Margot Mifflin
November 30, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Real Life Drama

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Wendy Smith
publisher
Knopf
genre
Theater, Nonfiction

We gave it an A

Wendy Smith’s impeccably written, exhaustively researched Real Life Drama is the first objective study of the Group Theatre, the 1930s collective that struggled to create a socially relevant alternative to extravagant Broadway fare. Despite almost constant internecine turmoil, the Group, inspired by the teachings of Russian director Constantin Stanislavsky, worked cooperatively and lived communally to produce the great American social theater of its era. Early members included Stella Adler, Elia Kazan, and Clifford Odets, whose play Waiting for Lefty was the company’s first major success and the turning point at which communal decisions began to frustrate individual needs. This book is especially relevant now, since the Group’s criticisms of Broadway’s soulless commercialism ring as true in the ’90s as they did in the ’30s. Written with the even hand of a historian and the enthusiasm of a fan, Real Life Drama chronicles a crucial decade in the evolution of a distinctly American dramatic tradition. A

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