Friday, October 14, 2005

Pinter ? Wins a Nobel Prize?

I happily admit to appreciating some of Harold Pinter's early plays. When they were new, they disrupted expectations about identity, relationships, behavior, and safety.

Most of all, they were fun to teach -- stylish proofs that structure determines meaning. Very good for shaking up a university student's attachment to Cats.

But a Nobel Prize?

Expectations are a moving target, and Pinter did the same thing over and over. Even the most radical statements become mundane with enough repetition. Today Pinter's devices seem mechanical and quaint rather than shocking, and the plays seem like a series of acting exercises.

If you're looking for an intellectual maverick heavily influenced by Samuel Beckett, doesn't Maria Irene Fornes pack more of a punch? Better yet, why not move beyond fantasies of apocolyptic landscapes -- real and emotional -- to something new?

Julie Taymor, for example, has created a new kind of theater performance.

Taymor's characters are not quite prop and not entirely human either. Actors strike a surreal balance between abstract and literal representation for an effect that is hard to describe but immediately clear on sight. Pretty radical stuff for the American theater these days.

And she got Disney to pay for it.

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