■ The Heir Apparent (David Ives; 2011. Drama.)
Although I enjoyed The School for Lies, Ives’ adaptation of Molière’s The Misanthrope, his take on Jean-François Regnard’s Le Légataire universel left me cold. The Heir Apparent, part of the 2015-16 season at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is, as Chris Jones reminds readers, a farce. That it’s a farce that should end in half as much time, however, and with far less potty humor was painfully evident in text; it was particularly harrowing in person (as I mentioned here). I actually considered leaving at intermission, in fact. Only the cast’s brilliance prevented me from doing so.
■ Neighbors (Jan T. Gross; 2001. Non-fiction.)
■ Our Class (Tadeusz Słobodzianek (adaptation by Ryan Craig); 2009. Drama.)
Earlier this month, I visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I pulled Neighbors from my shelves that evening, and Gross’ exploration of the senseless horror that occurred in the Polish village of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, prompted me to read the play inspired by the National Book Award Finalist. Where Neighbors is brisk, relentless, insightful, and disturbing, however, Our Class, which is enslaved by its framing device, fails the material. In fact, had I not read Neighbors, I would have had no real context for events in the play, which culminate in the murder of 1,600 Jews by their friends, schoolmates, and neighbors.
■ Scored (Lauren McLaughlin; 2011. Fiction.)
A friend mentioned Sesame Credit in our correspondence earlier this month, asking if it didn’t remind me of a YA novel. At the time, I could not locate a conventional news source’s report on China’s “social credit” program, although numerous alarmist links were readily available. I have since read the CNN op-ed “The risks — and benefits — of letting algorithms judge us,” however, and I think she may have been thinking of David Eggers’ The Circle, which is not YA. That said, my search for a related YA title eventually led to Scored, a book that, while competent in its way, yielded few surprises. I did like this, though:
Imani knew that her parents would not have understood. Their grasp of the world was based on an obsolete value system that was probably the root of Imani’s problems. Who else had gifted her with the dusty antique of loyalty, that “disempowering bond”?
■ Ready Player One (Ernest Kline; 2011. Fiction.)
In which eighties references and geekery abound!
■ Arcadia (Tom Stoppard; 1993. Drama.)
In an odd scheduling juxtaposition, I saw Marjorie Prime at the Writers Theatre about an hour after leaving the Illinois Holocaust Museum; hence, emotionally speaking, I received a gut-punch followed by a blow to the jaw. Kate Fry and Mary Ann Thebus, who will almost certainly be nominated Jeff Awards, reduced me to tears with their performances in this thought-provoking and timely play, which runs through March 13. Marjorie Prime may well be the last Writers Theatre production in its Books on Vernon location: The new theater space opens in March with Stoppard’s Arcadia. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is one of my favorite works of literature, but I have read no other Stoppard. How delighted I am to have “found” Arcadia. Brilliant. Just brilliant.
By the way, articles in the playbill for Marjorie Prime are responsible for Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human and Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence moving from my shelves to my nightstand. Other notable titles in my TBR stack include Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo, the Remy Bumppo production of which will also open in March; Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air; and the third volumes of two graphic series, The Bunker and Letter 44.