The Wooster Group: Theater as Demanding as Art

THE DAILY PIC: In Pinter's 'The Room', actors and audience are put to the test.


THE DAILY PIC (#1421): The Wooster Group is one of the most daring theater ensembles around. Not that you can quite tell that from this shot, taken at a rehearsal of their presentation of The Room, Harold Pinter’s very first play, which opens tonight at the group’s Performance Garage in New York.

Pinter’s 1967 script, for all its peculiarities, has a realist backbone, but the Woosters throw a major spanner in the works: The entire time they are performing, the group’s actors have the sounds of traditional Chinese “crosstalk comedy” piped into their ears. The effect seems to be that they can’t quite settle into their characters, but have to be always aware of their act of speaking: “The struggle keeps us kind of present and involved,” is how one actor put it in a Q&A after a preview. (You can judge for yourselves by watching the video clips on their Website.)

Don’t ask me to comment further than that: A drama critic I ain’t.


Whenever I go to plays – other than those put on by the Wooster Group – I’m always struck by how much more tame and tradition-bound drama seems than fine art, where difficulty is the expected mode, for both makers and audience. The other night, the supposedly radical silences and longueurs of Annie Baker’s play The Flick felt like Dick and Jane, compared to the demanding glories of Andy Warhol’s eight-hour film of the Empire State Building. (Photo by Paula Court)

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