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Monday, February 8, 2010


MICHAEL AND HIS LOST ANGEL by Henry Arthur Jones 1896

Well, at least I still have some acuity left in my political sensibilities. When reading this play I kept thinking how right-wing and priggish it seemed. Then I read in Wikipedia about Jones’s attacks on G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells for their politics.

This is basically a play about the desire for redemption versus the desire for love, I think. A pastor has written a book which attracts the attention of a rich woman. She secretly underwrites his rebuilding of a shrine on an island. The plot seems cunning and contrived to present the author’s viewpoint. There was very little I could relate to.

Now, I’ll quote Oscar Wilde (per Wikipedia): "There are three rules for writing plays," said Oscar Wilde. "The first rule is not to write like Henry Arthur Jones; the second and third rules are the same."

I would say those rules still hold true.

STRIFE by John Galsworthy 1909

Galsworthy is best known, I believe, for the BBC/PBS presentation/adaptation of his novel The Forsyte Saga. It was the inception of the the PBS series “Masterpiece Theater”.

This book of plays was printed in 1915. The play was written in 1909. The author eventually went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932, just six weeks before he died.

Strife takes the position of unions being the best route to peace between labor and management. Again, it’s such a huge cast as to be almost dizzying to a dramatist today. As with all of these plays (well, with a couple exceptions) I would enjoy them more with a good cast performing the piece.

THE MADRAS HOUSE by Granville-Barker 1911

A playwright submitting this play today would be considered insane. There’s an entire cast of characters introduced at great length in the opening stage directions of the first act, and a lot of them make their brief appearances and are never seen again.

It’s an oddball comedy, for sure. High fashion takes some lumps. There’s a Jew who converts to Islam so he can have a harem. It’s sort of feminist and sort of pro-marriage, and basically all over the place. I guess it would be called a comedy of manners.

It just seemed like a big mess to me.

Plays read so far from "Chief Contemporary Dramtists" (Cambridge, Mass 1915):

"The Rising of the Moon" by Lady Gregory

"Lady Windemere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde

"The Hourglass" by William Butler Yeats

"Riders to the Sea" J. M. Synge

"The Scarecrow -- a tragedy of the ludicrous" by Percy Mackaye.

"The Witching Hour" by Augustus Thomas

"The Weavers" by Gerhart Hauptmann

"The Vale of Content" by Hermann Sudermann

"The Red Robe" by Eugene Brieux

"Beyond Human Power" by Bjornstjerne Bjornson

"Pelleas and Melisande" by Maurice Maeterlinck

"The Second Mrs Tanqueray" by Arthur Wing Pinero

"Michael and his Lost Angel" by Henry Arthur Jones

"Strife" by John Galsworthy

"The Madras House" by Granville-Barker

-- Uke Jackson

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