Friday, August 24, 2007
http://histriomastix.typepad.com/weblog/2007/08/art-for-critics.html I can’t wait to see Letts’ play. But wait, what’s this Charles Isherwood wrote in the Times on August 13, 2007… After comparing the play’s pill-popping, bile-spewing matriarch to Albee’s Martha, O’Neill’s Mary Tyrone and Williams’ Amanda Wingfield, he puts on the brakes toward the end of an otherwise enthusiastic review. After a few good strokes of the chin, quoth The Ish: Mr. Letts is as yet more a skillful entertainer than a true visionary or a dramatic poet. August: Osage County is a ripsnorter full of blistering, funny dialogue, acid-etched characterizations and scenes of no-holds-barred emotional combat, but I would not say it possesses the penetrating truth or the revelatory originality of a fully achieved work of art. Spoken like a true cultural arbiter. Still, let’s pause and rescan. The play “does not possess the penetrating truth or revelatory originality of a fully achieved work of art.” Really? So…it’s not art? Is it at least a fully achieved piece of entertainment? What is the difference? If, in 50 years, no one has written a large-scale family drama that is better than A:OC, will it be upgraded to the ranks of fully-achieved art (FAWA)? Is Isherwood speaking as a newspaper reviewer of 2007 or a cultural commissar from the distant future? Where does he park his time machine?