Monday, September 27, 2010

"Trouble in Mind": A '50s Satire That Still Troubles the Mind

For the second year in a row, Aurora Theatre, in Berkeley, is beginning its season with an excellent revival of a classic American play that deserves to be better known. But last year's play, Awake and Sing! by Clifford Odets, is nowhere near as obscure as this year's offering, Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress. This play was produced off-Broadway in 1955, won an Obie and was optioned for Broadway, but the deal fell through when Childress refused to rewrite the ending to make it more upbeat. Had the play gone to Broadway, Childress would have been the first African-American woman to have a work produced on Broadway; instead, that honor fell to Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun, four years later.

Hansberry and Raisin deserve their ongoing fame, but I think that people ought to start ranking Childress and Trouble just as high. In some ways, Trouble in Mind is a more ambitious play than A Raisin in the Sun. It is a backstage drama about the 1950s Broadway production of Chaos in Belleville, a supposedly progressive, anti-lynching play. But the black characters in Chaos in Belleville behave stereotypically and unrealistically, the white characters are the heroes, and Al Manners, the director, is absolutely insufferable and patronizing (while convinced that he is a generous and liberal man). Trouble in Mind traces leading lady Wiletta Mayer's dawning conviction that she can't follow her usual policy of smiling and keeping quiet and being grateful to get a job. She has to protest against her role, the script, and the racist attitudes that surround her.

Trouble in Mind is sharply satirical, both funny and pissed-off, in the manner of the best satires. Childress skewers all kinds of things about race and theatre in the 1950s, from the small (Wiletta is sick of always playing women with "jewel" names--Ruby, Opal, Pearl) to the large (the prevailing attitude of white people is that blacks are ignorant and childlike). She even begins Act II with a wicked parody of an overwritten, "stagy" monologue. Because the play-within-the-play is so terrible, and yet Childress implies that it is typical of what gets produced on Broadway, it is as though she is saying, "I may be black and female, but I can write a better, more truthful play than you've ever seen before." Which is pretty gutsy for 1955.

I remember studying A Raisin in the Sun in 9th grade English, but I think Trouble in Mind would also be a great play for high school students to read. Not only would it lead to discussions about racism and prejudice, its play-within-the-play structure and theatrical satire would also introduce students to ideas about meta-theater, role-playing on and off stage, etc.

Trouble in Mind is not a perfect play. There are a few contrived moments, such as Wiletta and a younger black actor discovering that they both grew up in Newport News, Virginia; or the fact that the writer of Chaos in Belleville can't show up to the rehearsals. Still, it is a testament to the strength of Childress's writing and characterization that I really wanted to see what would have happened if the Chaos in Belleville playwright had been there. And, as a playwright myself, I reaffirm my pledge to heed my actors if they ever criticize me for writing a stereotypical or unbelievable role... especially when the character is of a different race, gender, or sexual orientation than myself.

Some things have improved for African-American actors in the 50+ years since Trouble in Mind was written, but often, they still play stereotyped roles--it's just that the nature of the stereotypes have changed. Wiletta and her fellow black actors, who in real life are smart and sharply dressed urbanites, are always cast as poor rural Southern blacks, mammies and sharecroppers and "shiftless" husbands, who sing spirituals at every opportunity. Nowadays, not many plays or movies feature this kind of rural Southern black life, so the stereotyped roles for black actors have shifted to things like urban pimps, thugs, and "sassy" sidekicks. I learned in this week's New Yorker that a 1925 Broadway stage adaptation of The Great Gatsby gave Daisy Buchanan a black maid who talked in dialect (presumably because the audience expected it). Is that much different than giving the white heroine of a contemporary romantic comedy a sassy black friend? Trouble in Mind raises such issues.

Bay Area theatergoers have one more week (until October 3) to see the production of Trouble in Mind at the Aurora Theater, featuring excellent performances from the 9-person ensemble cast, including Margo Hall and Tim Kniffin squaring off against each other as Wiletta and Al.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bonne Année 219

Bored at work yesterday (and not ashamed to admit to it on my blog, because I will be starting a new job on Monday), I began Wikipedia page-hopping. Because I am reading Flaubert's Sentimental Education, which takes place around the Revolution of 1848, I started on that page, and ended up learning about all kinds of French historical events from 1789 to 1871 (very turbulent years for la belle France). The most fascinating page I discovered explained the French Republican Calendar, a wacky overhaul of the calendar and time-keeping system, which was instituted a few years after the 1789 revolution. Months had new, seasonally appropriate names, and three weeks of 10 days each. Each day had 10 hours, each hour had 100 minutes, and each minute had 100 seconds. Each day no longer commemorated a saint, but instead some important plant, domesticated animal, or farm tool!

