The Plays of Benn Levy by Susan Rusinko Summary
A dramatist divided in his life between politics and the theatre, Benn Levy (1900-1973) is the author of more than twenty witty, literate comedies and dramas that span the middle of the twentieth century and are a mirror of the age. In The Plays of Benn Levy, Susan Rusinko arranges the plays chronologically, analyzing them in the context of contemporary dramatists and the influences that shaped their writing - in Levy's case, most notably George Bernard Shaw. Levy's plays reflect interests and styles similar to those of more famous contemporaries such as Noel Coward, James Barrie, and Terence Rattigan. In addition to his stage plays, Levy wrote scripts in the early years of cinema, adapted the plays of continental dramatists, collaborated with other dramatists, directed his plays and those of other playwrights, spent time in America where many of his plays were produced, and lived to help repeal in 1968 the detested theatre-licensing bill, a battle he had begun to fight during his term in Parliament in the late 1940s. The theme of Levy's first stage play, This Woman Business (1925), is the Shavian battle of the sexes, an idea that threads its way through most of his plays and culminates in his Giraudoux-like comic adaptation of the Amazonian adventures of Theseus and Heracles (The Rape of the Belt, 1957) and his last play, a realistic problem play (The Member for Gaza, 1966) which, despite its seeming political topicality, echoes with eerie contemporaneity nearly thirty years later. Levy's plays provide a retrospective on the theatrical currents dominating the English (and American) stages during the middle part of the twentieth century, prior to the English stage revolution begun in l956 with John Osbourne's Look Back in Anger. This book intends to put Levy's plays into that perspective.