Twenty or thirty years ago, English theater was confidently thought to be thriving. A busy crowd of playwrights, ranging from naturalists like Osborne and Wesker to wits like Stoppard and Orton, was the envy of the world. Now the swarm of scribblers seems gone, save Stoppard (whose last two plays, Hapgood and Arcadia, have had no New York productions) and Alan Bennett. What has arisen in their stead is a directors’ theater possessing great willfulness and flaunting a common expressionist style, a reborn Meyerholdism that might be dubbed the New Directorate.

Four recent imports from London, all pretty faithful replications of their originals, illustrate the phenomenon. Nicholas Hytner’s Carousel, discussed in an earlier report, can serve as paradigm: an old war- horse ideologically deconstructed, emotionally stripped, and given a new master image that dominates the stage. In Carousel, that image was...

 
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