CC k : Theatre in Minneapolis, he described contemporary culture as having devoted itself almost exclusively to the pursuit of money, and that amidst the self-censorship of American public life and “middlebrow” art, the function of the real artist is to challenge his audience. “A play is an act of aggression against the status quo,” Albee said. “All serious art must be corrective and instructive. It’s insufficient for it to be escapist or decorative.” He declared, “Unless we give people an aesthetic education equal to a twelfth-grade education, we will raise a society of educated barbarians….” Describing the marginalization of the arts as a social ill akin to racism, Albee went on, “It’s probably harder to get an adult … to not chain a black man to a truck and drag him till he dies than to teach children to respect people.” Such respect, he suggests, should be a direct consequence of close attention to the substance and spirit of the serious arts. In light of his oft-declared political principles, it may seem a paradox that only a few of Albee’s plays \(e.g., The Death of Bessie deal very explicitly with so-called social is sues. But in his work, he is wary of ephemeral “agit-prop,” and his artistic instincts are always to generalize from particular circumstances to the larger human constants. Of the new play, he says simply, “The Boy and the Girl have a baby, but they are dissuaded from having had it, because that much reality is too painful. So the play is all about the larger culture, although you might think in my perverse, indirect way.” The self-interpretation connects with Albee’s cun -ent lament that in his judgment, far too many young people seem to have abandoned permanent values for the pursuit of wealth. “There’s now a lot of the sort of ‘As long as I’m all right everybody else is all right’ sort of politics, which seem to be creeping into student attitudes, of everybody getting rich…. There is so much dollar stuff going on: Be Accepted, Make Money.” Among the wry backstage jokes he shares with his playwriting students \(“Yesterday we had technical rehearsal: that is, ten hours of absolutely necessary tedium, during which one removes all of See “Albee,” page 30 ,tawit .0.0,bmo la several melodies, a series of repeated and interlocking themes, and a resolution that is simultaneously somber and exhilarating. And since a couple of reviewers of the London production complained in passing about the apparent lack of a “plot,” it’s worth recalling as well that even literary chamber music shouldn’t require a straightforward narrative. What “happens” in Baby is yet quite comprehensible: a young couple still emotionally and carnally caught up in the vivid pleasures of new life and new love \(“We’re happy,” says the Boy, “we love falls over them and their lives, in the form of who may or may not mean them harm. As the generic names suggest, the play’s central question is whether these blissfully innocent Youths can possibly be ready for the truly terrible sorrows like the loss of a child that Age and Experience will bring, particularly if those sorrows arrive without preparation or warning. The Boy’s initial aone of itspar .4,,, ticular pleasures is the Way the dialouue maintains a remarkable tension between hilarity and terror until the very final moments. \(The delicate balance is such that right before opening night, Albee the director was still tinkering with Albee the playwright’s ending. At the dress rehearsal, a small audience composed mostly of aspiring playwrights was quietly stunned by an enormous, puppetlike baby which crawled onstage, no longer acknowledged by its devastated parents. By opening night the puppet-baby was gone replaced by briefly lamenting dialogue in response to preview audiences which reacted with an inappropriate burst a vaudevillian quality, as the omniscient Man and Woman play directly and affably to the audience, and the occasionally naked hijinks of the Boy and Girl deliver moments of profane hilarity. In addition to its wily septuagenarian director, the Alley production is abundantly blessed with wily septuagenarian actors, and their own avn rn audience. \(“Don’t smoke,” cheerfully
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