Don DeLillo’s “Valparaiso,” a play, premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in January, 1999, but has only now made its way to Vancouver. A reviewer for a local newspaper is underwhelmed:
for all its cleverness — and it’s a caustically clever piece of theatre –Valparaiso isn’t as emotionally devastating as it might be. Because the characters become less, rather than more, real, you can’t take them seriously.
While that’s almost certainly DeLillo’s point, it doesn’t make for fully satisfying theatre. At the heart of DeLillo’s play, there’s a sad, sad story and the impact could have been overwhelming. But that’s not where DeLillo wants to go and so Valparaiso doesn’t go there.
Responding to my recent posts about Denis Johnson’s plays, Martha Bayne of the Chicago Reader reports in email that Johnson’s “trilogy of plays (Hellhound on my Trail, Shoppers Carried by Escalators into the Flames, Soul of a Whore) have also been staged — also brilliantly — in Chicago, by the Viaduct Theater.”
And while we’re on the subject, I just came across an old interview with Johnson in which he discusses his playwriting and his general preference for “fiction to facts.”