44 / CHRONICLESnics have stipulated for the regionalnmovement is to fill that gap, to fosternan O’Neill, a Williams, a Miller.nWhile pleading for government subsidies,nits representatives compare thenpromise of regional theater to a garden,nproviding the soil conducive tonnurturing theatrical talent and to generatingnthe hybrid genius of tomorrow.nBut aside from Lanford Wilson (thenCircle Rep in New York), and to anlesser degree David Mamet (the Goodmannin Chicago), what company hasncultivated a dramatist without thennlosing him to the more diffuse theaternworld at large? Most move on to largernand greener pastures—usually Southnof Central Park—soon after the blossomnappears.nEven the Chicago-based Steppenwolf,nsurely the hottest theater companyntoday (though it has yet to advancenthe career of a writer as it has propellednthe reputations of numerous performersnand directors), brings to New Yorknas much as it possibly can: True West,nand a Nightingale Sang . . . , Balmnin Gilead, Orphans, Arms and thenMan, The Caretaker, since 1982. Butnat what price? Already one hears reportsnof internal erosion of the spiritnand the allegiance of the group. Andnwhat will become of the Goodmannremains anyone’s guess, now thatnGregory Mosher has assumed responsibilitynfor the Lincoln Center Theaternand commenced his programmingnthere with two modest one-acts by hisnlong-time colleague David Mamet.nTerrence McNally in his satire onnall things theatrical. It’s Only a Play,nsummarizes regional theater as “playsnthat couldn’t get produced in NewnYork, performed by actors whoncouldn’t get jobs in New York, fornpeople who wished they still lived innNew York.” That is hardly a fair judgment,nand yet it is still evident that thenregional theater movement has notnsubstantially disturbed New York’s positionnas the apex of theatrical accomplishment.nThough regionalism hasngained noticeable attention in recentnyears, there is a grave irony in thenrealization that the aesthetic impulsenbehind this movement has been obfuscatednif not obliterated by the politicalndouble-talk and the chauvinistic debatenthat ensues on both sides of thenHudson River. For all the advances innthe regional movement, Americanntheater has become less, and not more,nAmerican, inasmuch as it has becomenmore fragmented than ever before withnso many centralized factions competingnagainst each other as well asnagainst the pinnacle they still aspire to.nActually, regionalism is alive andnwell inside New York. For all intentsnand purposes, Sheridan Square innGreenwich Village, for example, is noncloser to the Great White Way than isnthe American Repertory Theatre innCambridge, or the Goodman in Chicago,nor the Yale Rep in New Haven,nor the Actor’s Theater in Louisville. Innrecent years, these theaters respectivelynhave exported to Broadway: AngelsnFall and As Is, ‘night. Mother and BignRiver, Glengarry Glen Ross, Ma Rainey’snBlack Bottom, and—via the ManhattannTheatre Club—Crimes of thenHeart, to name only those that comenquickly to mind. Does the now 15year-oldnplea for government subsidynof regional theater really arise out of annambition to improve the quality of ourntheater in general, or is it merely anmanifestation of geographic pride? Ofncourse, when it is a question ofn”money for nothing,” who needs anreason?nI offer all this as long-winded prefacento a discussion of Steppenwolf’snrecent production of The Caretaker,nimported to Broadway’s Circle in thenSquare Theatre direct from itsnChicago-based home. Having praisednSteppenwolf’s output until now, thenNew York critics have come down toonhard on this no-nonsense version ofnthe Pinter play. It is as if the keepers ofnthe keys to New York theater havenfinally awakened to the noise of a warnbeing waged—a war in which geographical,nrather than aesthetic, battlesnoccupy the front lines. In this particularnskirmish, the New York critics havenoverlooked some of the finer aspects ofnSteppenwolf’s Caretaker in their unspokennneed to debunk the myth thatnSteppenwolf is the only exciting theaterncompany—a myth they helped toncreate.nThe Caretaker is not only Pinter’snmost frequentiy produced play, butnalso his most controversial. When itnwas new in 1960, Clifford Leech wrotenthat it “seems now to be the mostnimpressive dramatic writing in Englishnsince the war, but we cannot know ifnPinter will go beyond it, we cannotnnnknow how even this play will look ifnthere is a future from which it may benregarded.”nBut rather than say anything aboutnthe play itself (is it too sacred at thisnpoint, or too mundane a topic?) undernJohn Malkovich’s straightforward direction,nthe critics have seized thenevent as an opportunity to dump onnSteppenwolf Welcome to the harshnglare of the limelight, John Malkovichnand Gary Sinise. Be advised in thenfuture to keep your grubby little handsnoff all material sacred and British.n(Indeed, Malkovich’s last outing with anBritish work, Shaw’s Arms and thenMan, also for the Circle in thenSquare, was given a lukewarm to poornreception.)n”This Caretaker is a giggly, sloppynreading of the play that dissipates itsnpotentially absorbing drama,” be-;nmoaned Frank Rich. Clive Barnesnagreed: “The director, Mr. Malkovich,nand his quite talented actors, seemednunable to let the play speak for itself,ncreak for itself Less would have beennmore. . . . Such balance, and suchnovertones, never emerge from a productionnthat is disappointingly andndoggedly provincial.” Even the usuallyndemure Douglas Watt found Steppenwolfn”turning Harold Pinter’s earlyn’comedy of menace’ into somethingnmore like a comedy of discombobulation.”nBut the greatest venom comes,ncharacteristically, from John Simon,nwho opens his review by saying, “Notneven a dog, not even a dog of a play bynHarold Pinter, should be treated as thenSteppenwolf Theatre Company isnkicking around The Caretaker.”nAll of this is a far cry from thenreaction to the first production, whichnKenneth Tynan used as an occasion tonadvance Pinter’s career: “What holdsnone, theatrically, is Mr. Pinter’s bizarrenuse (some would call it abuse) ofndramatic technique, his skill in evokingnatmosphere, and his encyclopaedicncommand of contemporary idiom.n. . . Where most playwrights devotentheir technical efforts to making usnwonder what will happen next, Mr.nPinter forces our wonder on what isnhappening now. Who are these people?nHow did they meet, and why?nMr. Pinter delays these disclosuresnuntil the last tenable moment; he teasesnus without boring us, which is quitena rare achievement.”n