Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bill Marx on Sarah Ruhl

Bill Marx takes on Sarah Ruhl in light of the Lahr profile in the New Yorker where Ruhl talks about how her artistic vision is more in line with Ovid than Aristotle:

Granted, a playwright can speak nonsense and still write well. But
these are not only puerile caricatures of Aristotle and Ovid — the
transformations of the latter are often triggered by unsatisfied desires – Ruhl’s hostility to reason and psychological depth turns her vision of the unconscious into a child’s grab bag of feelings, emotional states as flash cards that flip haphazardly through the mind. Yes, as Ophelia says, ‘we know what we are but not what we may be,’ but that does not mean that the plastic power of the via dramatica should be unchecked by formal exigencies or unshaped by
flickers of rationality.

And what’s so strange about the urge to learn from experience? It
doesn’t happen often enough, but it is as good a reason to get up in the morning as any other.

Truth is, the works of the best playwrights combine reason and the
irrational, realism and the prophetic; it is the tension between these colliding contraries, not non-stop “wonder,” that generates powerful drama. Samuel Beckett’s figures are obsessed with a desire to desire no longer. George Bernard Shaw’s characters are great believers in reason, yet what makes him great are the sudden intrusions of the numinous. The irony of Ruhl’s rigid generalizations is that she doesn’t see how the finest plays, from the Greeks and Shakespeare to Pirandello and beyond, transform and transcend her breezy preference for the spontaneity of the subjective.

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