Having read every play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama from 1918 to 1982 (and counting), I can testify that the winners aren’t always great theatrical works, but they are often very revealing about the times in which they won.
Decades from now, people reading Jackie Sibblies Drury’s 2019 winner, Fairview (now onstage at the Wilma Theater) will get a pretty accurate view at what interested contemporary audiences: conceptual theater, race and identity, our own culpability. Beginning as a welcomely funny drama about a middle-class black family, Fairview piles Pirandellian layers of commentary and absurdity, challenging the audience to reconsider how they viewed each section. From the TV-like scenes to the chaotic climax, 2022 Pulitzer winner James Ijames directs his talented cast through the challenging transitions.
But though Fairview is a smart if at times naive play, and a very understandable Pulitzer winner, I’d hesitate to recommend it. [SPOILER ALERT] Especially if one is prone to anxiety or stage fright. The play descriptions give little warning that seriously intrusive audience participation may be required. And though the viewer’s discomfort is a key part of Drury’s message, it doesn’t make the preachy and near panic–inducing ending any less disagreeable.
[Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street] May 31-June 26, 2022 (extended); wilmatheater.org