Granted I went almost too far, earlier, when I opined: “Newell’s tenure [at Court Theatre]... collapsed almost immediately into unvarying dullness and disappointment unbroken until Agamemnon.” A bit egregious maybe? Let me learn to be temperate and moderate in my artistic judgements!
As a “broad stroke” it covers the truth of my opinion well enough. But my enthusiasm, when I first heard that Court’s new director would be transforming the company to a repertory model was perhaps over-the-top, so when the idea was scrapped almost immediately the enthusiasm dropped twice as hard. (Then there is also the “sour grapes” of Court Theatre’s casual dismissal of any would-be submissions from me.)
An Agamemnon like Newell’s may redeem a career, or ought to in my opinion. For almost as long as I’ve been dissing Newell at Court I’ve been expressing as much about Michael Halberstam at Writers Theatre in Glencoe. Same unvarying diet of mediocre pablum. Even without the grapes (I never sought to submit on the North Shore) my opinion was harsh—much harsher even than of Newell.
Then suddenly this season seemingly out of nowhere Halberstam himself directs a solid version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Blindsided me. It was not to the level of Agamemnon, but it was certainly as good as if not better than Richard Monette’s staging twenty years ago at the Stratford Festival, the last I saw. (The ending sticks out in my memory but I have forgotten the show; Monette’s "anything-for-a-joke style" was not a favorite either.)
Theater being a business, allowance must be made for the crude panderings of a Newell or Halberstam. I may not like it very much; but when either of these entrepreneurial mavericks asserts “we’ll strive to please you every day” let me recall they are speaking not to me but to season subscribers.
Let that be my New Year’s resolution: temperance and moderation!