Two very different theatrical experiences: one at the Trinity Rep, the professional regional theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, connected to Brown University, and the other a simulcast from the National Theatre of London. Comparisons are somewhat unfair because of size and budget differences as well as history my the experiences were so different I keep mulling about them. The play at Trinity Rep was Love Alone, a new play by Deborah Salem Smith, a young, award winning local playwright. A cast of 6, a basic set [minimal furniture], the space was the smaller of two in that theatre, seating 175 and was nearly full -- good for a Wednesday matinee. The play was a "topic" play, the characters, sketched out more than fully drawn, served the purpose of showing the complexity of a frequent occurrence: the death of a hospital patient after a "successful" operation and the dilemma of the young anesthesiologist on whom blame was laid, acted out beside the grief of the dead woman's family, a lesbian partner and a rock singer daughter who sued for malpractice. A loaded subject. To me a subject that suggests a teleplay not a theatrical drama in which I hope for deeper understanding of people, not a discussion of a subject that is discussed in magazines and newspapers.
The production was well done, the pacing was especially admirable as the expected and necessary short scenes dovetailed between two sets of protagonists, doctor and her husband, partner and daughter. There were small directorial missteps from my point of view but I'm very picky about such things. Altogether a successful afternoon of not untypical American theatre which more and more reflects the influence of television and movies. Spare sets are refreshing, not a hindrance for the audience, generally competent actors are satisfactory to most audiences.
The next day a simulcast from the National Theatre of London of She Stoops to Conquer,. Oliver Goldsmith's comedy of manners Young director Jamie (?), with the full potential of one of the best companies in the world, staged the play with elegant over-the-top comedy and maximum panache, adding music sung by the cast and played by a sizable ensemble of musicians to mark scene changes. The imaginative exaggeration of character and acting was always high spirited without silliness or cloying cuteness. High comedy, not at all high drama. An anecdote for the ills of the time, political, financial. This was theatre with all the stops pulled out. It's equivalent does not exist in America although many Broadway musicals aspire and sometimes come very close to such taste and finesse.
How lucky I am to have had two such experiences in a single week.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!