As the last decade of the millennium comes to a close, scholarship has paused to take a big gulp of air after a rich and prolific 10 years of work on American drama. Suspicion increases, however, that the standards of C. F. Richardson, Fred Lewis Pattee, and Robert E. Spiller are insidiously being replaced by the apparent influence of Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV. As the pollutions of journalism leak over into erudition, next year we might expect university press volumes and academic journal articles on mooks, mosh pits, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against the Machine, Korn, Eminem, Vince McMahon, the World Wrestling Federation, and the XFL. This year's distinctive debate, however, seems to shift to what constitutes live theater on Broadway. The theater's schizophrenia included a blatantly fake street preacher named Bill Talen (aka the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping) performing a new kind of political theater outside the Disney Store on West 42nd Street; a Broadway pit stop by Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries); and the success of a continuing menagerie of leading performers of uncertain sexual identity and strong confessional urges in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. American drama in New York City responded with new plays by August Wilson and Maria Irene Fornes, Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby, Anna Deavere Smith's House Arrest, and revivals of Sam Shepard's True West, David Mamet's American Buffalo, Arthur Miller's The Price and The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (which Miller swore in 1992 would never be performed on Broadway), Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's The Man Who Came to Dinner. Next week, East Lynne?
i Reference Works and Anthologies
The first 198 pages of Contemporary Jewish-American Dramatists and Poets: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook, ed. Joel Shatzky and Michael Taub (Greenwood), are devoted to entries on 24 dramatists. Taub supplies pieces on John Robin Baitz, Alfred Uhry, and Wendy Wasserstein; Shatzky coauthors with Elizabeth Lloyd-Kimbrel the entry on Elizabeth Swados; Leslie Kane covers Israel Horovitz and David Mamet; a much-needed entry on Harvey Fierstein is by Ben Furnish, who also provides the sketch "Emily Mann." Only two entries appear on deceased dramatists: Edward Isser's "Paddy Chayefsky" and Bette H. Kirschstein's "Arthur Laurents." Also included are Richard Moody's "Woody Allen," Catharine Gabriel Carey's "Sarah Blacher Cohen," Herbert Liebman's "Jules Feiffer," Andrea Most's "Herb Gardner," Michael C. O'Neill's "Arthur L. Kopit," Dennis A. Klein's "Tony Kushner," Joshua Berg's "James Lapine," Norman J. Fedder's "Norman Lessing," Oren Safdie's "Donald Margulies." Eric Sterling contributes "Barbara Lebow" and "Martin Sherman," while Darrell B. Lockhart provides "Ronald Ribman" and "Murray Schisgal." The book's coup is its entry on Arthur Miller by Miller biographer Benjamin Nelson. Each piece contains a brief biography, a discussion of major works and themes, a review of critical responses, and a bibliography of primary and secondary sources—which tend to be superficial. For example, the secondary bibliography on Arthur Miller contains no work after 1988 and lists only one 1953 interview. Ellen Schiff's "Introduction" focuses on the fundamental components of Jewish-American theater and repertoire. No entries are included on Clifford Odets or Elmer Rice since the emphasis is on the contemporary; eventually, Greenwood will have to get around to individual biocritical sourcebooks on many of the playwrights included here.
The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights, ed. Brenda Murphy (Cambridge), is not to be compared to Yvonne Shafer's American Women Playwrights, 1900-1950 (see AmLS 1995, p. 512), which contains lengthy biographical sketches of 35 writers from the familiar to the obscure, or to Jane T. Peterson and Suzanne Bennett's Women Playwrights of Diversity (see AmLS 1997, p. 374) which lists entries alphabetically and provides brief overviews of the playwrights. The goals of Murphy's Companion, which is written for undergraduate students of drama and women's studies, are modest. The 15 essays suggest the [End Page 414] richness of the field and provide a foundation for further study. The volume features Thomas P. Adler's...