Artistic Youth and Ambition’s Perniciousness

I’ve been thrilled to see some of the new generation being represented on stages in Washington, DC. Theater J is running Itamar Moses’ “The Four of Us,” and it has received solid reviews in the Washington Post and Times.

There was much to enjoy about the content and structure, particularly in the “first act.” I started to lose some interest as the story went on but remained fascinated by the feelings of being in one’s mid to late 20s and experiencing competition and doubt as one’s friend has artistic success.

What does one do to get success yourself? If you write about what you know would it hurt a friend? What does an artist chose, friend or the chance at getting your work produced?

The play made me think about an earlier Theater J production, the world premiere by Sam Forman, “The Rise and Fall of Annie Hall.” Here the ambitious librettist in his mid-20s more humorous and obvious with his ambition.

In that play, Henry engages in subterfuge involving Facebook, lying to a movie producer’s pampered daughter (the fetching Maureen Rohn) and enduring the Tortured Genius’s lounge-lizard rendition of the musical’s proposed title song. He has to turn his back on his stoner writing partner and his singer girlfriend.

Studio Theater’s current play, “In the Red and Brown Water,” also shows people in their late teens and early twenties making choices. Intriguingly, the focus of the ambition is quite different and the lack of following through on ambition actually hurts the lead character.

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