Spring 1949 • Vol. XI No. 2 Nonfiction |

Chekhov as Playwright (Reconsiderations, No. XI)

The American theatre finds it possible to get along without the services of most of the best playwrights. Aeschylus, Lope de Vega, Racine, Moliere, Schiller, Strindberg—one could prolong indefinitely the list of great dramatists who are practically unknown in America except to scholars. Two cases of popularity in spite of greatness are, of course, Shakespeare and Shaw, who have this, at least, in common: that they can be enjoyed without being taken seriously. And then there is Chekhov. It is easy to make over a play by Shaw or by Shakespeare into a Broadway "show." But Chekhov? Why is he preserved from the general oblivion? Why is it that scarcely a year passes without a major Broadway production of a Chekhov play? Chekhov's plays—at least by reputation, which on Broadway is the important thing—are plotless, monotonous, drab, and intellectual; find the opposites of these four adjectives and you have a recipe for a Broadway hit. Those who are responsible for productions

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By Eric Bentley

The American theatre finds it possible to get along without the services of most of the best playwrights. Aeschylus, Lope de Vega, Racine, Moliere, Schiller, Strindberg—one could prolong indefinitely the […]

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