I think it's completely nuts to pass a law re-defining what a "week" and an "hour" and a "minute" is, yet some aspects of the Republican Calendar are very appealing. I like the idea of naming each month after the quality of its weather (though, as Wikipedia points out, the calendar was based on typical Parisian weather, and it would be rather chauvinistic to import it to other parts of the world). Indeed, when I was younger, I created a fantasy world with its own language, and the months were named after nature and weather: e.g. March was U'eyvth, meaning Melt-month, and July was Opuivth, meaning Fruit-month. (I hadn't heard of the French Republican Calendar at the time, though--I was probably inspired by the Native American names for full moons: Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon, and the like.) Also, there is something so charmingly French--so appropriate for the land that invented the idea of terroir--to name days after the nation's favorite plants and foodstuffs!

Moreover, because the first day of the French Republican year takes place on the autumn equinox, and I was reading this Wikipedia page on September 22, it was actually the first day of Année Republicaine 219! Bonne année, mes amis!

Learning about this calendar system also caused me to wonder why different cultures celebrate their New Year at different times of the year, and how this might have arisen in each civilization. The French Republican year begins on the autumn equinox; the Jewish New Year is also in early autumn. The modern Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year on January 1, ten or so days after the winter solstice, but in medieval England (which used the Julian calendar), the New Year began near the spring equinox, March 25. The Chinese New Year is sometime between the winter solstice and spring equinox--late January or early February. Interestingly, I can't think of any calendar whose New Year occurs around the summer solstice. All of this must have to do with the agricultural patterns in each of these civilizations, and other societal values... but still, it's curious.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Children's Book": Byatt Surveys a Bygone Era

It's been three weeks since I finished reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, and I've been putting off blogging about it because I'm worried about how to do it justice. At nearly 900 pages long in the paperback edition, the novel offers a lot to wrestle with, and it might take more time/energy than I have right now to come to a complete understanding of every thread of the book, and write an all-encompassing review.

Nonetheless, I am a huge fan of A.S. Byatt, so I want to write about her latest novel. As readers of this blog know, I think Possession is brilliant, and The Virgin in the Garden (and the character of Frederica Potter) is very personally meaningful to me. Therefore I looked forward to reading The Children's Book more than I had to any novel in years. A big, huge Byatt novel dealing with one of my favorite periods of British history--the late Victorian era through the Great War--and particularly with the artistic and cultural movements of that time? Sign me up! (Byatt has been quoted as saying she prefers the mid-Victorians of Possession to the late-Victorians of The Children's Book, but I'm the opposite.)

The big theme of The Children's Book is the loss of innocence. When the book begins in 1895, the principal characters are children, growing up in a "golden age"--their parents, many of whom subscribe to liberal ideas like Fabian socialism, indulge them, throw costume parties, give them wonderful children's literature to read, etc. But as the years pass, the various characters are forced to face the darker sides of life: incest, unwanted pregnancy, hazing, revolutionary violence, sexism, betrayal, and finally World War I.

All the same, and despite the book's length, I thought this theme could have been more effectively dramatized: more emphasis placed on just how delightful it was to be a (wealthy, indulged) child in 1895, so that the later tragedies would be even more moving. Indeed, despite the title, The Children's Book is not really about childhood--it's more about adolescence and young adulthood. I very much enjoyed a section in the middle of the book that follows three young women--aspiring doctor Dorothy Wellwood, her cousin Griselda, and their friend Florence--as they struggle to educate themselves and figure out their place in the world as "New Women."

Educated women, smart women, people who think too much--these are some of Byatt's favorite themes, found in nearly all of her fiction. Other trademark Byatt motifs also run through The Children's Book: preoccupations with group dynamics, fairy tales, the seacoast of England, and sex in hotel rooms. And a desire to show off her research. Lots and lots of research. A large chunk of the novel takes place at the Exposition Universelle of 1900, and it's full of descriptions of the amazing Art Nouveau artworks that the characters witness at the Exposition. But the plot barely moves forward--nothing much actually happens to the characters while they are in Paris.

