Edward Albee, Judith Malina, and the Soul of Off-Broadway

The reopening of the Provincetown Playhouse helps theater (and a critic) look both backward and onward

These three extraordinary figures bowled me over with their optimistic energy. I've been reviewing the actualities: those convenient, low-ceilinged plays that, too often today, constitute institutional Off-Broadway's only response to Broadway's stream of junk. My fellow panelists, meanwhile, have been contemplating what theater could still be, could still become, in this new century. Theatergoing continues to give me pleasure. I don't insist that innovation automatically equals good; I know what limitations we face. But I fret, often, over our theater's lack of reach. The desires to risk, to connect, to be worthy of the great past, have been stunted by the need to survive in this hectic electronified world.

Thought and feeling, which are of the theater's essence, find little place in that world's increasing quest for instant gratification. If I stay on, I want the kids under 30 to match the kids over 80 in ambition and hope. Retirement seems a tempting prospect. But then I think, if I stick with my job, in a quarter-century or so, I might become as crisply cogent as Edward Albee, or rediscover a youthful zest like Judith Malina's. Anyway, I will take Mr. Albee's advice, and keep at it.

mfeingold@villagevoice.com

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