48 / CHRONICLESnmidnight and would lead a spectator tonbelieve that at least half of America isnunemployed, the other half independentlynwealthy. Nor is it irrelevant tonnote that this new theater is decidedlynself-conscious and amoral.nThough it undoubtedly has referencesnwhich a cultural scientist couldntrace back to the stages of Attica orneven earlier, a more direct harbingernfor this revolutionary state of theaternemerged in the early 1970’s, in anseemingly meaningless movie callednThe Rocky Horror Picture Show. Morento the point, it wasn’t the movie itselfnthat mattered so much as the cultnfollowing that evolved around it, usuallynat midnight showings on Fridaynnights in major cities throughout thencountry.nAs you may or may not recall,nduring those midnight screenings,nmembers of the audience would positionnthemselves in front of the screennand act out musical numbers alongnwith the performers on screen. Manynothers would remain in their seats. Butneven from that more traditional vantagenpoint they would often mimenalong with the actors; or at appropriatenmoments they would employ the variousnprops they brought with them (fornexample, opening their umbrellasnwhen it started to rain on screen tonprotect themselves from the real waternthat was being sprayed by their neighborsnin the auditorium).nIn retrospect, the Roc^y Horror PicturenShow phenomenon appeared asnsome sort of spontaneous culturalncombustion that consumed the clearlyndelineated lines between audience andnspectacle. The viewer suddenly becamensome weird variation on antheme, at once a voyeur as well as annexhibitionist, while the very definitionnof theater was assuming new proportionsnand ground rules.nIn the intervening dozen or so yearsnsince The Rocky Horror Picture Show,nthis new kind of theater has metamorphosizednyet again. Now it can benfound in the numerous clubs and discosnthat have become our new templesnof performance and diversion—placesnwhere people go as much to be seen asnto see or to dance, where everyone isnboth “on” stage and “off” stage at thensame time, and where an identity cannbe assumed (and shed) with the samenfacility that actors change clothes.nThis new theater can best be observednat places like Area, which featuresndifferent themes every few weeksnand hires people to perform or assumentableaux in the midst of the festivities;nor Palladium, which used to be theaternand now uses honest-to-goodness stagensettings as backdrops to the dancenfloor; or Limelight, which is literally anconverted church; or the Saint, whichnoffers fashion shows and performancenpieces while everyone present is involvednin a performance of their own,nfor themselves and for each other.nSuperficially, anyway, WallynShawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon hasnabsolutely nothing to do with the kindsnof theater I’m describing above. It usesnactors and actresses who interpret anscript on an utterly conventional stagenbefore a conventionally seated audience.nBut on a much deeper level, thisncontroversial drama only begins tonmake sense in the climate of the newntheatrical context that has spilled overninto other aspects of our culture, anculture which often confuses image fornsubstance and rhetoric for ideas.nQuite justifiably, many have accusednAunt Dan and Lemon of notnbehaving as a play ought to. It is morena series of disquisitions and unsettiingnmonologues on highly charged moralnand political topics than it is a playnwith exposition, plot, interaction, andnresolution. In some respects, it is reminiscentnof Peter Weiss’s MaratlSade,nbut it is even more disturbing than thatnabrasive work was, since it has coylynpresented itself in serene and ingenuousntones. More than anything else, itnseems to have redefined the role of thenaudience. Like so many plays of thenpast 20 years. Aunt Dan acknowledgesnthe audience’s presence to an extraordinaryndegree. But despite its evidentnhospitality, it refuses to be either hospitablenor direct in its wicked insinuationsnand implicit accusations. It incorporatesnthe audience into itsnscheme at the same time that it degradesnand insults each and everynmember by compelling them to concludenthat they are as incapable ofn”compassion” as the next person, andnby equating Nazi genocide with thenextermination of cockroaches in one’snown kitchen.nAs an ardent fan of the work when itnpremiered here last November, freshnfrom the Royal Court Theatre in Lon­nnndon, I was looking forward to thensubsequent production that opened innlate March. Aside from a change in allnbut one of the seven cast members, thennewer production would share thensame director, the same scenery, costume,nlighting and sound designersnwith the original version. It wouldneven be performed on the same stagenspace at the Public Theater’s MartinsonnHall. And most importantly, itnwould be the same play.nThe same play that Frank Rich innthe Times had christened “the mostnstimulating, not to mention demanding,nAmerican play to emerge thisnyear”; even as he explained that it isn”about how literate, civilized societiesncan drift en masse into beastliness andncommit the most obscene acts of history.”nThe same play that John Simonnridiculed as a “poor, unappetizingnworm wriggling around the stage andnpretending to be an iconoclastic playnthough it merely offends against taste,nintelligence, and basic hygiene asnit waits for someone to step on it andnput it and its captive audience (nonintermission, of course!) out of theirnmisery.” The same play that RobertnBrustein found “impossible to evaluaten… in dramatic terms.” The samenplay whose author admitted he “intentionallynset out to leave the audiencenfrustrated and unsatisfied.”nSo why, I must wonder aloud, is mynresponse to this new production diametricallynopposed to what it was originally?nHow can I be so disappointednthat I even feel ashamed by my earliernenthusiastic reaction? Though KathynWhitton Baker, as the anorexic andnwistful narrator. Lemon, is not as effectivelynsedate or graceful as her predecessornKathryn Pogson, and thoughnthat fine actress Pamela Reed, as thenpontificating and influential AuntnDan, is not as firm nor as eccentric asnLinda Hunt in the same role, neitherndeparts fundamentally enough fromnthe previous interpretations to accountnfor so radically different a response tonthe play itself.nIn his last major work, the film MynDinner With Andre, co-written withnAndre Gregory, Shawn presented andialectic which prompted hyperbolicncomparisons with Plato and withnShaw. With that film, Shawn recalculatednthe medium of the scripted dialoguenby creating a sort of fictionaln