Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Revisiting theater of the politically absurd.

My first post in this blog complained that "its is 1968 all over again" and in many respects it still is. A small play produced in the 1969-70 season gives occasion to consider what is different between 1968 and today.

There seem to be two reasons that Jules Feiffer's 1968 play, "The White House Murder Case" has all but vanished from the world. Some reviewers fault the production and to a lesser extent the writing. These blemishes do not deter the usual suspects from trying to bring it back.

My play reading group read through it about three weeks before the election. Whatever its weaknesses in the craft of playwriting, its prescience concerning the depraved depths to which power and war-lust will stoop is simply stunning. The play ran off-Broadway and it did win an Obie award for direction.

So what is the other reason? According to no one but me, this play, when first produced the late 60's * was probably viewed by the average theatergoer as absurd. Absurd theater was an acceptable art-house kind of genre but not bound for long runs or stages outside campuses and large cities. Then as now, in America, artsy concepts are mostly a recipe for confining a work to a niche audience. Absurdity is an artsy concept but I think the Bush administration has lived down to the maxim that truth is more absurd than fiction. The times, thus altered by the unrelenting attack of crazed power upon truth in politics and public perception, are ready for a re-reading of this play. Find a copy if you can. It is short and you will gasp more with recognition of present mindsets than at the grim grim humor.

Was the play really such a turkey? Do you know where your president is right now?

Please pass the gravy.

*The variations in records of publication date are a clue that multiple re-writes were attempted but not a guarantee.
No amount of good writing will save the publication of a truth that has come before its time.

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