Schenkkan's Kentucky Epic

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BY AUSTIN BAER AND LAURA JACOBS

SCIIENKKAN’S KKNTUCKV EPIC

n Robert Schenkkan’s The Kentucky Cycle, winner of the I 992 Pulitzer Prize, drama aspires to the condition of epic. Following the fortunes of Indians, white settlers, and slaves over the course of two centuries, its nine short plays add up to two full evenings of theater. The vision, though bleak, is not despairing. So tangled are the family ties that the script (Plume Books) gives a chart of the characters’ genealogy, but Schenkkan’s sense of fateful encounters is sure, and in the unfolding of events there is no confusion. Betrayal is self-defense in this world; possession is theft. Prosperity passes, and woe endures. Fed by many sources, the action flows its bitter course like a mi eh tv river. Places and

From The Kentucky Cycle

things take on lives of their own. Consider the creek of the opening play, “so dear, b’God but you could read the date off a shilling on the bottom of it,” which by the end is “Shilling Creek, full of silt and garbage and

abandoned cars.” Consider the gold watch picked from a dead man’s pocket that over the centuries becomes a family heirloom, shrouded in misinformation, lore, and lies.

The plays’ prospects are uncertain, but the timing could be perfect. New York seems newly hospitable to theater with a conscience. Witness the recent success of The Grapes of Wrath and the current triumph of Angels in America. (At the Royale Theatre from November 3; tickets: 212-239-6200.) —A. B.

SCHWARTZ I HUM 1’.SON