Just finished our school production of Once in a Lifetime by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (teaser pic above). The students loved doing it, and the audience enjoyed. So as I recover from exhaustion, I can post a bit of theatre philosophy.
I was always attracted to the particular skill of this Broadway duo. Previous productions of The Man Who Came to Dinner and You Can’t Take It With You were highlights of our school’s stage history. The appeal? The plots and the characters. Scenes are expertly structured with most entrances and exits on the heels of a character-driven one-liner.
But. The plays are from the 1930’s, and the regularity of sexist and racist remarks in all the plays jumps off the page and stage in the 2010’s. Itemizing them here is not my interest. We dealt with those lines (they are hard to miss) and still did the shows.
A more subtle sensitivity struck me later in our rehearsal preparation of Once In A Lifetime, and I felt it in the performances. Lifetime spins on the dumb luck of George Lewis who unwittingly becomes the top guy in Hollywood (the play is about the advent of the “talkies”.) More than one character makes George’s slowness the butt of the joke. More than once he is called stupid, told to shut up. My question- is this as awful as it sounds? Are we oversensitive, or is it the right amount of sensitivity for the sensitive times in which we live? Is the play mean-spirited or just funny?
Sometimes the audience laughed at George; they always seemed to root for him.

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