Honest Abe of Oberammergau

Sam Waterston tries to play dark edges, but Robert Sherwood's once esteemed epic about Lincoln seems mere pageantry today

There are two remarkable things about the revival of Abe Lincoln in Illinois, the 1939 Pulitzer prizewinner for best play that opened last week at New York City's Lincoln Center. One is the curtain call, when the full cast of 49 actors crowds the stage, a stunning sight in these budget-conscious days of single-set, four- or five-character dramas. The other, even more startling, is the very fact that anyone would choose to bring this sprawling, earnest pageant back to Broadway. Rather than current theater, it resembles Oberammergau's passion plays or those outdoor historical extravaganzas in the U.S. heartland that put a...

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