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Reviews493 handcuffs" and the character who speaks becomes "in every sense of the term, a subject," according to analysis based on Bernard-Henri Levy and Oswald Spengler (p. 100). If the enunciating subject speaks in "stock phrases and semantic blanks," he or she is not controlling speech. The identity of Kroetz's characters, who express themselves through clichés, becomes borrowed and eclectic. For the audience of plays by Kroetz, the subject is thus fragmented and discontinuous in the linguistic context. But in Mamet's American Buffalo, language is used as a tool for "tinkering" which serves the characters' greed or self-preservation. In Shepard's The Tooth of Crime, language is objectified. It becomes an economic commodity at the service of personal fantasy and survival. For Mamet and Shepard, language is thus at the service of personal survival and selfish desires. Quoting Leonard Wilcox, Malkin concludes that Shepard's play pits Modernism (as fragmentation) against Postmodernism (as opportunism). SERVANNE WOODWARD Wichita State University W. B. Worthen. Modern Drama and the Rhetoric of Theater. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992. Pp. ? + 230. $38.00. This book is an overgrown term paper or, perhaps better put, four overgrown term papers, an introduction, and a postscript, at once and unfortunately an unsettling example of what is out and about these days in the great world of scholarship and/or criticism of the theater and/or the drama. Based upon a highly questionable postulate, or what used to be called in olden times an argument, this study is quite simply a tendentious foray in scholastic overkill—or, perhaps more charitably, a reinvention of the wheel, an activity here conducted with a relentless, perfervid energy designed to make the discussion stick with total adhesion . But much of the introductory and first chapter's exposition is open to question—a great many questions, in fact. The bugaboos or slippery terms there presented are the words "rhetoric" and "audience," both used as if they encouraged or, more importantly, permitted, freely and without the group's consent, the activity of theater to conduct itself as a neat, coded, empirically verifiable, hermetically sealed activity easily purveyed or discussable in rhetorical formulae comprehensible to one and all. Alas, the cold air of common sense tells a very different tale. It is an old saw, of course, to insist, as the author does with a casual, almost cavalier attitude or tone about the rectitude of his beginning critical equation, that any audience can be pushed, willing or not, into a highly formal and discernible pattern of reactions, insisting that the folks out front, breathlessly gathered for the show, know what the 494Comparative Drama playwright is up to once the action is set in motion, as if just being together and participating in the presumed formality of performance, whatever it is or is not, is what matters in the perception of a play. Perhaps theater is a patterned game of rhetorical formalities, and then again perhaps it is not. And perhaps the audience acts the play with the players, and perhaps it does not. These perhaps simple-minded objections could be multiplied, but they suggest the fundamental flaw at work in this overargued, overwritten book. To drag the audience, unwillingly or not, into this possibly dubious theoretical contract is problematic at best, at worst imputing to the group powers it may not want, have, or wish to have or use. To be sure, there is a rhetoric or set of conventions which is an essential part of every performance of any kind anywhere anytime as people gather to view theater (with or without a script), or mud wrestling, or a troupe of performing seals; but so too there is a rhetoric or set of conventions to cooking a goose in the kitchen. Everything, finally, in the theater, as in the culinary world, is a matter of convention: no doubt about that. But the problem, ever and always a grand and glorious one, is ever and always the audience: unpredictable , willful, sometimes unresponsive, often an inchoate, sometimes rowdy bunch who can or cannot accept what they see, hear, or feel in front of them. One can never know how...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 493-497
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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