Thursday, June 27, 2013

Musée d'Orsay

The grand central space of Musée d'Orsay, housed in what used to be a train station.

We spent a full day at Musée d'Orsay in January. Alas, many of the museum’s key paintings were not on display, and Joshua missed seeing artworks he had keenly wanted to see (most of all, “The Floor Scrapers”).

A visit to Musée d'Orsay provides a magnificent experience—but the greatest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings reside in the United States.

American art collectors were the first to recognize the importance of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, and bought up Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings left and right when the artworks were brand new, with the paint barely dry.

By the time the French government decided to enter the art market and begin buying Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings for France’s museums, most of the greatest artworks had already left the country and were safely ensconced in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, the French government, entering the art market thirty years too late, still had to contend with American buyers prepared to outbid and out-buy the French government.

Such accounts for the fact that the collection of Musée d'Orsay, large as it is, is disappointing to Americans. The quality of the collection does not match the quality of the building.

(And the quality of the main restaurant of Musée d'Orsay—the restaurant with the giant clock face, and with portal windows overlooking The Seine—had greatly deteriorated between 2004 and 2013.)

1911: Stein, Webern And Schoenberg

Erwin Stein, Anton Webern and Arnold Schoenberg, photographed in The Netherlands in 1911.

Schoenberg, accompanied by his former students, had traveled to Amsterdam that year in order to appear as conductor in performances of his own compositions.

It was Schoenberg’s first engagement outside Germany or The Austro-Hungarian Empire—and a sign that the composer was not as little-known at the time as some would now like to believe.

In the following three years, Schoenberg was to appear as composer/conductor in countless European venues, from Great Britain to Russia.

The onset of war in August 1914 ended such appearances—and Schoenberg’s career as conductor largely was over.

Schoenberg was only 37 years of age in 1911, yet he already looked like an old man.

Schoenberg was also rotund in 1911.

During the war years, Schoenberg, like all citizens of Germany and Austria, suffered from near-starvation, and lost his excess weight, as countless photographs demonstrate. After the war, Schoenberg regained the lost weight; photographs from the late 1920s show Schoenberg once again rotund if not near-obese.

During his American years, 1933 to 1951, Schoenberg was once again thin.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Am At A Loss For Words

As the British Army mushroomed in numbers, more horses and mules were needed. The Remount Service, having scoured [Britain], started to look overseas for new “recruits” and replacements for those that had been lost, or were no longer fit to return to duty.

North America was the most obvious place to look. With its vast plains and intensive farming, the rolling lands of the West had produced a light draught horse that was a breed apart from its European ancestors—and, importantly, there were plenty of them.

U.S. and (to a much lesser extent) Canadian horses and mules eventually made up two-thirds of those used by the British Army. The supply was constant over the war years, which left many wondering how America came to have so many horses available.

Remount Service purchasers (all of whom had to have a good deal of equine experience so as not to be conned into buying “duds”) traveled throughout the West and Midwest buying thousands and thousands of animals.

At first sight, the “Yankees”, as they were affectionately known, were in a rough and ready shape: they were shoeless, long-haired, tousle-maned and had ragged hips. But they were tough; generations of their kind had become completely at home with roaming out in the open and in all kinds of weather.

Simon Rees, writing in 2009


Horses and mules operating in mud conditions in Belgium in 1916.

The British alone lost more than a quarter-million horses during The Great War. The British casualty ratio for horses was approximately 25 per cent.

The single largest cause of death for horses of the British Army on The Western Front: they were worked to death.

The second largest cause of death for horses of the British Army on The Western Front: starvation.

The third largest cause of death for horses of the British Army on The Western Front: pneumonia.

In last place: “killed in enemy action”.


Heaving about in the filthy mud of the road was an unfortunate mule with both of his forelegs shot away. The poor brute, suffering God knows what untold agonies and terrors, was trying desperately to get to its feet, which weren't there. Writhing and heaving, tossing its head about in its wild attempts, not knowing that it no longer had any front legs.

I had my revolver with me, but couldn't get near the animal, which lashed out at us with its hind legs and tossed its head unceasingly. Jerry's shells were arriving pretty fast; we made some desperate attempts to get to the mule so that I could put a bullet behind its ear into the brain, but to no avail.