There are so many characters in The Children's Book that, as The Complete Review notes, it is "one of those books that either should have concentrated more closely on fewer characters, or been expanded into a much larger work." I can't decide whether it's too long and should have had some of its characters/plots eliminated, or whether it should be a 1400-page trilogy instead of a 900-page novel. With such an overstuffed book, it is inevitable that certain plot threads will be dropped or unsatisfactorily wrapped up. In fact, it's lucky for Byatt that World War I comes along and allows her to kill off several of her characters, or else she would really have had a hard time ending the novel.

And yet, even though we haven't necessarily gotten to know the characters as well as we would have liked, the World War I scenes are very affecting. Byatt devotes only about 50 pages to the war and its aftermath (the same number of pages as she uses to describe the Paris Exposition), so the litany of deaths and other horrors is swift and brutal. Tears filled my eyes on at least three separate occasions as I read these last 50 pages--and I hardly ever cry at novels.

There were definitely parts of The Children's Book that didn't grab me, that moved too slowly or else glossed over what would seem to be important moments, or narrated history rather than dramatizing it. But then I remember Byatt's brilliance at writing about what it feels like to be a cerebral person (particularly a woman), her ability to synthesize history and draw parallels, and the power of the World War I scenes. And, though this novel takes place 100+ years ago, the characters feel like recognizable people. In 1895, there were wealthy, faddish Fabian socialists who indulged their children, fetishized fresh vegetables and beautiful handicrafts, and threw fancy-dress parties. In 2010, particularly in the Bay Area, there are wealthy, faddish limousine liberals who behave like "helicopter parents," patronize farmers' markets and local artisans, and go to Burning Man. Not all that different, eh?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Overdressed and Overeducated

Hey, I've started a new blog on Wordpress called Overdressed and Overeducated, focusing on personal style. I've been wanting to do this for a while now, but Marissabidilla didn't feel like the right place for it. As I wrote in my introductory Overdressed and Overeducated post:
For the past 3 years, I have written about literature, theater, playwriting, and other such topics at–which has turned into a very wordy, nerdy, opinionated blog. Overdressed and Overeducated will supplement, rather than replace, Marissabidilla. It's my space to be more playful and a little more personal. Fewer words, more pictures. Indulging my dreamy, aesthetic, imaginative, intuitive side.
So yes, now I've got one more project to juggle, but am by no means saying goodbye to this blog! Please continue to visit Marissabidilla for posts about theater and other arts; and check out Overdressed and Overeducated if you care to see what I'm wearing to the theater and elsewhere. I have started to get a reputation in San Francisco theater circles for being a bit of a fashionista--that's why I created the new blog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shotgun's "In The Wound" (No, this has nothing to do with firearms)

So, what should you do this weekend if you're jonesing for some outdoor theater that features a big cast and a story that takes place in the ancient world? Don't head to Marin--instead, make your way to John Hinkel Park in Berkeley, where Shotgun Players is producing In the Wound, an invigorating new play based on the Iliad.

