I was spoiled. I grew up within less then two hours driving distance or a one-hour train ride of The Great White Way. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, I am referring to Broadway, the place where theater magic occurs. I saw many shows as a child – most of them the classic musicals. In middle school, I discovered plays that, though they had less dance numbers were equally entertaining. My sister, who is now trying to be an actress in New York City – you can currently see her in the role of perky waitress at The City Grill – starred in school productions of such classics as “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” “The Desk Set” and “Ten Little Indians.” I also lived down the street from the nationally renowned, Tony Award winning McCarter theater where many of my school field trips took place at, to see plays like “Electra” and “Romeo and Juliet.” I also was lucky enough to see plays like “Proof” and George S. Kaufman’s “Dinner at 8.”
Basically I am someone who really enjoys theater. You can imagine it was quite a shock when I attended my first Todd Theater production. Now I will say whole-heartedly that I do believe every actor I have seen in these plays is immensely talented and have committed themselves fully to their roles.
However, it is the content that they are forced to work with that I find so disappointing. There is a notion that unfortunately occurs on many college campuses – that art has to be deep, dark and complex to have any meaning. The Todd Theater plays, at least in the last four years have all insisted on being incredibly obscure, abstract and excessively depressing.
I am not saying that they should be doing comedies, even though Noel Coward and Neil Simon have been revered for their great works of theatrical comedy but then do dramatic productions that have some substance – Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Tennesee William’s “The Glass Menagerie” and Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” There are reasons these shows are classics and considered great works of art and performed in many venues. Even though Gertrude Stein was an accomplished writer I found her play “Dr.Faustus Lights the Lights” to be a never-ending spiral of absolute conceit. It was like a horribly deranged version of a Dr. Seuss story in which all the characters speak in rhyme but that play did not let me leave the theater with a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart. I was actually unable to speak to anyone for an hour or so afterwards as I tried to process what I had just seen.
I recently found out that it costs a lot of money to get the rights to perform the more classic popular plays so if that is the reason for the choice of plays then all right. If however, that is not the reason and this is a choice of taste then I would say the Todd Theater Board of Directors should consider a serious assessment of their programs. I dare the next Todd play to not be about suicide, incest, rape, alcoholism, murder, molestation, adultery, violence, simulating blow-jobs or girls who have two names who walk around repeating themselves.
Lepore can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.