By lingering there, trying to put the creature out of its pain, I was risking not only my life but also my companions'. The shelling got more intense—perhaps, we hoped, one would hit the poor thing and put it out of its misery.

Lieutenant R. G. Dixon, The Royal Garrison Artillery, 14th Battery, writing in 1915

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“War Horse”

A scene from The National Theatre Of Great Britain production of “War Horse”.

I did not succumb.

A Horse Named Joey: A High-Tech Replay Of “Lassie, Come Home”

This afternoon, my parents, my sister-in-law, and Joshua and I went downtown to see The National Theatre Of Great Britain’s production of “War Horse”, a 2007 stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel. Minneapolis is but one stop on the production’s extensive North American tour, ongoing since last year. (The production ran 22 months in New York.)

“War Horse” is notable because of its stagecraft. Life-size puppetry is used—successfully—to present the story of a horse named Joey, sold by its owner to the British Army for military use in France during World War I.

Projections, videos, choreography, any and all devices conceivable by sound and lighting designers: all are called upon to present a fluid, even cinematic, presentation of the tale. To this mixture is added bucket after bucket of Celtic music.

“War Horse” is a rather complicated yet fundamentally one-dimensional story. Plot is everything as Joey proceeds through his countless—and credulity-straining—adventures before reuniting with the boy he loves. Designed for presentation to adult audiences, “War Horse” nonetheless remains ruthlessly a vehicle for children; it is a high-tech replay of “Lassie, Come Home”—in a wartime setting, with Lassie turned into a horse.

One had to respect the stagecraft. It cannot have been easy to portray onstage a horse caught in barbwire in the middle of “No Man’s Land” . . . or a German tank emerging through the mist to gun down British soldiers.

The production cost a mint. The cast was enormous. There must have been 200 technicians hard at work backstage during the performance (the fog machines and smoke machines alone must have kept at least 20 persons busy).

“War Horse” has more to do with circus than theater. Shorn of its elaborate trappings, the play is a mindless—and endless—adventure yarn constructed so as to tug at a twelve-year-old’s heartstrings. I have never seen a more cynical or manipulative play.

We would have taken my nephew to “War Horse”, but the production was recommended for those ten years of age and older.

Having now seen the production, I am glad we left him at home.

The length—two hours and forty-five minutes—would have been a problem for him, and the sound system, loud beyond belief, might have caused him permanent hearing loss.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

War Horses

A British horse team lies dead in a Belgian street in 1915, having been hit by a German shell.

The photograph appeared in the July 10, 1915, issue of The War Illustrated, with the following caption:

The ghastly harvest of a German shell. Tragic scene immediately after the explosion of an enemy shell near a British transport wagon in a Belgian street. All four horses are dead, but though the wagon still stands, the driver was hurled from his seat and seriously wounded. He is seen pluckily attempting to rise, as a comrade reaches his side.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Comings And Goings

We skipped Bloomington Civic Theatre’s recent production, now closed, of Yasmina Reza’s oft-performed “Art”. We simply were unable to interest ourselves in a non-professional production of such a schematic play.

Minneapolis Musical Theatre’s current production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, “Sunset Boulevard”, closes this weekend at New Century Theatre. The reviews scared us off—and word-of-mouth has been even worse than the reviews. I am told ticket sales have been very scarce.

We are presently trying to decide whether Park Square Theatre’s current production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Sherlock Holmes And The Adventure Of The Suicide Club” is worth a trip to Saint Paul. We are also trying to determine whether Theatre In The Round’s current production of Ludmilla Bollow’s “In The Rest Room At Rosenblooms”, a play whose premise sounded promising on paper, can possibly be as bad as the reviews have suggested.

This weekend, we WILL see The National Theatre Of Great Britain’s production of “War Horse”, a stage adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo children’s novel. “War Horse” has settled in for a two-week run at the Orpheum Theatre.


In August, for the first time, we shall attend The Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Over four days, we shall see eight of this year’s twelve Stratford productions.

Each day, we shall pair a heavy play with a not-so-heavy play.

On our first day, we shall see “Blithe Spirit” and “Measure For Measure”. On our second day, we shall see a new work and Schiller’s grand “Mary Stuart”. On our third day, we shall see “The Merchant Of Venice” and “Fiddler On The Roof”. On our final day, we shall see “Romeo And Juliet” and a new stage adaptation of “The Three Musketeers”.

