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: So, Strike up the Band!, the blockbuster Gershwin/Gershwin/Kaufman musical. Sumana and I went to see it last Friday. It was pretty good, thought not great. A lot of the songs were great, but their influence was mitigated by others which fell flat such that I couldn't wait for them to be over. And a couple were okay but seemed slavish, mediocre copies of the Gilbert and Sullivan style. I've got no complaints about Kaufman's writing, though; the farcical causus belli and battle scenes were very funny, and predated Duck Soup by over a decade.

I have it on good authority that they put on the wrong version of Strike up the Band!! They put on the 1927 version, but there was a 1930 version which apparantly had much better songs. Perhaps, in a misguided quest for authenticity, the producers ignored the revision.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. The dynamic of theatah -- high class, this, not your we'll-use-the-old-barn-I'll-paint-the-sets-and-we'll-save-the-school stuff -- is that of authenticity vs. relevance. Authenticity derives from the idea that if the 'author' of the 'primary text' put down a 'line of dialogue' or a 'stage direction', then when you're putting on the play you have some sort of obligation to make sure that 'line of dialogue' or 'stage direction' somehow figures in your production, even if the play was written hundreds of years ago in an entirely different part of the world! Relevance, the yang to authenticity's yin, is the idea that people will not pay to see your production unless you make it obvious that the play is applicable to this modern age of Enron bin Anthrax. Relevance is why I see Petruchio talking on a cell phone and Macbeth's men dressed in camoflauge gear (but still armed with swords; remember authenticity!). Relevance is a leading cause of those essays in theater programs exulting in the fact that fifty, a hundred, even 400 years is not enough time to make the actions of our predecessors completely dissimilar to our own actions. Relevance costs me money! Wait, no, it doesn't; I was thinking of that IBM commercial.

Because of this tension between authenticity and relevance, plays that negate the tension by being authentically relevant (such as Homebody/Kabul) are in great demand, as are plays that are relevantly authentic (like--wait, I'm not even sure what that means). Due to its extreme relevance, Strike up the Band! was performed with a minimum of relevance boosting, which is good for my blood pressure. The cast subjected us to a brief summary of the play, with special emphasis on its continued relevance (Actually, for all I know that little speech, about how the play is today more relevant than ever, is actually part of the play! George S. Kaufman, you nut!), then mercifully went into character and treated us to an authentic, all-too-authentic performance.


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