In Three on the Aisle, a podcast from New York about theatre in America, drama critics Peter Marks (The Washington Post), Terry Teachout (The Wall Street Journal), and Elisabeth Vincentelli (The New York Times, The Village Voice and The New Yorker) get together to (verbally) wrestle over shows, writers, actors, and trends. And they are now wrestling on a new twice-monthly schedule.
In the opening segment of the latest episode, the critics pay tribute to a great American actress, Jan Maxwell, who died in New York on Feb. 11 at the age of 61. The versatile Maxwell achieved the extraordinary distinction of earning Tony nominations in all four acting categories for women: actress in a play (The Royal Family); featured actress in a play (Lend Me a Tenor); actress in a musical (Follies) and featured actress in a musical (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). The panel offers its memories of some of Maxwell’s stellar performances, with Terry explaining that it was always worth attending a production in which Maxwell appeared, even if the production itself had flaws. She elevated everything she did, the critics agree.
In the second segment, the panelists grapple with the question of a national stampede of warhorses. With the frequent reviving of certain well-known plays and musicals, when, they wonder, is it time to say enough is enough? Is the recycling of classic plays an indication that American theatres have become too risk-averse? That they lack the requisite programming imagination? Each critic has the opportunity to sink their teeth into the topic, naming some of the plays they’ve seen too many times. Does this mean some famous works should go into temporary retirement? Or are they the kind of evergreen resources that perennially lure in new theatregoers?
Finally Peter, Terry, and Elisabeth each identify the plays and musicals they’ve seen recently that they found highly enjoyable—or not.