A critic's expansive take on modern American theater. From more than 50 years of experience as a playwright, teacher, director, and critic, Wilson has much to offer readers who care about the theater in the U.S. As a young man in the early 1950s, the author appeared headed to a career with a small coffee company in Nashville. But New York theater junkets with his parents to see landmark playse.g., Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Oklahoma!had planted the idea of becoming a playwright. In 1954, that pursuit sent him to the Yale School of Drama, where, eventually, he earned a doctorate. George Bernard Shaw’s essays on Shakespeare, which Wilson researched for his dissertation, shaped his straightforward, lucid prose style, much in evidence here. After graduation, the author taught at Hofstra while also assisting a Broadway producer. The latter work found him working for British stage director Peter Brook in helming a film adaptation of Lord of the Flies. The film’s failure prompts Wilson’s illuminating observations on fundamental differences between film and theater, which he feels Brook couldn’t bridge. A brief stint teaching playwriting at Yale followed by a long tenure at Hunter College teaching theater yielded a text, The Theatre Experience (1976), that remains in print today. A golf outing with a Wall Street Journal writer eventually led to Wilson’s 23-year career as the paper’s theater critic. The assignment afforded him a look at what may have been the modern American theater’s final flowering, as evoked in Wilson’s articulate, entertaining reviews of stellar productions such as The Elephant Man, A Little Night Music, A Chorus Line, and many more. Now in his 90s, the author laments Broadway’s current state, with theatregoers “dressed as if they were about to go into a picnic” while herded “like refugees” to see jukebox musicals and Disney spectacles. Magic time in American theater, it seems, has vanished. A fifth-row center seat for a perceptive look at a vital time on the Broadway boards.