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Teachout On America's Favorite Plays - And My Night Out with "Sylvia"

Posted Jan 11 2010 12:00am

This article by Terry Teachout takes a look at the most-produced plays in America, with some interesting results.  From the article:

What does this list tell us? To begin with, six of the 11 plays—"Doubt," "I Am My Own Wife," "Intimate Apparel," "The Glass Menagerie," "Proof" and "Wit"—are all distinguished pieces of writing, while the rest are at least respectable. Only one, "The Laramie Project," is an explicitly political play—and none is a musical. ("Crowns" is a play with music, not a musical comedy.) This suggests that, Broadway producers notwithstanding, American theatergoers are not know-nothing neanderthals but intelligent people who are prepared to spend time and money grappling with straight plays that are artful, thoughtful and well written. On the other hand, it should be noted that all but three of these shows, "Crowns," "Wit" and "The Laramie Project," call for no more than four actors. The lesson is clear: If you want to write a smart, serious play that has a halfway decent chance of getting produced, keep the cast as small as possible.

In short, the list is very modern, and has no musicals on it.  Teachout's thoughts and observations are worth reading.  Theater is a difficult medium to maintain knowledge of, especially for those in positions similar to me: shows tend to cost a fair amount, and when you have kids under the age of ten...anyway, I still like to read about this stuff now and again, even if I don't get out to the theater all that often. 

I was able to go out this weekend though, and saw a local performance of Sylvia, which I found very entertaining.  Simply put, the show is about a recently empty-nested couple, and a dog that comes between them.  Mostly a comedy, but with couples' issues explored (at times with some depth), it made for a great night out.  If you love dogs, or if you hate dogs but love someone who loves them, you'll get a kick out of this show (even though the dog, while a great theatrical device, is not the main point).  It's currently running at the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.

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