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Reviews279 The Playboy of the Western World, the exhilarating guile with which O'Casey interweaves political rhetoric with the low comedy of the pub in The Plough and the Stars, the poetic transfiguration of Saint Joan during her trial in Rouen or the calculated ambivalence of her Epilogue, the Chorus in Murder in the Cathedral and its power to lift its audience to a crisis of emotion before the abrupt and prosaic cut-off of the Knights' address after the murder, Beatie's extraordinary moment of transformation in Roots from dumb parroting to self-discovery, in Amadeus the sudden surge of Mozart's music following the repellent image of his person as presented on the stage. Performance criticism signals the style of the drama and seeks its lifeblood. This will not be the last study whose aim it is to get to grips with the British drama of this lively century, but it is full of stimulating ideas and succeeds in illuminating an extraordinarily wide range of material. It is an account, the best we have to date, that will trigger our thinking for a few years to come. J. L. STYAN Northwestern University Marianne McDonald. Ancient Sun, Modern Light: Greek Drama on the Modern Stage. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Pp. 238. $35.00. There are two ways of indicating the power of Greek drama to modern audiences. The first is to try to recover the terms of the original performances in all their startling strangeness, and find at least equivalents for their effects in modern productions. These include the use of only three male actors, masks, a male chorus, spoken, chanted, and sung poetry, music, dance, the physical and symbolic space of the ampitheater and so on. Here one would find, with more than Brechtian power and complexity, a built-in Verfremdungseffekt that would startle into life all but the most torpid audiences. One would recover, for example, the astonishing implications of the fact that the same actor, in Sophokles, plays the feminine Deineira and the macho Herakles, or, in the Electra, the son Orestes and the mother he slays (actually giving out his "mother's" death-scream), and, in Euripides' Bacchae, in a reversal of this, the son Pentheus and his mother and killer, Agave. (The head of Pentheus that Agave carries is surely the same actor's previous mask.) Or the brilliant use of three actors in the Oedipus at Colonus where the Theseus figure, as he grows in stature, is played successively by the tritagonist, deuteragonist , and protagonist, the Oedipus voice (spirit) finally emerging through the Theseus mask as Oedipus bestows his spirit on Athens. Greek plays were performative, not "literary" texts, and we lose much of their meaning as well as their power when we ignore their performative terms. Indeed, the "academic" or "conventional" productions Marianne McDonald deplores are distortions of the originals greater than the modern productions she applauds. It is the unsettling unlikeness of the ancient dramas to our experience of the theater or the modern world that is creatively "alienating." The second way is that which is described in Ancient Sun, Modern 280Comparative Drama Light. This is for writers and directors mostly to ignore the original performative terms of the dramatic texts, to extract from them their stories, myths, or themes, and then to adapt these in brilliant, contemporary , and innovative forms. Taking an extremely diverse and provocative group of productions from Japan, the United States, Germany, Greece, Britain, and Ireland, McDonald effectively communicates to the reader her enthusiasm for their methods and achievements. She is especially successful, I think in conveying to the reader the experience of Suzuki Tadashi's art and that of his leading actress, Shiraishi. Here it is the unexpected likeness of the Greek texts to the "issues" of the modern world that is vitalizing. The book, then, is less about the performance of Greek drama than about its continuing validity as potent myth in the modern imagination— the subject also of George Steiner's Antigenes. McDonald's concern is to make the myths and themes of Greek drama address the problematic modern world: to remove the plays from the pedestal of High Eternal Truth and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 279-282
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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