The Dramat has narrowed suggestions down to a “medium list” of 12 plays under consideration for its Spring Mainstage production — scene weighs in:
1. “Othello” by Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s classic story of jealousy, race and handkerchiefs. The Public Theater produced a terrific version last winter with Liev Schreiber playing Iago, the sadistically scheming military man who manipulates the title character to his tragic end. Iago is one the the greatest parts in all of Shakespearean drama, not least because the actor who plays him must convince the audience that someone can be ambitious and power-hungry enough to betray and ruin the people who have loved him — just because he’s been passed over for a promotion. Was this play made for the Dramat or what? As with so much Shakespeare, the play only has two female parts, but the necessity of casting a black actor as Othello will shake up the usual suspects a little.
2. “The Good Person Of Szechwan” by Bertolt Brecht
Written in exile during World War II, Brecht’s famous parable tells the story of two gods who traverse the earth to see if there is still a good person left and come upon Shen Teh, a kind but penniless prostitute. They try to help her, but she is too good to avoid ruin and ends up hardening herself and dressing like a man.
Brecht was a great master and a peerless anti-fascist artist-activist, but choosing to spend the winter months rehearsing this play night after night after night is roughly equivalent to choosing to play Mahler at your Bar Mitzvah.
3. “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller
The play tells the story of a working-class Italian-American family living in Brooklyn and a father whose repressed attraction to his adopted daughter come to a crisis when she falls in love with an illegal immigrant from Sicily. Peter Brook directed it in 1956 when it was written and it won two Tony Awards in 1997. Who can blame the Dramat for wanting a crack at it? Ain’t nothing better than Brooklyn accents and incest, my friends.
4. “Translations” by Brian Friel
Friel wrote this play in 1980 as part of a project with Seamus Heaney, Stepen Rea and other Irish artists and intellectuals to reinvigorate the political consciousness of the Irish literary arts. The drama surrounds a school for Irish children where the students become involved in political unrest with British forces. It has become a seminal work of modern Irish theater as well as a great way for burgeoning American anglophiles to work our their inner rebels. Accents.
5. “Rough Crossing” by Tom Stoppard
Of all the genius in all the Stoppard in all the world, you walk into this one. Just kidding! You may not have heard of it yet, but it’s still fabulous. What better way to enjoy the glamorously over-the-top comedies of Noel Coward than to skip them and enjoy Stoppard’s reinterpretation instead? Those who saw last year’s production of “Private Lives” with Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan will recognize the setting of a ship in the Atlantic and the erudite humor but will be spared the gradual revelation that there is not enough plot to fill three acts (Stoppard always has enough plot). Carry on!
6. “Salome” by Oscar Wilde
In the recent production of Salome at the Daryl Roth Theatre in New York, Al Pacino played the lascivious King Herod, so lust-sick for his 14-year old step-daughter Salome (played by a ravishing Marisa Tomei) that he agrees to grant her any wish if she dances for him. She dances and then demands the head of John the Baptist, who has rejected her advances. The drama basically hinges on a lap-dance. Now that’s entertainment.
7. “Rhinoceros” by Eugene Ionesco
Existentialism and the Theater of the Absurd! Zero Mostell and Laurence Oliver have both played the lead character, Berenger. Can I be a rhinoceros (actually, everyone starts turning into rhinoceri)?
8. “The Cripple of Inishman” by Martin McDonagh
This play is lusciously un-pronounceable, which many members of the Dramat may interpret as lusciously experimental. “Not Inishman, darling, Inishma-an.” It’s about a cripple who really wants to be in a movie that a famous director is making near his town and the mean-spirited gossip-mongering of his neighbors. Of course, it is a comedy.
9. “Major Barbara” by George Bernard Shaw
Shaw’s play tells the story of a woman who chooses the salvation army over the material comforts of her class only to realize the capitalist hypocrisy of the organization and finally to reconcile herself to helping people from within the system. When Cherry Jones played Major Barbara at the Roundabout Theater in 2001, director Daniel Sullivan emphasized the intellectual and moral themes of the play by telling her “not to glitter.”
10. “Spring Awakening” by Frank Wedekind
Written in 1891 but not performed in English until 1974, this play about sexuality among German schoolchildren is undoubtedly interesting and perhaps still shocking (some claim), but it really comes down to whether or not you want to watch two or more hours of Yale actors pretending to be children coming to terms with their sexual selves during the early years of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s reign. I think I might.
11. “House of Blue Leaves” by John Guare
Same as “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” except the Hollywood-crazed man is a composer in Queens instead of a cripple in Ireland. Maybe the Dramat should just produce a movie –?
12. “What the Sun Did” by Laura Jacqmin ’04
She’ll probably get the sentimental vote —
13. “What the Butler Saw” by Joe Orton
This last play, which Orton wrote before his death in 1967, is a must-produce. It is a farce that takes place within the confines of a mental institution and casts the analysts as crazier than the patients. Cripples with lost dreams of Hollywood are not funny; this might be.