I wish I had time to write a longer review, but I think I have to go with some bullet points (no pun intended) about what makes In the Wound well worth a trip to the Berkeley hills:
  • A 31-person cast! Thirty-one! I'm trying to remember the last play I saw that had a cast that big...and drawing a blank. The cast really proves the depth and diversity of Bay Area acting talent, and creates some dazzling moments of theater.
  • Inventively staged fight scenes (stylized, rhythmic fighting with a stick held in each hand) involving most of said 31-person cast. Accompanied by taiko-style drumming and other live percussion and chanting.
  • Now that I no longer have my prejudice against adaptations of mythology, I am amazed at how rich these stories are--how many different ways you can interpret them, and how every adaptation of the Iliad must choose to emphasize something different. In the Wound focuses on how the Greeks' sacrifice of Iphigenia haunts them throughout the Trojan War and requires expiation. I had never considered this aspect of the story so deeply before.
  • In the Wound also has an unusual way of presenting this familiar story, doling out key information in flashbacks. Okay, sometimes it got a little confusing. But, in theater, confusion can sometimes be a useful device to keep the audience paying attention. The In the Wound playbill lists three actresses simply as "Goddess," but it is not until the end of Act 1 that you learn which specific goddesses they are. Greek mythology nerds will be playing Guess the Goddess* all through the first act.
  • The play is set in a timeless milieu that blends classical and contemporary references, encouraging you to reflect on warfare ancient and modern. Furthermore, I saw the play on September 11, so the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at the front of my mind. In the last decade, there has obviously been a lot of war-themed theater produced in America. Would I have seen a play based on the Iliad on 9/11/10 if the United States had not been attacked on 9/11/01?
  • Odysseus, played by Daniel Bruno, is the main character of In the Wound, and he's intriguingly complex: a family man, a technocrat, a "cruel" man who suggests killing Iphigenia and a thoughtful man who questions his role in the cycle of warfare. Anti-heroes make for good theater, and Odysseus' story isn't done yet. I am thrilled that in December, Shotgun will produce Of the Earth, a new adaptation of the Odyssey, picking up where In the Wound left off!
  • Suggested donation to see this epic spectacular is just $10!
*Not to be confused with Get the Guests.

Image: Iphigenia (Nysbeth Rieman) is carried off to be sacrificed. Photo Credit : Benjamin Privitt.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Have Strong Opinions About "Antony and Cleopatra"

Maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment. Ever since I saw an excellent, intimate, pared-down production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2003, it has been my choice for "most underrated Shakespeare play." I preached the gospel of it to anyone who would listen. My senior-thesis play in college was a backstage drama about a production of A&C in the 1930s. And yet, in these seven years of loving Antony and Cleopatra, and developing some very strong opinions about it, I had never had the chance to see another production of it--it's so infrequently produced! I therefore was full of excited anticipation last Sunday, when a friend and I drove to Marin to see a matinée of Antony and Cleopatra at Marin Shakespeare.

But, you know, Marin Shakespeare is no Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and this production didn't stir me the way that the one I saw seven years ago did. In fact, it barely got a rise out of me, other than to make me revise my opinion of the script. I still think that Antony and Cleopatra is, on the whole, an underrated play. But I would now add that it is very tricky to pull off.

The Marin production just struck me as very superficial--unable to present the deeper resonances and contradictions of the story. Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra are both terribly, terribly flawed people who make fatal errors. In a sense, they are Too Dumb To Live, and Shakespeare includes a surprising amount of humor at their expense. But in another sense, when Antony and Cleopatra die, the poetry and beauty of the world is forever diminished. Octavius Caesar, who wins in the end, will certainly be a better leader than the irresponsible Antony. But he is a Roman bureaucrat; there is no romance in his soul. This mysterious, tragic dimension of the play was entirely missing from the Marin production; it was not clear that the world had lost something precious when the title characters died.

It has been said that Shakespeare's Cleopatra is "always acting." But that's not precisely correct. Cleopatra is indeed a highly theatrical, self-dramatizing character, and she probably puts on an act at least 95% of the time. But there has to be a few moments in the play where the mask drops and we see a different, more private Cleopatra: the tragic queen, not the jealous and lust-ridden woman. With Marcia Pizzo's Cleopatra, the mask never dropped. She certainly threw herself into the role with great energy, but she neglected to find the quiet, internal moments that would allow Cleopatra to break your heart.

In the playbill, director Lesley Schisgall Currier wrote of her decision to use "a mostly bare stage, and to trust that Shakespeare's words will evoke the glory of Rome and the glamor of Egypt." The trouble was that her direction seemed to expect the words to do all the work--and paid too little attention to things like narrative drive, taut pacing, and character through-lines. The result was a disjointed play, which is fatal, because Antony and Cleopatra is made up of a ton of short scenes. Also, the intermission came too early (1 hour into a 3-hour show). And, with a 17-person cast plus supernumeraries, why did all of the battle scenes have to take place offstage? Is it too much to ask to have a couple of guys run on and clash swords a few times?

Was anything noteworthy about this Antony and Cleopatra? Well, I thought William Ellsman was good in the role of Octavius Caesar; this character can easily come across as a boring stick-in-the-mud, but Ellsman somehow made him more interesting than that. And Cleopatra's peacock-feather skirt in her final scene was pretty eye-catching (I was reminded of the legendary "beetle" dress Ellen Terry wore to play Lady Macbeth).

