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376 Comparative Drama cabaret, as concocted by Brecht and Weill to match Brecht’s original songs, becomes the occasion for a good scene-by-scene commentary on Brecht’s intentions and what he calls his “misuc.” But it is hard to account for the presence of Alun Davies’ rather pedestrian account of “The hellenism of early Italian opera,” which deals with the Camerata of Giovanni de’ Bardi in late sixteenth-century Florence and the pursuit of themes from Greek mythology in early Italian opera up to Monte­ verdi, although music historians may wish to take note. The pieces on French baroque dance by Wendy Hilton (with the reproduction of diagrams from Feuillet’s Chorégraphie of 1700 and other sources), on contemporary dance in America by Christena L. Schlundt, on Aida by Perluigi Petrobelli, and on Le manage de Figaro from play to opera by Frits R. Noske are factual and interesting, but I don’t know what they are doing in this book. The key aesthetic questions for drama lurk in these pages. How far is dramatic action independent of the music which interprets it? In what way does music determine the duration of the dramatic experience? At what point does the musical idiom usurp the verbal, in order to communicate directly with an audience? As we listen to song, or to a lyrical text, how far do we hear “syllables” rather than words (Auden’s distinction)? Does the impulse towards gesture, movement, and dance merely refine, or essentially extend, dramatic behavior and action? What is the relationship of music and dance to the “ritual” function of theatre? Is dance a consumer product, or at bottom a shared, participatory art? What conditions bring about that critical “chemical” fusion of the per­ forming arts in the theatre? The diligent inquirer will have to search hard in this book for any answers. J. L. STYAN Northwestern University Samuel J. Bernstein. The Strands Entwined: A New Direction in American Drama. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1980. Pp. xiii + 164. $17.95. Samuel J. Bernstein’s The Strands Entwined has two purposes. The author devotes the most space to the first, which is to demonstrate in five American plays of the years 1968 to 1975 a fusion of the realisticnaturalistic mode that has always dominated our theatre with the absurdist techniques of twentieth-century European drama. Here Bernstein is on safe, if unambitious ground. Few would quarrel with his introductory statement: “American drama is marked by diversity, enriched by stub­ born, tested hope, and—despite extensive experimentation, particularly in its drama of social protest—anchored in a realistic-naturalistic mode, in which essentially nonpoetic dialogue reaches levels of rare and moving intensity.” His subsequent stressing of how the “stubborn, tested hope” optimistically leavens the nihilism of the European sources also hits the mark squarely. Bernstein advances these arguments, however, in hopes of accom­ plishing a larger goal: to prove that the entwining of the two strands of Reviews 377 realism and absurdism in the plays he presents as examples—Sticks and Bones, The House of Blue Leaves, Double Solitaire, The Taking of Miss Janie, and Seascape—offers hope for a renaissance of genius in the American theatre. He admits that this is no easy task, since many influential U.S. critics maintain that the national drama has never risen consistently to the first rank. I must confess to sharing this opinion myself, but I doubt that even the most vigorous partisan of American theatre would find Bernstein’s case convincing based solely on his pre­ sentation of it. His discussions of the individual plays provide only glorified summary mixed with a few superficial critical observations. Even the best of these plodding critiques, that on Double Solitaire by Robert Anderson, for whose works the author evidences a particularly strong personal admira­ tion, could never stand on its own as a journal essay. Moreover, despite the book’s title and its last chapter, which also promises “The Strands Entwined,” the five separate discussions never really coalesce in a probing consideration of the relationship among these examples of the putative new direction in American drama. We never, for instance, see a point by point comparison of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 376-378
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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