The 2013 Stratford Shakespeare Festival should be a good follow-up to last summer’s visit to The Shaw Festival, where we saw everything on the bill.


As a general rule, we do not attend concerts or other music events in summer months—and this summer will be no different. There is nothing announced we want to hear.

The Twin Cities hosts a couple of minor enterprises, both small, that offer summer opera performances; we have never paid attention to either enterprise. Skylark Opera offered “The Mikado” this summer. I believe the performance run has already ended. Mill City Opera will offer “The Barber Of Seville” next month. We shall not be in attendance.

Each July, the city of Winona convenes its Minnesota Beethoven Festival. We have never attended a single performance—although we had acquired tickets last year to hear the Leipzig Quartet (at the last minute, we decided to go up to the lake that weekend rather than down to Winona).

The rarest of occurrences is scheduled for this year’s Minnesota Beethoven Festival: an appearance by a visiting orchestra. The Russian National Orchestra is scheduled to give one concert (under a conductor unknown outside Russia) during the Minnesota Beethoven Festival. The orchestra’s Winona appearance will be the first by a visiting orchestra to Minnesota in years and years and years; visiting orchestras are never heard here.

We shall not attend the concert. We have no desire to drive all the way down to Winona and back on a weeknight.


In decades past, my parents used to be able to drive down to Ames or Iowa City on an occasional weekend and hear top-flight American and European orchestras on tour. Both Iowa State University and The University Of Iowa used to sponsor appearances by world-class artists and ensembles in extensive (and very impressive) performing-arts subscriptions.

Performing-arts subscriptions, everywhere, began to wither in the 1990s; for reasons of mounting cost, it became impossible for universities—or other sponsors—to continue such programming at exalted levels.

Today, if one wants to hear touring orchestras with any frequency, one must travel to New York or Washington—or to Europe.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

“Taxis Of The Marne”

One of the legendary “Taxis Of The Marne”, now on display in the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée at Les Invalides.

When my brother and I had visited Paris in 2003 and 2004, the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée had been closed for a multi-year redesign and reinstallation. It was only in January of this year that we were able at last to visit the World War I section of Musée de l'Armée.

In early September 1914, one month into the war, German forces were already at Paris’s outskirts. The ease of the German advance through Belgium and Northern France en route to Paris had shocked British and French command. By September 6, German troops were in position to capture Paris within the following 24 hours.

In desperation, French authorities decided to send to the front 6,000 troops being held in reserve for the defense of Paris.

There was a problem: the French rail network, already clogged (to the extent it was working at all), was not in a position to transport 6,000 reserve troops to the front.

To accomplish the troop movement, French officials ordered 600 Paris taxis to assemble at Les Invalides. Each taxi was ordered to deliver five soldiers to the front, return to Paris, and pick up another five soldiers for transport to the front.

The tactic worked. The German advance was halted. Within days, British and French forces were able to mount an effective counterattack that drove German forces 40 miles from the city.

Paris had been saved.

And stalemate set in for the next four years.

Chief Of The German General Staff Helmuth von Moltke knew instantly that the war on The Western Front had been lost in the 72 hours that had transpired between September 6 and September 8—and he informed the Kaiser by cable that defeat was now inevitable against Britain and France.

Moltke was soon thereafter relieved of command.

Within days, Moltke’s health collapsed, mental and physical, and he was forced to return to Berlin.

Eighteen months later, during Berlin funeral services for Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz, Moltke himself keeled over.

He had died on the spot.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Home Of The Gentry

Having now read Ivan Turgenev’s “Home Of The Gentry”, I can well understand why the novel was so greatly admired by Gustave Flaubert, Henry James and Joseph Conrad.

I can further declare, having now examined its source material, that Crispin Whittell’s stage adaptation, “The Primrose Path”, which we recently saw at The Guthrie, was shockingly inept, largely misrepresenting Turgenev’s themes, and was much more reliant upon current British soap opera practices than upon Turgenev.

Turgenev’s novel, at root, is a tale of Christian forgiveness, Christian charity—and Russian identity.

