WAS MY PROBLEM WITH ROMULUS THAT IT WAS A EUROPEAN PLAY? Romulus is based on a play by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. I think perhaps that I should have been blaming Duerrenmatt rather than Vidal for my disappointment in Romulus. In his essay, Vidal acknowledged that when he chose to adapt Duerrenmatt’s play, he knew it had weaknesses: “I liked the play, though it was quite apparent why it had failed. Duerrenmatt had neglected to dramatize his situation. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, to be effective in the theatre one must be very interesting. His play [the play Vidal was going to adapt] was interesting only in conception.”
Vidal believed that Duerrenmatt would be “a potentially good influence on our theatre” because he wrote “moral melodramas”. American plays had become “more and more meager in content”. Our theater had been “unintellectual” for 300 years.
After my first Broadway experience with an intellectual European play, I never did learn to appreciate the genre. I have enjoyed the beginnings of some plays that are part of the theater of the absurd, but unfortunately they continue after the beginnings.