Friday, December 21, 2007

Hauptmann's The Weavers

I didn't have a chance to see Hauptmann's The Weavers, being produced by Boston University with a cast of 29. The play has a certain status in the canon, but is not really produced that often... well, actually almost never.

Both Thomas Garvey and Bill Marx struggle with the complications the play presents to staging and whether or not the play can find purchase with us today.

Bill Marx:

Of course, to be fair, The Weavers calls for a prohibitively large cast — there are over 40 speaking part companies — so theaters are scared off by the cost and logistics of a production. But the play’s reputation as a dated rabble-rouser (a Teutonic anticipation of Clifford Odets) starring the courageous poor rising up
against corrupt fat cat factory owners, the air thick with speeches about the rottenness of the rich, also works against revivals. And there is some of that fist-waving rhetoric in the script, though most of the harrowing details about the hideous existence of the workers – children dying from eating glue, famished families living off recently buried animals, the workers embrace of a song accusing the upper crust of torture — are taken from newspaper accounts of the
riots. Moreover, what happened to the real life weavers undercuts any facile leftist inspiration — after storming some textile factories the rampaging workers, about 1500 strong, were cut to pieces by the army. There is no sense in the play that things are going to turn out differently.


Thomas Garvey:

Which brings me to the political point of the production. The Weavers is one of the few depictions of capitalism at its unfettered extreme - its middle managers are literally starving their direct reports. Yet this isn't quite what Americans are experiencing from capitalism today (its current exploitations are far more sophisticated and disguised), so even the play's intellectual case seems naive.



As a side note: Carl Rossi, writing about the Weavers on Larry Stark's site muses the following at the end of his review:

Out of these twenty-nine students, how many shall remain in the Boston area? How many shall switch Beans for Apples or Oranges? Either way, the future is theirs if not Boston’s, as well.

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