(Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 8/17.)
Rent is back, and I for one don't feel inclined to complain. Naturally, I'm obliged to say that it isn't as good as the original—how could it possibly be?—but that obligation arises naturally from the material, like the tears shed over the dying Mimi. I wept those tears at New World Stages last week, just as I wept them at New York Theatre Workshop, and again on Broadway, in 1996. Millions of audiences have gotten similarly wet-eyed since Henri Murger turned his collection of sketches, Scènes de la vie de Bohème, into a play back in the 1850s. Certain moments in theater invite weeping, just as revivals invite dismissive comparisons. The response is more a reflex than a criticism of the work. Tears are in things, and the story of La Bohème, or Rent if you know it that way, is one of their principal cultural habitations.