The Installation of Dreams
Do your dreams trouble you? Do you wake up shaken and unnerved by feelings you can't quite explain? Do images of your past and your loved ones haunt your sleep in inexplicable combinations that seem to have something to do with the meaning of life? Well, relax. We can solve all your problems with this limited-time offer. For one week only, Robert Wilson, semi-official chief window dresser of global capitalism, will be at your service. For a fee not in excess of his status in the world of chic, Wilson can replace your visions with his, thereby guaranteeing a complete emotional disconnection and a secure distance from anything that might give you a second's unease. The meaning of life and the destiny of your soul? No need to give them a moment's thought. In fact, Wilson's pretty pictures will take you so far away from such matters that you may never devote a moment's thought to anything again. We hear that the manufacturers of Prozac have solicited his advice about possible ways to transmit the drug visually; experimental trials are already rumored to be in progress as I write.
One satisfied customer, Mr. A.S., writes from Stockholm: "Human beings are to be pitied. Duties are always loathsome and painful. All pleasure is sin and must therefore be punished, yes! But isn't it through suffering that we gain redemption from sin? And doesn't death give us deliverance and set us free? Farewell!" Mr. A.S. said a good deal else as well, and said it in a fascinating, complex fashion, but since he died in 1912, we've shortened his remarks here; nobody likes a whiner. Wilson has made his dream life much easier. It's all about modeling, you see: people posed on ladders, or artistically raising and lowering stylized pump handles. When the excessive elegance demands low-comic relief, there are life-size cow sculptures and Spike Jones sound effects. As a concession to Mr. A.S.'s anguish, Wilson occasionally has one of the posed figures scream or cackle for no reason, or interrupts Michael Galasso's graceful music with an earsplitting crash. But these things fade away so smoothly in the general atmosphere of pointless gesture and lavender light.
Are there sin and suffering, guilt and recrimination, ironies that wound and acts of love that injure others? Only in the dim and quickly vanishing supertitles. Is Mr. A.S. happy? Well, they say in Stockholm that he turns over in his grave once a year anyway, since he wanted to be buried in Paris. The company of the Stockholm Municipal Theater (Stadsteater) is well-trained and attractive, unlike the talentless German screamers Wilson often inflicts on us, but if you've seen an average Stadsteater production of A.S., you know that a thorough Wilsonizing can seem a considerable improvement. It may not bring the dream to life, but it does at least bring it close to the spirit of today's international shopping chic. Mr. A.S. probably never guessed that the dream he struggled to set down on paper with such passionate precision would one day be on a continuum with the men's wear envisioned by Mr. G.A. of Italy, the exhibition of which is Wilson's latest artistic achievement.
A Dream Play
By August Strindberg
BAM Opera House (Closed)
By Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, co-conceived by them with Eric Idle
Richard Rodgers Theatre
Broadway and 46th Street
So why should your dreams be exempt? After all, if you're prepared to accept their irrelevance to the ultimate result, Wilson can market them as easily as anything else. His time is limited, and he receives better offers daily, so don't delay. Operators are waitingto put you in touch with the biggest and chic-est operator of them all. And after that, your dreams will never mean anything to you again. But when you've got cutting-edge fashion, who needs dreams anyway?
Have they told you the tale of the musical Seuss
That took millions of dollars and months to produce?
It's a curious creature, half whippet, half ox,
All covered with glitz, always hungry for yocks,
Quite noisy, but cheerful and quick with its tongue,
To irritate grown-ups and puzzle the young.
Now the Seuss began life as a stack of old books
(Each of which had distinct individual looks)
Till some folk came along from the land of Showbizz
And said, "We could grow these tomes into a great Whizz!"
So they locked the books up in a big mirrored room
Till they melted together in one giant bloom.
Then they potted it nicely and called it a show,
And said to it, "Now off to Broadway you go!"
But the Seuss was unhappy all crammed in a pot
So it whined, and it kicked, and it blew cold and hot
Till the good folk of Showbizz cried, "What can we do?
We must stick it in place with our old Showbizz glue!"
(They had pink-slipped the trainer who trained it up, too
And the draper who'd made sure the creature was clad.)
In their frazzled state, they hardly knew what they had!
Was it plant? Was it beast? Or was it perhaps human?
Would it rise in the East, or screech like Margaret Truman?
They pinched it, they stretched it, they opened its thorax,
They painted its leaves, and they cut off its Lorax.
They made it reduce, and they speeded it up
Till it flaps like a goose and it yelps like a pup
And they started it on the Try-Anything Diet:
Slapstick, parody, satirewhat's that? Let's try it!
So the Seuss is a very odd creature these days:
It stops and it starts and goes all different ways.
It thinks little children will say, "That's so sweet!"
When it spoofs other beasts that have roamed The Big Street.
It tries to tell seven good stories at once,
Puts them inside each other, then drops them for stunts.
It's got lots of charm; at the same time, you know,
That charm often seems borrowed from some other show.
Yes, the Cat in the Hat causes quite a to-do,
Horton hatches an Egg, and he still hears a Who,
And gets thoroughly dissed by a Sour Kangaroo,
While Whoville is still racked by Butterside wars
And Gertrude McFuzz her tail feather deplores.
These creatures sing often (and some of them can),
And they danceon a rather flat-footed old plan.
The show sports a Shinera bruise on its eye
Which they claim will be funny someday, by and by.
But good points in plenty can also be seen
When its Chamberlin speaks in his manner serene,
Or when Playten and Zagnit, the Mayors of Who,
Are fretting their way through emotional stew.
(Sharon Wilkins is fine, too, as that Kangaroo.)
And one should praise the self-centered Mayzie LaBird,
Whose loud squawk is from Pawk so endearingly heard.
But does Seuss make a musical? Yes, I suppose,
With some bits out of joint from its nose to its toes.
It still carries the feelings that lived in the books,
And will make a wise child give them much longer looks.
But it may also tend, with its noise and its muddle,
To make kids think the theater's a big shapeless puddle.
And it's sad that in Showbizz, our land of gray skies,
Wise children grow up to be Broadway wise guys.
And that, dears, is the tale of the musical Seuss
Which took so many dollars and tears to produce.
Let it sit as a moral, young artists to warn:
Where there's Seuss, there'll be doctoring, sure as you're born.
MICHAEL FEINGOLD, age five-plus
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