Lavretsky, the novel’s central character, is half serf and half nobility. He embodies the Russia of 1859, a land caught between feudalism and modernization. Beliefs are fracturing, passions are flaring, social tensions are rising—yet inaction on all fronts is the order of the day. (It was Tsar Alexander II himself who—courageously—took matters into his own hands two years later. Against the advice of all strata of Russian society, Alexander II abolished serfdom in 1861, in the process presenting more than 20 million Russian serfs with ownership of the land they worked.)

Lavretsky further embodies the unthinking worship of Western society typical of the Russian upper classes of 1859. Lavretsky has been taught to view Russia as backward and primitive—yet he finds that he fits into Paris society no better than he is suited for life in the Russian provinces. He is too Russian for the French, too French for the Russians.

It is Lavretsky’s return to his dilapidated Russian estate that propels the storyline into motion. He meets Liza, a young woman whose most pronounced quality is her essential goodness. Lavretsky contemplates marriage to the virtuous and spiritual Liza—until a shocking external event renders such marriage an impossibility.

“Home Of The Gentry” contains all the Turgenev virtues: masterful descriptions of Russian countryside and Russian family life; insightful characterizations of a wide range of persons; and incomparable depictions of the simultaneous stultification and anarchy endemic to life in the Russian provinces. The novel is passionate yet somber, idealistic yet true, painful yet suggestive of redemption. Above all, the novel is deeply reflective—yet totally non-judgmental.

“Home Of The Gentry” is a masterpiece.

I am surprised the novel is not more widely known.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

1947: Georg Solti In Munich

Georg Solti in Munich in 1947. Solti turned 35 years of age that year.

From 1946 until 1952, Solti was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera. Solti was installed in the position by American occupying forces, and Solti’s stay in the house was an uncomfortable one. Anti-Solti intrigues were the hallmarks of Solti’s Munich tenure, and Solti was ousted once Americans were no longer calling the shots.

In the photograph, Solti is shown leading the musicians of the orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera. The photograph was taken in the orchestra pit of Prinzregententheater, home of the Bavarian State Opera from 1944 until 1963. Prinzregententheater, erected in 1901, was modeled after Richard Wagner’s theater in Bayreuth—and Prinzregententheater included a Bayreuth-like orchestra pit, much in evidence in the photograph.

The Bavarian State Opera’s regular home, the Nationaltheater, had been destroyed during the war. After reconstruction, the Nationaltheater reopened on November 22, 1963, with a performance of Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger”.

Only minutes separated the rise of the “Meistersinger” curtain in Munich and the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Outtake From “Music Box”

An outtake from the 1989 Costa-Gavras film, “Music Box”.

In the film, an American attorney (Jessica Lange) defends her father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) against Office Of Special Investigations proceedings alleging that Lange’s father had committed crimes against humanity during World War II and must be denaturalized and deported.

A real-life “Music Box” situation is playing out right now in Minneapolis, where a 94-year-old man, long-time resident of Minnesota, is alleged to have committed crimes against humanity in Poland and The Ukraine during the war.


The Office Of Special Investigations, no longer extant, was a very small unit of the U.S. Department Of Justice. Its work was to identify persons that had made false statements in order to gain entry to the U.S. in the immediate post-war years. OSI would seek to strip such persons of their citizenships and deport them to their countries of origin (often not a clear-cut question). OSI, not in a position to prosecute persons for war crimes since the U.S. lacks jurisdiction over events that transpire outside U.S. territory, had available only the remedies of denaturalization and deportation.


In the film, the American attorney initially believes that her father is a victim of mistaken identity. However, after months of legal proceedings, proceedings in which she prevails on her father’s behalf, she comes across old photographs showing that her father had committed inhumane acts during the war—she finds the photographs in an old music box—and she mails the photographs to the Office Of Special Investigations in the film’s final scene.

“Music Box” is a very fine film, but it did not fare well at the box office, probably because its subject matter was gloomy.


Jessica Lange was born and raised in Cloquet, Minnesota.

The 1918 Cloquet Fire started in Cloquet. One of North America’s greatest all-time natural disasters, The 1918 Cloquet Fire raged for days and spread all the way to Duluth on the shores of Lake Superior. It destroyed 38 towns and burned out 250,000 acres of forest and farmland.

At least 453 persons lost their lives in The 1918 Cloquet Fire.


