Magazine article The Nation

The Film Society

Magazine article The Nation

The Film Society

Article excerpt

I missed The Film Society when it was done in New York by Second Stage Theatre, but I can't imagine it could have been any better here than in its recent production by Baltimore's Center Stage. The best regional theaters (and Center Stage is certainly in that category) hold an inherent advantage in that their audiences and personnel have an ongoing, active acquaintance with a wide range of traditional drama. They are, in a sense, captive audiences. Therefore, when modern playwrights attempt those heights, their aspirations can be seen in their proper context and valued accordingly. Of all the plays under consideration, Baitz's The Film Society is most ambitious-in an authorly way. It challenges comparison to Ibsen more than to Ben Travers, and if it finally doesn't rise to the heights of drama with a capital D, even so it commands a different kind of respect. As a playwright, Baitz is a contender.

The protagonist of The Film Society is Jonathon Balton (done to a T by Bill Kux), a timeserving teacher at a failing English-language boys' school in South Africa. He owes his tenuous post to his deceased father's benefactions, and in the course of the play he rises to the position of headmaster, thanks to his perfect and unconscionable malleability. It is his tragedy to succeed by virtue of his mediocrity and lack of principle-a premise not very different from Richard Nelson's in Some Americans Abroad, but Baitz makes his spineless protagonist emblemize immensely more. …

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