A year ago in April Griffin Theatre held an unstaged reading of For Services Rendered by W. Somerset Maugham. It felt a little hokey, per my recall; but when I blogged about it after I scant mentioned the event itself. I have a book; and so I read the play thereafter.
Tonight, without having remembered that, I saw Griffin’s fully-staged production of the same play. It redeemed itself; or rather, the deficiencies of my imagination were filled in by an excellent cast (one part was played by a weak, miscast actor, but otherwise the ensemble was well-fitted to the roles and they acted well) and expected top-notch direction by Robin Witt, one of Chicago’s finest.
It is too late in the evening for me to breakdown what I liked about the play. It was of and for its time, to be sure, but I wish more of our contemporary plays were filled with elements—including a high seriousness—of Maugham. He was a greatly popular playwright—for a moment, the greatest—but I nearly lament that I could not write like him.
The political situation in my country has ruined the possibility of writing the type of play I did; and personal circumstances prevent my trying a hand at something else. But even if such a format were permitted me in my times, my own creative deficiencies would prohibit me. I adapted one Maugham story; but the resultant play was nothing like a Maugham play.
He of course both wrote original theatrical works, and adapted his own stories for the stage. What a remarkable talent, Mr. Maugham.