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books and company Selected Recent Anthologiesof Plays Lou Lapin The Theatre of Wonders, Edited by Mac Wellman, Sun and Moon Press, $16.95 (cloth), $10.95 (paper). The sense of wonder in Wellman's dramatic syntax suggests a theatre of revelation, a drama of aural and visual stimuli anchored by a flow of affective images. At their best, the plays by Len Jenkin, Elizabeth Wray, Jeffrey Jones and Wellman himself possess a primal energy and propose a critique of reality through an alternate stage language. The plays address the anxieties of a technological and commercial culture, and the inequities of a conservative political system by dissolving our preconceptions and recalibrating the rhythms of stage reality . In part, the plays explore the contradictions and dissonances of "the system" in terms of a dramatic form that requires a readjustment and mental reformulation in the minds of the audience and reader. Monstrous Martyrdoms, Eric Bentley, Prometheus Books, $18.95. The idea of martyrdom provides the theatrical energy and naturalistic detail for Bentley's three social dramas. He treats the idea of persecution and the dehumanization of the individual by a conservative society that insists on regimentation, and conventionally accepted roles. In the most ambitious play of the trilogy, The German Requiem, Bentley conflates the Romeo and Juliet story of warring families and Kliest's Schroffenstein Family in order to reveal the hysterical anxiety, political opportunism and fear of dispossession at the center of contemporary experience. In Lord Alfred's Lover, the persecution of Oscar Wilde remains an implicit indictment of the modern stage as conformist, impersonal and committed to the repression of the individual. H For Hamlet is a melodrama that more calculatedly layers the ambiguity of Hamlet's madness in the context of Pirandello's Henry IV. Three Plays, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (cloth), $12.95 (paper). Solzhenitsyn's dramatic trilogy (Victory Celebrations, Prisoners, The Love Girl and the Innocent) was composed in 1952-53 while the author was interned under a sentence of hard labor in the Ekibastuz Camp. While the plays mediate Solzhenitsyn's experience of the brutality of 127 confinement, they also implicitly explore his disaffection with transformation of the revolution into a movement that created a ruling elite. Yet, even as the plays demystify the myth of revolution, the sacred cause of Stalin, and the image of the Russian homeland, they remain an expression of the capacity to endure. Despite the comic injunction of one of his characters, "you need a revolution to kill me off," the trilogy implies the recognition, protest and committment to change that have become characteristic of its author's work. The Man from the USSR and Other Plays, Vladimir Nabokov, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $9.95 (paper). The plays provide allusive glimpses through the fabric of Nabokov's fictional reality. His is a drama of the inferred and unstated that is not intended to process reality but rather to explore the ambiguityof the author's fictional world, to cast doubt on the reality of unreality . Nabokov has ingeniously imagined a self-conscious, cerebral theatre that transforms life into art, and that addresses the symmetry of the pattern rather than the substance of the issue. At its best, it is a pure art of virtuosic puzzles that explores a mode of perception unmediated by life outside the theatre. Yet it remains a drama that lacks human intimacy and is unconcerned with the possibility of human intervention. Orchards: Seven Stories by Chekhov and Seven Plays They Have Inspired, Edited by Anne Cattaneo, Alfred Knopf, $18.95 (cloth), $9.95 (paper). The concept of selecting seven short stories by Chekhov and commissioning seven American playwrights to adapt them as one act plays intended to be performed collectively is the inventive gesture of Anne Cattaneo, dramaturg of the Acting Company. The products of playwrights as disparate as David Mamet, John Guare, Maria Irene Fornes, Samm Art Williams, Wendy Wasserstein, Michael Weller and Spalding Gray were originally designed to provide fresh energy for the players of the Acting Company. Yet it is difficult to resist the temptation, especially since the texts of the plays are published alongside the original stories, to consider the new works apart...


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pp. 127-130
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