There's No Author in Paradise Square
In considering the case of the Berkeley Rep’s new musical Paradise Square under the direction of Moisés Kaufman, with a book by Marcus Gardley, choreography by Bill T. Jones, and music by Jason Howland and Larry Kirwan (also the lyricist), we might rightfully ask whose show this is. After all, Craig Lucas is also listed as writing the book along with Gardley and Kirwin, though Lucas seems absent from most of the show’s promotional material. And strangely enough there’s a “conceived by” credit for Kirwan. I wonder if this is an entirely new artistic field—”Mom, Dad, I’m majoring in artistic conception!”
Paradise Square is the unwitting product of the crisis of authorship in American theater. In many ways what the musical is about is beside the point, though its plot and aspirations are telling to say the least. In its seriousness, it obliterates any possibility of artistic ambition, wildness, freedom, and scope. Its goal is to parrot conventional sensibilities and give them a high culture sheen of political and social importance. There’s no author here, only a producer selling the idea of high-quality creativity.