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Illyria (bio play about Joe Papp) @ Public Theater

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#1 Suzanne F

Suzanne F

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 03:50 PM

It runs until December 10, but don't rush to see it.


I wish I'd looked for information/reviews before we bought tickets; then we wouldn't have. We both expected it to be far more interesting than it was--I mean, a show about Joe Papp in the early days of NYSF, circa 1958 when he was up against both Robert Moses and HUAC, that should be pretty meaty, no?




There's virtually no backstory for any of the characters except Peggy Papp (his wife at the time), and even that is minimal. Even if you know who these people are (Papp, Merle Debuskey, Bernie Gersten, David Amram, Colleen Dewhurst, among others), you don't learn much about them. To me, the most interesting characters were two who never appear: Jane Jacobs (one of the "mothers with strollers" who were fighting Moses, but never even named in the play, only in program notes) and George C. Scott. Yes, there is some tension and conflict in the play, but if you don't know much about the people, the impact is lessened, imo. And I won't even go into how the playwright (Richard Nelson) conflates some situations and makes up others just for dramatic effect; not something I like or condone when it's real people in otherwise real situations (my main reason for disliking Ruth Reichl's memoirs).


Unfortunately, the best depiction of the era is that of the women: they are shown more as assistants, wives, mothers, girlfriends, cooks, and servers than as fully formed human beings. But then, the men aren't fully realized, either.



I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM


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