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Role Playing and Identity:The Limits of Theatrical Metaphor Bruce Wilshire Indiana University Press; 301 pp.; $24.95 (cloth) "How would we experience our life as a human life without the concepts of role, presence, a part to play, the mimetic, scene, performance, audience, the tragical, the comical, persona and person, etc.-all of which involve more or less directly the concept of the theatrical?" The long statement quoted above gives some hint of the scope and seriousness of Wilshire's brilliant, demanding book, but it does not begin to do justice to the systematic analysis of the theatrical idea and audience reception that he has undertaken. Wilshire, a philosopher, has written a ground-breaking study of the ways in which theatre is life-like and life theatre-like, the center of this study being the concept of identity. He establishes a phenomenology of theatre, a theory of enactment, and a theory of appearance, none of which American theatre, shamelessly deficient in theoretical writing, has ever had. In other chapters, he examines various works by Beckett, Shakespeare, Wilson, Grotowski, among others, and concepts of self, body, space, time, mimesis. The first section of the book is devoted to the limits of theatrical metaphor, including a discussion of Goffman's role theory which is criticized for its lack of attention to "selfconsciousness ." Wilshire's extended reflections are based primarily on the writings of Aristotle, Kant, Heidegger, and Merleau Ponty, and as such are fairly classical readings of art, existence, and reality, and perhaps too taken with the notion of audience identification as a given. Unfortunately, he does not address Derrida's critique of representation, nor does he stray far from conventional readings in philosophy. Suprisingly, he for the most part ignores theatrical (non-dramatic) reading sources, and in his analysis of plays, bypasses Pirandello and Genet whose work formulates many of the questions on role-playing and identity he himself tries to answer. There is, however, enough in Wilshire's book to provoke several volumes of answers to the very humane, thoughtful questions-all essentially unanswerable-that he asks of art and existence. In the absence of any 113 earlier studies on which to base his own, he has, remarkably thoroughly, established a preliminary framework from which to view, to argue against, to go beyond, his understanding of phenomenology, audience reception, theatrical event, selfhood. Wilshire's study, like Barash's recent The Anti-Theatrical Prejudice, is a major book in theatre studies, and perhaps if we are lucky it will serve as an inspiration to others to attempt work in this difficult, lonely field of research and reflection. Bonnie Marranca New German Dramatists Denis Calandra Grove Press, 172 pp.; $9.95 (paper) Calandra's introduction to a handful of contemporary German playwrights -two Austrians (Peter Handke and Thomas Bernhard), two East Germans (Heiner MUller and Thomas Brasch), and three West Germans (Franz Xaver Kroetz, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Botho Strauss)-provides the appetizers but not the meal. Constructed mainly as a pastiche of plot description, excerpts from magazine interviews and Marxist critique, New German Dramatists is more accurately an admirable preface to the work of Handke and Kroetz than a comprehensive survey of modern Teutonic playwrights. (The chapters on the two playwrights alone comprise more than two-thirds of the book.) The few pages devoted to the East Germans MOller and Brasch (who emigrated to West Germany in 1976) are particularly disappointing because Calandra neglects the obvious-namely, the cultural/political ramifications of writing for the theatre in East Germany. Must East German theatre depend solely upon State subsidies? How heavily are the texts censored? Why did Brasch emigrate? Despite all the unanswered questions, the chapters on Kroetz do uncover the playwright's increasing dissatisfaction with theatre as a vehicle for popularizing his political ideas. Kroetz's (and Fassbinder's) methodology for sneaking revolutionary ideas past the West German censors are also revealed. Aligning his sympathies with those playwrights who use the theatre as a forum for their socialist political gambits, Calandra takes Thomas Bernhard to task for his "misanthropy" and "nihilism"-which might not be quite fair as aesthetic criticism. Helpfully, Calandra unravels some knots of difficulty in understanding Handke...


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pp. 113-114
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