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Hi Nancy,
Thanks for the thought.  I am a theater person myself, and have talked with
other theater folk about the issue.  Draw is always an issue.  My sense is
that Eliot's plays have a smug "I know the secret to life" feel to them,
which is alienating and, in my view, paradoxically unchristian--a link to
his Puritan heritage.  Here's a 1950 review by of the The Cocktail Party,
by William Barrett from the Partisan Review, which Jewel Brooker includes
in her Contemporary Reviews book, which nails some of it, in my view.
 Barrett is referring to the 2 choices of life offered in The Cocktail
Party (2 choices represented by the Chamberlaynes, and Celia):

“Here we must remember that Eliot, the last great product of the Puritan
mind, has never shown in his poetry any real belief in the possibility of
human love.  The moment of love is presented always as the moment of
withdrawal and renunciation, the awful daring of a moment’s surrender, one
of ‘the things that other people have desired’; and consequently the beauty
of the world is never present in the fullness of joy, but always with that
painful clutch at the heart as at something taken away, lost, uncapturable.
No doubt, resignation is necessary to get through life at all, and Freud
himself stated that the aim of analytic therapy was to enable the neurotic
to bear the sufferings inevitable in human life; but this is only half the
picture, for the work of the analyst may also be to liberate the patient
for the positive joys that life can hold, even perhaps for the possibility
of love, and if the neurotic were told that he is to be resigned only for
resignation’s sakes, it is very unlikely that he would have the strength to
go on.

“I was surprised to read that one critic found in the play the gaiety that
Stendhal recommends for all art, for it seems to me that at bottom the
world of The Cocktail Party is the same empty world of Prufrock, except
that 37 years ago Eliot did not disguise his contempt for this emptiness.  So
I feel at the heart of this play some immense tricherie [cheating], or at
least self-deception, for I can’t believe that Eliot takes the
Chamberlaynes as serious as he pretends to.  Here again, comparison with
Sweeney Agonistes becomes instructive, for in this earlier fragment Eliot
fully realized all his hatred of human life and really enjoyed himself in
the raucous company of Doris, Sweeney, Klipsteins, and Krumpacker—in
comparison with whose vulgar vitality the characters at the cocktail party
are genteel skeletons.  As a writer Eliot has never really given us God’s
plenty: the qualities of his genius are not robustness and richness, but
precision, terseness, and intensity; and the shadow which haunts these
qualities is a certain tendency to thinness and brittleness that here in
The Cocktail Party has at last caught up with him.”

On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 9:57 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear John,
>
> I would think you could learn more about that from theater people than TSE
> enthusiasts.  You might want to ask some theater faculty or directors.
>
> My guess is that they are not only rather outdated for contemporary
> audiences but are in verse.  I imagine directors would doubt that they
> would draw.  That's only a guess based on what is produced.
> Best,
> Nancy
>
> >>> John Angell Grant **11/07/11 12:48 PM >>>
>
> I'm writing a Master's Thesis on Eliot's 4 drawing room plays (Family
> Reunion, Cocktail Party, Confidential Clerk, Elder Statesman).  Does anyone
> have thoughts about why they are rarely performed these days.  I set up
> Google Alerts for all 4 a few months back, and only one production popped
> up, and that wa 6 rehearsed staged readings of The Cocktail Party by the
> English-language theater in Abu Dhabi!  Donmar did a series a few years
> back.  And there was an NYC production a year or so back.
>