Review: A Director CallsEditorial Review - Kirkus Reviews
Lesser, editor and publisher of the Threepenny Review, probes the workings of British director Stephen Daldry and, through him, of the theater. Lesser says she had no particular interest in theater directors prior to attending Daldry's 1993 British revival of the J.B. Priestly warhorse An Inspector Calls. She found herself ""being spoken to . . . by a voice I understood."" She was also intrigued as a literary critic by the idea of theater as the ultimate example of literary interpretation: work brought to ephemeral life by a team of artists, never affecting--or being affected by--its changing audiences in precisely the same way. Lesser spent months watching Daldry at work and talking to the writers, actors, and designers with whom he collaborates. She sat through multiple rehearsals and performances of several plays, including Daldry's hit 1995 restaging of An Inspector Calls in New York City. Her goal, she says, was to write a book that would ""fill the gap between the professor's scrutiny of a frozen script and the reviewer's response to a frozen performance,"" and ""to render into words the experience that takes place implicitly in the mind of the attentive theater goer."" She falls short of her goal, for the same reason she is so intrigued by theater: Its experience can never be the same as a description of the experience. As hard as Lesser tries, her words can get no closer to the moments she depicts than Priestly's script gets to the magic of an actual performance of the play. But while Lesser's book is less than she intended about what theater is, it is filled with fascinating information about how it is done. Her piece-by-piece deconstruction of the directing process and her backstage revelations will be especially intriguing to people involved in the theater, in particular those playwrights naive enough to think their words are more than raw material to be thrown into the creative pot.