A Rare Production at the Den Theater
Of all living playwrights (in English), none has Churchill's range—speaking of course from my far-from-inclusive experience. It has been a long while since I read her plays: I picked up vols. I & II of the Methuen collections when I was in Stratford many moons back. It appears two further volumes have since been published, and they should be worth looking at—but I have expressed my preference these days for seeing things enacted on the stage over reading text.
Top Girls, as I remember, is one of Churchill's better plays—but, truth to tell, I found them all good. Fortunately, with what seems like two decades' intervention since I last read them, I remembered very little so it was almost like seeing it cold. Previously I blogged about having seen a production by Defiant Theater of her The Skriker—it was after that that I first read her plays: individually they are masterful (talk about experimental, I can't think of anyone who's been able to "push the boundaries" as far successfully as she), and taken as a whole the lot is incredibly varied.
Possibly some years ago I attended a Chicago production of Cloud 9, perhaps her most famous play. Possibly—because if so, it was unmemorable. There may have been one or two other stagings of her work in the decades I've been living in Chicago—but I hardly keep abreast of everything, and shows open and close rather quickly. Plays by Churchill at least.
There is not much to say about the production: it was well-done. The theater company is new, and not a company of great means like, say, old Court Theater about which I have written, and which has a good production of Waiting for Godot up now. That said—my preference is away from splashy spectacle (though when flawlessly executed I can be mesmerized as well as anyone) in favor of the action of drama: the most significant element to be seen upon the stage in a work of drama is Time.
The casting of Top Girls was excellent, the caliber of the acting uniformly good (and in some cases superlatively so); of course it makes a difference when actors have a meaty script to work with.
This is not a review, but rather a note. But recalling my musing upon Romulus and The Cryptogram, I find Top Girls superior to either. Here I am not discussing production but rather script. Thematically Churchill covers successfully a lot more territory than either. If Romulus attempted more, David Mamet executed more perfectly (than Gore Vidal) his little thimble-full; but not moreso than Churchill—and the range of her imagination seems just boundless.