A PLAY KILLED BY THE CRITICS. In his review of the new production of Edward Albee’s The Lady From Dubuque, Terry Teachout says that the premiere of the play in 1980 was “one of those soul-shriveling disasters that can blight a whole career.” There were harsh reviews, and the play closed after 12 performances. Ben Brantley in his review of the new production says that the reception of the play “no doubt hastened Mr. Albeeâ€™s decade-long exile from the commercial New York theater.” Both Teachout and Brantley give the play favorable reviews and Teachout says: “I find it hard to understand how the critics who wrote about ‘The Lady From Dubuque’ in 1980 could have been so far off the mark.”
I can speculate that one factor may be that Albee was a tempting target because of his prestige. Teachout quotes one critic from 1980, John Simon, who called the play: “one of the worst plays about anything, ever”. John Simon’s critical stance was that only a very few plays met his exacting standards. Disliking an Albee play would be an opportunity to demonstrate this.