Because Antony and Cleopatra is so infrequently done, I guess that's why I'm so annoyed to see a dull production of it. Yes, Shakespeare wrote a strong and complex play. But this production proves it's not foolproof: it needs direction that can tease out the script's deeper layers, make sense of its epic structure, and lead us to a heightened appreciation of Shakespeare's infinite variety.

Photo credits: Morgan Cowin.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Mad Men" Satisfaction

Thanks to commenter John for discovering my old "The British Invasion comes to Mad Men" post and pointing out that the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" could be heard in the most recent episode. I'm really happy that the writers of Mad Men chose to take advantage of this iconic '60s song, because I had worried that it might be "too predictable for Matthew Weiner & co." And I think it worked perfectly to play it at the beginning of Episode 8, just past the halfway point of the season. If Don Draper hit rock bottom in Episode 7 last week (amazing writing and acting in that episode, by the way... it was really a two-character play for Don and Peggy), Episode 8 is where he begins to try to sober up, shape up, and reevaluate his life. Clearly, he still has a long way to go. But to accompany him on his new journey, at least now he has a song that might help him to express his feelings of anger, impotence, and dissatisfaction.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Disappearance of a Prejudice

I used to have a secret, snotty prejudice against playwrights who adapted old stories--particularly myths and fairy tales--into works of theater, rather than inventing new stories and characters that would, in time, become as famous as these old myths. Why draw water from a 2000-year-old well when you could instead prospect for your own new source of fresh water? I also thought that the theater risked disappearing up its own arsehole of literary pretension if too many playwrights adapted old stories rather than creating new, contemporary, relevant ones.

I didn't tell very many people about this prejudice, because deep down I knew it was unjust and that it would make people angry. In the meantime, I tied myself up in knots with my insistence that I had to create original stories, that my newness had to explode in a burst of glory! And when this all did come out, in the course of a drunken night in Berkeley with two playwriting friends, they almost pitied me for my rigidity. They saw how my prejudice was holding me back. They told me "Shakespeare didn't invent any of his plots!" but I scorned this. I think there was a part of me that wanted to hold myself to an even higher standard than Shakespeare.

In the last year, though, I'd say that my prejudice has gradually, subconsciously slipped away. For one thing, I fully embraced the idea that the way a story is told, how the material is shaped and what stylistic devices are employed, is more important than the actual story. (Previous post on this topic as it relates to some of my favorite movies.) For another, I have seen so much inspiring theater that is based on Greek mythology, there's no way I could retain my bias against it. The Huffington Post has a great rundown of just how much wonderful Greek-inspired theater we have seen in the Bay Area lately. It's been quite a year!

On a personal level, I was so inspired by the 12 plays of the San Francisco Olympians Festival, particularly the way they covered such a wide range of genres, themes and styles. Though each play dealt with a Greek god--and many of them contained delightfully nerdy in-jokes for people who know a lot about Greek mythology--each bore the unmistakable stamp of its writer's voice, and each could still be enjoyed by people who are unfamiliar with the original stories. I have recently been named a co-producer of Olympians: Round 2 (oh yeah, it's happening! October 2011) and I am super excited. And, did I mention I'm also translating Jean Cocteau's Orphée?

So I realized this morning that my prejudice is dead and buried. And damn, that feels good.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Comme c'est charmant

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays guitar and sings the old Jacques Brel song "La Valse à Mille Temps":

I love Brel's original version, but this is even more ridiculously charming. Gordon-Levitt's glee is infectious, and I'm impressed by his choice of this tongue-twisting French song! He enunciates it quite well, too... the little puns and subtleties.

Indeed, it seems it's becoming de rigeur to develop a celebrity crush on this guy, and I have to jump on the bandwagon. How could I not have a thing for an American man who looks great in a suit, knows his Jacques Brel, and makes up new (racy) lyrics for the French part of "Bad Romance"?

