In My Life: Encounters with the Beatles

Robert Cording, Editor, E. J. Miller Laino, Editor, E. J. Miller-Laino, Editor
Robert Cording, Editor, E. J. Miller Laino, Editor, E. J. Miller-Laino, Editor Fromm International $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-88064-192-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-88064-248-4
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Playwright and diarist Wesker has an ideal angle from which to examine the slings and arrows of theatrical fortune. A rising star of the happening British theater scene in the late '50 and early '60s, he had early successes with antiestablishment plays such as Chips with Everything and The Kitchen. Those for whom his name or the titles of his plays are now unfamiliar are hardly alone, however. Since the late '70s, Wesker has fallen out of favor, eclipsed by greater talents, among them David Hare, Howard Brenton and Edward Bond. Even at his height, Wesker felt himself to be, in his own words, ""an established playwright but still somehow a peripheral one."" One element in his fall was his mid-1970s dream that a radical revision of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice--countering the anti-Semitic effect of the original--would be his masterpiece. What he came up with was Shylock, a legendary flop, eternally damned by the death of its star, Zero Mostel, after only one preview performance. Wesker writes with painful humor, and palpable frustration, of the myriad problems that beset the production, such as his fights with director, producer and actors, and the endless compromises that diluted his original vision beyond recognition. The book is full of sharp observations on the impossible plight of the playwright, and it provides a refreshingly unsentimental view of the politics of the commercial theater. The history of the theater, unsurprisingly, gets written by the victors; Wesker's book allows us a rare and discomfiting view from the other side. (June)
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