Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

09 November 2005

The Long Christmas Ride Home

I've never read any of Paula Vogel's work, which is surprising because seemingly everyone has read her Pulitzer-winning How I Learned to Drive. Everyone, that is, except for me. My friend even worked on that play in a scene study class we took together, I think. Anyway, I never read it. But tonight I read her play The Long Christmas Ride Home (that's two plays so far this week: geez).
The reason I decided to read The Long Christmas Ride Home is because I'm feeling like I haven't directed a play in forever (it's really only been a week and a half, if you're counting) and it's nearing Christmas and I was thinking how nice it was when I directed a one-night-only performance of Thornton Wilder's very sad play The Long Christmas Dinner. So in my little head I was thinking maybe I would hit upon another play I could do super-quick in perhaps a reading-only format. I don't know. Crazy, I guess.
The thing is, The Long Christmas Ride Home really is a throwback to Thornton Wilder: a nod in his direction, if you will. It clearly takes a lot of its cues from Wilder's short plays The Long Christmas Dinner, Pullman Car Hiawatha and The Happy Journey from to Trenton and Camden. I mean, it's title is itself a not-so-subtle reference to Wilder. For me, though, Vogel's play, while cutting close to the bone and somewhat autobiographical and certainly heartfelt, seemed to lack scope... or maybe depth. I'm not sure, really, but by tying herself to the three Thornton Wilder plays from the start (she mentions him and the plays explicitly in the notes at the beginning) she set the bar a little high. I like her flair though, and perhaps the play is meant to be seen (it was originally staged with puppets in the bun raku style) and not read.
Anyway, it makes me want to read some of her other work. Anyone have anything to say about Paula Vogel? I know hardly anything, so input is welcome.