Nonetheless, I probably shouldn't get too worked up. Being a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, of course I love him as "Tom" in (500) Days of Summer. And if that movie has a moral, it's that you shouldn't repeat Tom's mistake of idealizing somebody and getting a crush on them based solely on the fact that they're cute and have good taste in music. Uh-oh.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Climber Scales Tower in San Francisco

I had a mini-freakout today when I saw the headline "Climber Scales Tower in San Francisco" on the New York Times website. (The SF Chronicle also has a longer article about this event.)

You see, about a year ago, inspired by a New Yorker profile of Alain Robert, the Human Spiderman, I wrote a one-act play about a group of disgruntled office workers in the Transamerica Pyramid who start a letter-writing campaign to convince an Alain Robert-type figure to fly to San Francisco and climb the Pyramid. They think that this will give their lives the purpose, drama, and glamour that they currently lack.

I don't think that this play of mine will ever be produced, it has its flaws, but ever since I wrote it, I've been fascinated by these strange daredevils who scale skyscrapers. I confess to being disappointed that it wasn't Monsieur Robert who showed up in San Francisco today (the climber was an American named Dan Goodwin, aka Spider-Dan), and that the building he climbed was an anonymous glass apartment tower, not something distinctive like the Transamerica Pyramid. All the same, the reactions from observers of Goodwin's climb, quoted in the Chronicle, express the central question I was exploring in my play. Are these climbers attention-seeking idiots, or are they inspirational people who are living their lives to the fullest?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

September Blogroll Updates / "This World is Good"

Added to the category "San Franciscans": Dark Knight Dramaturgy, the blog of a playwright, dramaturg, and literary department staffer at ACT. Like me, he has lived in the Bay Area for 2 years and has recently committed to making his blog a "Bay Area Theater Blog." I hope we can meet someday!

Moved from the category "San Franciscans" to the category "Other Blogs I Enjoy": Rants, Raves, and Rethoughts, as blogger/playwright J. C. Lee has just moved to NYC to attend Juilliard. Congrats!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see one of Lee's plays for the first time: "This World is Good" produced by Sleepwalkers Theatre. Big thanks to the folks at Sleepwalkers for contacting me and offering me a comp ticket--this blogging thing can have its perks! (Though I should also note that I would definitely have gone to see "This World Is Good" even without being comped, because I like Lee's blog so much; so perhaps we can reduce this to the lesson that All Playwrights Should Have Blogs.) Because of Sleepwalkers' generosity, I therefore feel guilty that life got in the way and prevented me from writing about "This World is Good" until now, when it's closed. My apologies!

"This World is Good" is the first in Lee's "trilogy about the end of the world" (Sleepwalkers will present the other 2 plays in April and August 2011). The other two plays are postapocalyptic, but this one counts as a "period piece," strange as that sounds--it's a play about the 1990s, starting on the day of Kurt Cobain's death and ending at the turn of the millennium.

Like the Dark Knight Dramaturg, I was fascinated by the way that "This World is Good" is a play for my generation. The Dramaturg writes:
I think what I love most about being a 28-year-old theater practitioner: playwrights of my generation are, right now, finding their voices and finding their audiences. This World is Good is a play for people who have had long, dark philosophical arguments about Watchmen, and take solace in video games when they lose said arguments. It is for a generation that values Mario as a culture icon and thinks that anyone who does not know about Star Wars is culturally illiterate. It is also a play for a generation of closet nihilists who—without the concreteness of world war or nuclear holocaust—find nebulous threats of global destruction in the confusion of the Middle East, the unpredictability of terrorism, the mysteries of climate change, and the realities of financial implosion. It is also a play for the Third Millennium, the millennium of the dork.
For me, the fascination was less with the "nerd culture" aspects of it (since I am pretty culturally illiterate when it comes to comic books and video games) and more with the geopolitical/historical events that influence the characters' lives and perspectives. I think it's interesting that Lee chose to begin his apocalyptic trilogy in the '90s, which I remember as being a pretty awesome and carefree decade, compared to the one that came afterward. But maybe, indeed, that's when the seeds of our current anxieties were sown...

Being a play by a young writer that wove many key events of my '90s childhood into the script, This World is Good reminded me of Chinaka Hodge's Mirrors in Every Corner, which I saw and loved last March. (Bonus link for the long weekend: The Rumpus interview with Hodge.) I remain very excited to see what the playwrights of my generation do--including parts 2 and 3 of Lee's trilogy!