Nancy, thanks for the email.  I’ll respond to you off-list in a separate



On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 10:55 AM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear John,
> I agree with what you say, though as an actor ( English professor who acts
> for fun in a Shakespeare ensemble), I think one could do a fabulous and
> exciting performance of *Sweeney Agonistes*.  I also saw a brilliant
> performance of *Murder in the Cathedral* in the Cathedral at St.
> Andrews.  It was performed all through and around the audience.  That seems
> to affirm what you say about the comedies: he really had not figured out
> that there are living humans with a much wider range of emotion than
> religious ecstasy or despair.  But I wonder why, then, you chose them.  Do
> you think they could be directed and acted in ways that would make them
> work now?
> Nancy
> P. S., of course he seemed much changed by human love when he finally
> experienced it.
> >>> John Angell Grant **11/07/11 1:31 PM >>>
> 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.