacle of literature's Chaotic age.
It seems somehow fitting that Robert Brustein's last transmission we received from the New Republic was entitled: "Now We Are Dispersed."
Brustein sums up the direction playwrighting is going:
On Richard Maxwell:
One must assume that this randomizing of violence and vacuity is meant to imply something about the age in which we live. And Maxwell is much admired by people I respect. I respect him, too, without much admiring him. The playwright's resolve to create a reality so empty of meaning that it becomes an abstraction produces not an advance in authenticity so much as another kind of style--insular, claustral, and isolated. For Maxwell, art is not so much a criticism of life as an act of submission to it.
It is the kind of occasion where the middle-class audience begins by applauding the set, because it resembles their own apartments; then applauds the stars, because they seem like old familiar friends; and finally applauds the curtain call, because the play has touched their hearts without making any demands on their spirits. Rabbit Hole has depth, power, and humanity. But aside from a passing reference to people falling out of windows at the World Trade Center, it could have been written at any time in the past half-century.
But affectless despair among the disaffected young is a condition that may be wearing thin. (Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth is the locus classicus of the genre.) It is a subject toward which Rapp is now making largely self-involved and self-referential gestures.
and Will Power's update of an Aeschylus Play:
The Seven includes hints of a gay relationship between Polynices (Jamyl Dobson) and his New Age friend Tydeus (Flaco Navaja), references to illegal immigration, and analogies between the war being waged in Thebes and the mess in Iraq. Some of this updating is forced, but most of the show has a sly, winking, and good-natured verve that keeps you engaged with the action. And it is a relief to find someone writing new work for the theater who recognizes that, however dispersed, we still share a lot of the same anxieties, particularly regarding those twin threats to our national security: terrorism and the administration of George W. Bush.
For those who are in the Boston Area this coming weekend and wish to see the work of Howard Barker, as well as the work of some of the other avante garde theatre artists such as Erik Ehn, you should check out Whistler in the Dark's FeverFest '06. It plays one day only at the Cambridge YMCA this weekend.