THE AMERICAN DRAMA SINCE 1918: by Joseph Wood Krutch. New York: Random House, 325 pp. $2.50.
JOSEPH Wood Krutch is doubly qualified to write this interesting and penetrating analysis of the development of our native drama in the past two decades; he is a professor of English at Columbia University and drama critic of "The Nation." In this latter capacity, he has long been known as one of the soundest and most intelligent critics practicing the craft.
His history begins with a study of the avant-garde drama which began to flourish during the war years. He traces the influx of European influences, which, assimilated and transmuted, helped to produce the Provincetown Playhouse and its fellows. He proceeds to take up chronologically the work of George Kelly, Sidney Howard and the earlier plays of Maxwell Anderson: the achievement of Eugene O'Neill; comedy, from George S. Kaufman and S. N. Behrman to George Abbott; the so-called "social drama": and the poetic drama of Maxwell Anderson.
Mr. Krutch's history is of necessity informal. While it is possible today to examine and assay the work of individual dramatists, it is as yet impossible to render any final judgments as to the ultimate meaning of their work in terms of the American drama. If Mr. Krutch has chosen to approach his subject as critic rather than as professor, he has done wisely. The formal history which will eventually be produced at some university will perhaps have the advantage of a greater temporal perspective, but its writer will be hard put to it to match the keenness of Mr. Krutch's critical judgments or the excellence of his writing.