In 2006, we ran into Armin Mueller-Stahl at Hamburg’s Museum Of Arts And Crafts. Mueller-Stahl was examining the Hall Of Mirrors, the former ballroom of Budge-Palais, when we ran into him.


In her youth, Lange, briefly, had been a professional dancer with Paris’s Opéra-Comique.

In his youth, Mueller-Stahl, briefly, had been a professional concert violinist.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Against Our Better Judgment

Against our better judgment, on Saturday night Joshua and I went to Saint Paul to hear the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in concert.

We attended the concert as a favor to Joanne, an attorney at Josh’s firm. Joanne had wanted to hear the guest soloist, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, but Joanne’s husband had refused to go to the concert—he has declared a moratorium on SPCO concerts until all current musicians are replaced and a Music Director named—and Joanne had not wanted to go by herself.

Our arrangements were all very last-minute—and, at the VERY last minute, we were joined by Joanne’s sister-in-law.

Many persons are predicting a major career for Leonard, who is just starting to obtain important engagements. Leonard has a voice of some size and some color. She is a competent musician and—singing Berlioz’s Les nuits d'été—her French was acceptable. She has an earnest and graceful stage demeanor.

“Where never is heard a discouraging word” has long been the official policy for local music reviews. In critical notices of the Leonard concert, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Saint Paul Pioneer Press, both of which employ stringers, carried on as if a young Janet Baker had graced the Saint Paul stage. The overstatement, even puffery, of the stringers was sheerest foolishness: what Saint Paul heard was a capable singer, not a special one. Leonard will have the honorable career of a Béatrice Uria-Monzon, not the spectacular one of a Teresa Berganza.

Les nuits d'été, perhaps the most bewitching of song cycles, lacks a great current interpreter. I have heard Susan Graham and Anne Sofie von Otter, both distinguished artists, come to grief in the work. Is there an active singer that can do the work justice?

Much as I hate to say this (because I cannot stand her fundamental phoniness and smarminess), I think Renée Fleming should have a go at Les nuits d'été. Fleming’s French is faultless; Victoria de los Ángeles and Régine Crespin, among others, have shown that a soprano voice can handle the tessitura of Les nuits d'été.

The Berlioz was the main event of the first half of the program; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 was the main event of the second half.

The conductor, Edo de Waart, gave a lightweight, glib account of the Beethoven. The SPCO needs to stop engaging de Waart; the man has nothing to offer.

Two John Adams orchestrations of piano compositions completed the program. Adams’s “The Black Gondola”, a very imaginative and very successful orchestration of Franz Liszt, opened the concert. Adams’s “Berceuse elegiaque”, a less successful orchestration of Ferruccio Busoni, opened the second half of the program. Both Adams orchestrations had premiered in Saint Paul in 1989.

The SPCO needs to engage a Music Director, a Music Director that can shape up and elevate the ensemble. In its present incarnation, the SPCO plays cleanly and in tune—and that’s about it.

My suggestion is that the SPCO go after one of the young German hotshots, Christoph König or Cornelius Meister, before their fees get out of hand—and before the Baltimore Symphony grabs one and a major European orchestra the other.

König or Meister could set the town on its ear—and provide something the Twin Cities has not had since Dimitri Mitropoulos left town in 1949: a conductor worth hearing week after week.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Imperial Russian Renaults

The five Renault automobiles of Nicholas II in 1916. The automobiles were presented to the Tsar that year by the French automotive firm.

Friday, June 07, 2013

More Turgenev

The Royal Ballet, taking curtain calls in Frederick Ashton’s “A Month In The Country”.

In 1976, Ashton distilled Turgenev’s five-act play into a forty-minute ballet.

“A Month In The Country” was recognized as a masterpiece on opening night—and instantly became a permanent fixture of the Royal Ballet repertory. I believe it would be fair to characterize “A Month In The Country” as now a signature piece for the Royal Ballet.

“A Month In The Country” was Ashton’s first important ballet since “Enigma Variations”, created in 1968. It was to be the choreographer’s last work of significance; nothing Ashton created in the final dozen years of his life proved durable—or even interesting.

“A Month In The Country” may be the most subtle, complex ballet ever created. The evocation of character is amazing in its nuance; the portrayal of emotion has a thousand shadings. Turgenev’s entire story is presented, clearly and concisely, in a series of solos and pas de deux. The choreography is brilliant, the storytelling masterful. The ballet is a work of genius.

