"Lahr creates a book worthy of its title: It is a living celebration of theater itself." —Caryn James, New York Times Book Review
Since 1992 John Lahr has written for The New Yorker, where for twenty-one years he was the senior drama critic, the longest stint in that post in the magazine's history. Joy Ride is a collection of his profiles and reviews that throws open the stage door, taking us behind the scenes both on and off Broadway to introduce such creators of contemporary drama as August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, Wallace Shawn, and Mike Nichols. The result is a delightful, literate, and essential crash course in contemporary theater.
Former New Yorker drama critic Lahr (Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh) spotlights more brilliantly neurotic theater personalities in his latest incisive, exuberant collection of pieces from the magazine. His journalistic profiles of playwrights and directors, including Arthur Miller, David Mamet, Tony Kushner, Neil Labute, Harold Pinter, Ingmar Bergman, and Mike Nichols, map the deep plumes of upwelling anxiety and obsession that drive their art, linking the antiheroes in the plays to their creators' latent hostility, desperate need for control, and persecution complexes, and thence to their issues with weak or rivalrous fathers, cold or histrionic mothers, childhood humiliations, and miscellaneous scars from the family snake pit. Through lively, sympathetic interviews with his subjects and probing interpretations of their works, Lahr sketches their personalities, assesses their effects on the theater scene, and explores motifs the corrosive effects of atomized individualism, the impossibility of communication and connection that pervade their work. Sprinkled in are reviews of landmark productions of the last few decades that mix shrewd studies of characters and themes "It is existence, not success, that eludes" Death of a Salesman's Willy Loman, he writes with rapt evocations of acting and staging. Lahr's vivid reportage, trenchant insight, and infectious love of the stage will remind readers just how exciting modern theater can be.