Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Thousand Times

Last night, instead of taking Joshua and me to the movies, our landlady took us to the theater. We attended a performance of "A Thousand Clowns" at the Minneapolis Theater Garage, performed by the Torch Theater, one of the many small theater companies in the Twin Cities.

Joshua and I had not seen "A Thousand Clowns" before. Our landlady, however, said that she had seen "A Thousand Clowns" a thousand times, but she wanted to see it again because she had heard that the Torch Theater production, which recently opened, was very fine.

We enjoyed the performance. The play is formulaic and dated, a clear relic of the 1960's, and the writing bears more than a passing resemblance to Neil Simon and to television situation-comedy writing, too. Nonetheless, none of us was bored, and none of us objected to the thoroughly-predictable resolution of the plot.

I am surprised that this play has proven to be so durable. It has received literally thousands of performances since it was published and, in my estimation, it does not warrant that degree of exposure. I do not think that I would ever want to see it again.

There are several plays from the 1960's that somehow have survived, receiving a constant stream of performances, that strike me as unworthy of revival. For instance, I have never understood the appeal of "The Odd Couple", which I think is a truly dreadful play, with absolutely nothing to recommend it. "The Subject Was Roses" is another 1960's artifact that is better left alone, I believe. I find "The Lion In Winter" to be laughable--history turned into soap-opera, and with incongruous modern references--and "The Price" to be maudlin and inept. "The Night Of The Iguana" strikes me as warmed-over "Streetcar", and "A Delicate Balance", in my view, is a play that fundamentally does not work, despite the fact that it has several fine moments. There is only one American play from the 1960's that will be performed 100 years from now, I suspect, and that will be "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?".

Before the performance, we ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant not far from the theater, and we all three enjoyed our outing downtown very much. We shall have to do it again soon.

Yesterday morning, Josh and I took the dog out for a long, long walk and run. We took him out again late yesterday afternoon for another walk and run, so I do not think that he minded staying home by himself last night.

Josh and I attended church service this morning, but otherwise we will be staying in until it is time to go to the airport and pick up my parents. We have been catching up on our reading this weekend, with almost a year's worth of various quarterlies to go through, including some back issues of history journals and foreign policy journals that my father subscribes to. We are having a wonderful time.


  1. I don't find it particularly useful to categorize plays by decade (maybe, as a child of the '60's, I'm just being defensive), but I do agree with your opinion of WAOVW. I first encountered it in 1965 through the audio recording with Uta Hagen. Then, of course, there was the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie.

    I saw the play in NYC two years ago with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. His understated portrayal really hit the mark for me, while Turner didn't have the necessary steel).

    My reactions to the play at age 60 are very different from my reactions at age 20. All I remember from my youth was that the play touched me in a deep and important way that I couldn't articulate.

    Now, of course, I have much more empathy and sympathy for George and Martha - their failures, deceptions, self-deceptions and love. Life seldom turns out the way you hope.

    And, the dialogue and language are wonderful.

  2. I guess it was because "A Thousand Clowns" struck me as such a pure example of the conventions of the 1960's that it made me think of other 1960's plays, too.