From Library Journal
New York Observer theater critic Heilpern has pulled together 70 of his essaysAwhat he considers his best, most important writings. Although he doesn't directly answer the question posed in the book's title, he shows us the joy, anger, anxiety, and other responses he's had to the plays that he has puzzled over during the course of his career. His comments are perceptive, enjoyable, and always livelyAwhether one agrees with them or not. One provocative essay, for example, which deals with the differences between British and American theater, is sure to cause a stir among theater folks. One quibble is that the pieces are not dated, so, although Heilpern writes about some people more than once (Arthur Miller and David Mamet, for example), it is hard to track how his ideas and opinions about them have changed over the years. Recommended for academic libraries or major subject collections.ASusan L. Peters, Emory Univ. Lib., Atlanta
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most theater reviews have a very short shelf life, for rare are the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Robert Brustein, whose notices remain news years after their subjects have closed. Heilpern clearly aspires to those likes but often falls short. Too many of these 70 or so pieces culled from the New York Observer
fail to rise above the "thumbs up, thumbs down" world of daily deadline journalism. Yet there are some gems. Every once in a while, especially in the most recent entries, Heilpern is touched by a muse of fire. Reviews of David Mamet's Cryptogram
and The Old Neighborhood
become devastating critiques of Mamet's writing style and his place in American theater. Articles on the Tony Awards and the closing of Carousel
spark thoughtful, passionate meditations on the state of theater in the '90s. Of the several news features, some are pure puffery, amusing but not very nutritious, whereas a few are well-researched, intelligently written profiles, most notably those of Arthur Miller and the English music hall performer Max Wall. Jack Helbig