This column originally appeared in the 11th of March 2013 edition of Le Castor™.
Let me tell you a joke :
There was this obscure and not too gifted theater company who, one day, decided, to stage The Diary of Ann Frank. - A disaster waiting to happen. - They used a bad scenario, hired an obviously blind decorator, a deaf musician and an incompetent director. The cast was dreadful particularly the girl that played Ann Frank who kept forgetting her lines and mumbled throughout the play. So, on the opening night, at the beginning of the third act, when Gestapo agents showed up, and asked where Ann was, the audience immediately got up and shouted loudly : "She's in the attic !"
So goes theater : good play + bad actors = bad play ; bad play + good actors = bad play ; and add bad play + bad actors for good measure. It also helps to have a good director, proper lightning, decent sets, etc.
I don't go to the theater that much. I do, occasionally, but treat what I see (and hear) the same way I read a book : I want to know how, Oedipus Rex, Julius Caesar or even Les plaideurs are being played nowadays.
My great-grand-father saw Mounet-Sully and Sarah Bernhardt (pronounced "Bernart" with a "t" at the end, like she did). My grand father saw Ethal Merman and William Gazton in Cole Porter's Anything Goes on Broadway. My own father saw Louis Jouvet and Edwige Feuillère. - All legendary actors. - I pride myself for having seen no less than Vincent Price on stage playing the role of Oscar Wilde ; an extraordinary performance, totally opposite to what he did in movies. So, in a way, I understand why people living in New York, London or Paris were willing to pay through the nose to see the likes of Brando or Olivier, and, at the moment,Scarlett Johansson who, I understand, is making a killing right now, but 350$ per seat to see Pacino ?
Woody Allen once said that he had vivid memories of sceneries he imagined when he listened to sketches played radio but had difficulties remembering those he had seen on television. Well, that's about it for me : the ones I imagined reading plays are very clear, the ones I saw on stage remain vague. That's another problem for theater.
Anyway, enough of this and let's go on with the ten plays I would suggest for anyone who never saw anything live.
In alphabetical order, as usual, but by authors, not titles :
And, to go back to the current edition of Le Castor™ :