Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre

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9780385315463: Light Fantastic: Adventures in Theatre

A timeless collection of essays about the theatre  by the celebrated biographer and drama critic at  The New Yorker.
Theatre criticism,  writes John Lahr in his introduction to  Light Fantastic, should conjure "the  life of the theatre as well as the life of the  play. We are in danger of losing our theatre  culture; and these essays are my little rear-guard action  to keep the public gaze focused on the lively  language and maverick thoughts of  theatricals--performers, playwrights, directors, designers--who are  the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time.'  "
Most of the essays to be found in  this, Lahr's first collection, come from  The New Yorker, where Lahr has been drama  critic since 1992. Here, the reader will find  over forty pieces that represent Lahr's remarkable  knowledge of theatrical and cultural history, his  astute observations about comics (Roseanne Barr,  Peter Cook, Bill Hicks), playwrights (Oscar Wilde,  Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, Arthur Miller,  Neil Simon, Tom Stoppard), composers (Stephen  Sondheim, George and Ira Gershwin, Julie Styne), and  directors (George C. Wolfe, Ingmar Bergman, Peter  Brook). Most particularly, however, these  wide-ranging essays showcase Lahr's unique insight into human  nature that has made him an acclaimed, bestselling  biographer on both sides of the Atlantic.

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From Booklist:

Lahr is that rare bird in theatrical journalism--the prolific, witty, literate independent scholar. The regular New Yorker contributor creates exhaustively researched profiles that never descend into mere puffery and well-considered reviews that never resort to the glib, cruel, ad hominem attacks found in too much contemporary criticism. Reading these 41 pieces, it is hard not to be struck by Lahr's range, too, for his subjects span the spectrum of contemporary theater, from Harold Pinter to the politically engaged Anna Deavere Smith and even rebel stand-up comedian Bill Hicks. As you might expect from the son of the great clown Bert Lahr, he seems especially at home plumbing comedy's depths, and he has a great ear for great comic lines, both his own and others, but this expertise does not dim his eye for more somber work. Indeed, his discussions of serious comic playwrights Joe Orton and Tony Kushner (as well as of Barry Humphries--"Dame Edna Everage" ) make a dip into this book well worthwhile. Jack Helbig

From Library Journal:

Lahr (Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton, Knopf, 1978) is one of our most important theater commentators. While he belongs a little more to journalism than scholarship, he clearly has a foot in each camp, and the world is his beat. This collection of recent pieces from The New Yorker are often spacious, always reflective, and nuanced. Organized in four sections (Comedians, Playwrights, Musicals, and Productions), these serious, well-written essays draw on interviews (Lahr haunts backstages, lobbies, dressing rooms, and rehearsal halls), biography, theater history, and performance-always performance. He probes theater as passion and ideas and has a wonderful ear for dialog and an eye for revealing detail that re-create the experience of specific performances. He can also be very funny. This book will be enjoyed by lay reader and theater professional alike and is recommended accordingly.
Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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