“I am normally wary of any new play that could be called 'Chekhovian’: it implies something fragile and wispily atmospheric. But Richard Nelson’s extraordinary play about the pioneering playwright-director Harley Granville Barker combines a command of realistic detail with a sense of suffering and loss that genuinely evokes the Russian master.
As in many of his previous plays, such as Some Americans Abroad, Nelson deals with cultural collision. In this instance, Granville Barker finds himself in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1916, surrounded by a group of English refugees. Disillusioned with English theatre, and with his marriage to Lillah McCarthy on the rocks, the great man is making a living by lecturing on the college circuit. This brings him into contact not only with fellow exiles, including a Dickensian recitalist and a love-struck female actor, but also with the deeply poisonous politics of American campus life.
At one point, Granville Barker dreams of writing a non-Aristotelian play in which there wouldn’t be any 'doing’, only 'being’. And, in many respects, that is just what Nelson himself has created. There is not a lot of plot: simply a mesmerising record of a group of people all in flight from their own unhappiness. Granville Barker, you feel, is not just escaping London theatre, but also his traumatic memories of a European war to which he was sent to write about the Red Cross. Beatrice, the ex-pat actor, is likewise trying to get away from a doomed marriage by having a passionate affair with an undergraduate. As the twinkling Dickensian points out, they all treat America as if it were a Shakespearean forest that could transform their lives. It may not quite do that but, as Nelson artfully suggests, it does temporarily restore Granville Barker’s faith in his chosen medium.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
|Publisher:||Broadway Play Publishing Inc|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.19(d)|
About the Author
Richard Nelson's plays include Farewell to the Theatre, Nikolai and the Others, Sweet and Sad, That Hopey Changey Thing, Conversations in Tusculum, How Shakespeare Won the West, Frank's Home, Rodney's wife, Franny's Way, Madame Melville, Goodnight Children Everywhere, The General From America, New England, Misha's Party (with Alexander Gelman), Columbus or the Discovery of Japan, Two Shakespearean Actors, Some Americans Abroad, Left, Life Sentences, Principia Scriptoriae.
He was written the musicals Unfinished Piece for a Player Piano (with Peter Golub), James Joyce's The Dead (with Shaun Davey), My Life With Albertine (with Ricky Ian Gordon), the screenplays for the films Hyde Park-on-Hudson (Roger Michell director) and Ethan Frome (John Madden director).
He has received numerous awards both in America and abroad, including a Tony Award (Best Book of a Musical for James Joyce's The Dead), and Oliver Award (Best Play for Goodnight Children Everywhere), Tony nominations (Best Play for Two Shakespearean Actors; Best Score as co-lyricist for James Joyce's The Dead), an Olivier nomination (Best Comedy for Some Americans Abroad), two Obies, a Lortel Award, a New York Drama Critics Circle Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lila Wallace-Readers' Digest Writers Award.
He is the recipient of the PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and he is an Honorary Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He lives in upstate New York.