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MINI REVIEWS Gautam Dasgupta, Bonnie Marranca Persons of the Drama. Stanley Kauffmann. Harper and Row, 397 pp., $12.95 (cloth). Stanley Kauffmann has always written theatre criticism of a high intellectual order - straightforward, sensitive to humanistic concerns, and knowledgeable in an authentic way. It is remarkable to find, upon reading this first collection of Kauffmann's theatre criticism, how lacking in hyperbole - the critics' disease - he is. He is consistently fair and sober; his prose (though sometimes too dry) is economical yet the weight of his thoughts lingers long after the reviews (most of them written for the New Republic) have been put aside. His remarks on Robert Wilson's earlier work, for example, seem more pertinent than ever in view of the disappointing Einstein on the Beach. Persons of the Drama is composed of five parts, spanning Kauffmann's criticism and commentary on theatres, new plays and revivals, theatre people and themes, written between 1964 and 1975. Leading off the volume is Kauffmann 's important and candid essay (reprinted from The American Scholar), "The Stages of Joseph Papp," remarkable for its daring comments on the achievements of Mr. Papp up to 1974. (A piece this honest would have created an uproar in a more public forum.) His- "Notes on Naturalism" is one of the more provocative essays on current theatrical style and deserves to be expanded . Kauffmann's reviews are enlarged by examples from painting, film, literature and philosophy, areas of the humanities he - a novelist as well as film and theatre critic - is comfortable with, and shares with his readers. They point to a man of taste and subtle critical perception, one who knows the difference between the dramatic and theatrical, the theatrical and therapeutic - and cares that they do differ. BGM Farmyard and Four Plays. Franz Xaver Kroetz. Urizen Books, 132 pp., $12.95 (cloth); $4.95 (paperback). With names such as Peter Handke, Thomas Bernhard, Martin Sperr, Wolfgang Bauer, Rainer W. Fassbinder and Franz Xaver Kroetz, Germany today can boast of a fine group of gifted playwrights whose neglect here (except for Handke) is indeed deplorable. Now, thanks to Urizen Books, a collection of Kroetz's plays has finally appeared in English, with an introduction by Richard Gilman. Gilman's attempts to place this young playwright (one of the "New Realists") in a German tradition that extends back to von Horvath, Marieluise Fleisser, and Buchner are appropriate in so far as their plays deal with the in114 teraction between "inarticulate" characters who populate dismal and lowerclass surroundings. Even the strange modernist inversion of the romantic strain in Kroetz's plays links his works with those of his predecessors. However, Gilman is so taken up by the Germanic impulse in the plays that he fails to consider several other alternatives that could possible enlarge our understanding of Kroetz's dramaturgical principles. Given the vital operative principle of silence in the plays (Request Concertis a play without words), why is not Beckett, or even Pinter, dealt with in relation to these plays? Sure enough differences exist, particularly when we are informed of Kroetz's "New Realist" or, better yet, neo-naturalistic dramaturgy, but then why are both David Storey and Fassbinder eliminated from his study? It seems to me that Kroetz falls somewhere in line with these two playwrights, more so than others. Furthermore, his plays - for instance Michi's Blood - are structured around cliches in the manner of lonesco, another playwright Gilman fails to mention in this respect. Whatever the shortcomings, there is a lot to think about in Gilman's essay. His generalized remarks on the nature of Kroetz's dramas, their rupture of "speech and physical action," are most rewarding, as are his comments on the social organization evinced in the plays. It is the "imaginative evidence" in Kroetz's works that make them the lyrical, scathing, humane dramas they are, and it is now up to some imaginative and bold company to take up the challenge and transport this imagination to the stage. GD The Critics. Lehman Engel. Macmillan, 332 pp., $14.95 (cloth). The Critics is a cut and paste job of incredible mediocrity, posing an an analytical survey of American critics. What...


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