Theater: The Unfabulous Invalid

A few seasons back, playgoers rushed to off-Broadway theaters the way children tumble downstairs on Christmas morning, breathlessly expecting the unexpected present. But too many lemons showed up in the theatrical stocking, and audiences became wearier and warier. Production costs jumped, and off-Broadway found itself increasingly prey to the worst of Broadway's ailments, the hit-or-flop syndrome. So the off-Broadway theater is in crisis-an un-fabulous invalid. Luckily, this decline has zapped most vanity productions and self-indulgent exercises in beatnicknack-ery. The remnants, plus some earnest repertory and some irreverent topical comedy, still offer venturous...

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