Julia Trevelyan Oman’s stage designs and costume designs matched Ashton’s subtlety. I have never seen a more beautiful or better-designed ballet setting.

“A Month In The Country” has long been familiar to audiences on the Eastern Seaboard. The Royal Ballet, in tours to the U.S., has presented the work in New York and Washington countless times since 1981, the year the company first brought “A Month In The Country” to America.

However, it was only in 1995 that a second company took up the work. The National Ballet Of Canada added “A Month In The Country” to its repertory that year. The reception—both by the Canadian press and by the Canadian public—was cautious, even chilly. Oman’s designs were singled out for being too detailed and too elaborate; more than one Canadian reviewer described them as unattractive.

Last month, a third company added “A Month In The Country” to its repertory. In the third week of May, American Ballet Theatre presented four performances of the work in New York. The public reception was overwhelming (although I have been told by persons whose opinions I respect that ABT’s casting was spotty).

Monday, June 03, 2013

Russia 1856: The Literary Titans Of The Time

Russia’s literary establishment in 1856.

Of those in the photograph, only two are known today in the West: Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. The others are known only to specialists in 19th-Century Russian literature.

A very old-looking Turgenev, seated at left, turned 38 years of age in 1856.

A much younger-looking Tolstoy, in uniform, turned 28 years of age in 1856.


One will observe a queer feature of Turgenev’s structure. He takes tremendous trouble to introduce his characters properly, endowing them with pedigrees and recognizable traits, but when he has finally assembled them all, lo and behold, the tale is finished and the curtain has gone down whilst a ponderous epilogue takes care of whatever is supposed to happen to his invented creatures beyond the horizon of his novel.

I do not mean there are no events. On the contrary, “Fathers and Sons” is replete with action; there are quarrels and other clashes, there is even a duel—and a good deal of rich drama attends Bazarov’s death. But one will notice that all the time throughout the development of the action, and in the margin of the changing events, the past lives of the characters are being pruned and improved by the author, and all the time he is terribly concerned with bringing out their souls and minds and temperaments by means of functional illustrations.

Vladimir Nabokov

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Regional-Theater Stage Discourse And Deportment

On Friday evening, my parents, my middle brother, and Joshua and I went to The Guthrie Theater to see a stage adaptation of Ivan Turgenev’s second novel, “Home Of The Gentry”.

I have never read “Home Of The Gentry”, first published in 1859. I have read the fourth of Turgenev’s six novels, “Fathers And Sons”, and I have read Turgenev’s most-produced play, “A Month In The Country”. Otherwise I have ignored Turgenev. The loss surely is mine.

The adaptation, titled “The Primrose Path”, was by British playwright Crispin Whittell, none of whose work I have seen. The direction was provided by Roger Rees. Since The Guthrie was presenting the very first full-scale production of Whittell’s adaptation (it is my understanding that the adaptation has been workshopped once or twice), a lengthy rehearsal period had been provided by The Guthrie.

The plot is a typical 19th-Century Russian plot set in Russian provinces. A young woman from a financially-strapped landowning family must choose a husband between two men, one selected by her mother because of the suitor’s stability and social prospects and the other selected by her own heart. A large number of subsidiary characters—servants, retainers, friends, family members—enriches the plot and enriches the drama.

I found the story and characters riveting (I want to read the novel as soon as possible), the Guthrie production not good enough, the adaptation in need of further revision.

Whittell’s script is too jokey, especially in the first act, when Whittell tries too hard to keep the audience amused while the characters are introduced and the plot set into motion.

The script is also poorly paced. The adaptation never finds a rhythm for any sustained period of time; the two great surprises that occur during the course of the play are poorly written and do not come off as genuine climactic events.

The Guthrie cast was unimpressive, especially the cast members assigned the four primary roles. Each was one-dimensional; each offered nothing more than an on-the-surface portrayal. “The Primrose Path” is the kind of play that cries out for the level of casting and performance London’s National Theatre can provide. What we got in Minneapolis was strictly regional-theater stage discourse and deportment—and it was much too “American” in tone and much too “2013” in tone.

Before the performance, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at a fine seafood restaurant. We ordered Maryland soft-shell crab as appetizer and Idaho trout as main course. We were pleased with our meal.