Rebut in: Dennis Brown clearly hates theater so much, you'd think he'd get into another line of work, like writing obituaries. It was crazy enough reading Brown's bizarre preview story about New Line Theatre's The Nervous Set ["Beat Regeneration," March 3], a piece so full of half-truths and outright fabrications it was astonishing. But he was also wrong in much of his review of the show -- despite what he thinks he knows, the version of The Nervous Set New Line is running at the ArtLoft this month is one of the later versions of the show as it played in Gaslight Square in 1959 ["St. Louis Blue," March 10]. He says New Line's production is "far removed in both content and tone from the legendary production," but he's dead wrong -- it's the same show that played here in 1959. Brown really should learn to stop spewing out "facts" without checking to see if they're actually true. If he knew as much as he thinks he does, he'd know the beats did not use the term beatnik -- that was a corruption of the beat label intended to imply Communist leanings. (Another note to Brown -- "upstage" is still "onstage.")
Of course, we all knew his review of the show would be cranky and cruel (his reviews usually are), but we had no idea he'd go so far as to call our show "stillborn." We're used to his smugness, his desperate need to impress and his inability to see complexity or subtlety on stage, and since he raves about empty-headed fare like Crazy for You, we knew he would dislike The Nervous Set. Nothing but bland and conventional for Brown. But to compare our work to the death of a child goes so far beyond the limits of taste and intelligence, it crosses over into the surreal. How did that get past an editor?
So what exactly is wrong with this guy? And why does the RFT keep sending him to review theater when it's so clear he hates it? Does the paper really have that little respect for St. Louis theater and its audiences?
New Line Theatre
Different strokes: I disagree with Deanna Jent's "warning" on the Rep's production of blue/orange ["Is There a Script Doctor in the House?" February 18]. I will agree that it is a demanding play, for the three actors and for the audience. The intensity is a bit exhausting, and the concepts fought out onstage are complex, requiring some thought to process. The conflict for the young doctor (Jeremy Webb) between protecting his professional future and standing up for what he believes is the right treatment for his patient is very real and relevant. Rashaad Ernesto Green's portrayal of the confused young patient was so believable that I find myself still worrying about his future out in the world. Anderson Matthews deftly played the bullying, manipulative supervisor we've all had to deal with at least once in our work lives.
One mark of powerful theater is how long it lingers in the mind. My response immediately after the play was, "That was a strange play." In the course of the ensuing week I found myself referring to blue/orange as a way to understand other questions. The intensity of Webb's character helped to illuminate other situations in which impassioned arguments show the depth of involvement and caring. Matthews' character could be calm in dismissing the patient, because he didn't really care what happened to him. The uncertain ending of the play is like so many of the problems we face daily -- not absolutely sure what is right, but doing the best we can with the information we have.
On (Another) Stage
The rest of the story: I am the birth mother of William Stage. "The Son Rises" [December 24] was an excellent article. He covered just about everything -- except telling the readers of a letter that I sent him telling him that in spite of the 50-odd-year lapse that I have loved him his entire life and still do!
It's a really good feeling to discover each other after such a long time. We, of course, have a lot in common, and his siblings are still in awe of finally meeting him. It's amazing that in his first letter he said he was writing a weekly article, because I also was writing a weekly column for our local paper.
Anyway, we're awfully glad he found us, and now we're a complete family.
Mary Ann Owens
Grosse Ile, Michigan
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