By Alexander C. Kaufman
Technological advancement seems to be ebbing always at the average attention span; brevity dominates and defines modern nonfiction, abridgment hastens the intake of fiction. So it makes sense that late Hartford (Conn.) Stage Company director Michael Wilson’s arrangement into a nine hour epic of Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Horton Foote’s entire dramatic oeuvre would be appropriately cutting-edge to be reviewed by Gregory Lamb.
Wilson, who had a close professional relationship with Foote, had originally wanted to perform each of the latter’s nine plays. In late 2007, Lamb reported, Wilson got to agree to Foote to condense his work into three, three-hour plays as to make them all viewable within a day. At the time of his death last March, the playwright had completed the three part saga entitled “The Orphan’s Home Cycle.”
Here is how Lamb describes the “Cycle”:
The plays track the life of Horace Robedaux from the time he is a young boy whose father has died to the time after the death of his father-in-law when he becomes the family patriarch. Like a classic hero, Horace must meet a series of challenges from an early age. Yet he manages to survive and eventually prosper. The character of Horace is based on the life of Foote’s own father.
Among the themes Foote explores are the elusive search to find “home” and the question of how people face adversity. Horace is on an “Odyssey,” Wilson suggests in program notes, “as profound and epic as Odysseus’ return journey.”
The three-part play, divided into “The Story of a Childhood,” “The Story of a Marriage” and “The Story of a Family,” closed in Connecticut last month, but reopened in New York on Nov. 5, where it will run until Mar. 28, 2010.
Alongside recent technology and book reviews, Lamb’s write-up of Wilson’s production is relevant to his state-of-the-art beat. The Broadway industry grossed $943 million from 12.15 million tickets between 2008-9, according to data collected by the Broadway League, an organization for the theater industry, enforcing the idea that the thespian is perhaps as much a part of modern culture as Lady Gaga and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
In fact, there exists a parallel between Wilson’s production and Lamb’s own work. Journalism–and Lamb’s writing is a testament to this–is becoming increasingly trimmed down in order to make the information more palatable in an era where an instant feels like a year. Likewise, many journalists are now considering a standardized shortening of articles to 500-words or less. This trend of condensing written work seems to be part of a new wave for briefer written word.