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BOOK REVIEWS THE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYHOUSE, by Alice Lewisohn Crowley, Theatre Arts Books, New York. 1959, 266 pp. Price $5.00. To anyone associated with the Little Theatre Movement during 1915-'16. the Neighborhood Playhouse was a stimulus and a challenge; any student of the theater, from California to Florida, going to New York in the '20's, was sure to include a visit to this Grand Street theater (which was about as far off Broadway as it was possible to get in Manhattan). Three insurgent theaters of these years are associated with New York: The Provincetown Playhouse, the Washington Square Players and the Neighborhood Playhouse. A book about this third theater, long overdue, has just appeared: "The Neighborhood Playhouse" by Alice Lewisohn (Mrs. Crowley) who, with her sister Irene, was one of the directors, actors, founders and managers of this unique theater venture. The book was picked up by the present reviewer with warm anticipation. When more than half way through the reading he remarked to himself, "Weare spending pleasant hours with Mrs. Crowley's reminiscences, but why didn't she edit and distill from all this a clear, succinct story of the Playhouse?" For many people are brought into the story but (with one or two exceptions) never come to life. At times (chapters 20 through 24 as an example) the theater narration is abandoned for extraneous matter. We journey into the bypaths of Hindu culture and no connection is made between it and the playhouse on Grand Street. And we are left in the dark concerning many things: financial policy, expenses, organization, what eventually became of the physical theater. Despite omissions and digressions, significant information about the playhouse comes to light. One circumstance, not shared by many of the insurgent theaters, was, in Joseph Wood Krutch's words: "They (the Lewisohn sisters) inherited from their fathers both wealth and a philanthropic impulse"; which reveals that this theater did not have the customary financial worries. Again, as Mrs. Crowley states, "From the first we had the collaboration of rare creative personalities." Also, Irene and Alice Lewisohn and their collaborators possessed the souls and capacities of theater artists who could keep in touch with the will and temper of their audiences. These factors made it possible for this theater to become significantly successful in experimentation and exploration. Entire chapters are recommended for careful reading: 27, a fresh and astute discussion of the actor's craft, which should be included in future anthologies on acting; 30 and 31, devoted to an analysis of "The Dybbuk" and its production. These chapters reveal the care, time and intelligence which should go into the stage interpretation of a ph1y. One might wish for a deletion of certain material, answers to certain questions, a better organization; but the book has its high points and emerges a stimulating and valuable account of one of the most diversified and significant theater ventures in 20th century America, ALLEN CRAFTON PLAYS AND POEMS, by Elder Olson, The University of Chicago Press, 1958. Price $4.00. Elder Olson, poet, critic, playwright, and professor of literature at the University of Chicago, presents in this book a collection of five plays and thirty poems. 326 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
p. 326
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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