Blame the draft if you want to. Say that Hollywood is a bad influence; that playwrights are still thinking in terms of the '30's; that the public prefers to be amused these days anyway. There are lots of pet theories, but none of them quite covers "Candle In The Wind," "Eve Of St. Mark," "Letters To Lucerne," "Plan M"; none of them can explain away "Heart Of The City," "The Moon Is Down," "The Morning Star," "The Wookey,"--et cetera, ad infinitum, strictement pour les oiseaux.
Now I have a pet theory too, and you can take it or leave it. The trouble with war drama, to put it somewhat vaguely, is this: there is nothing unique about tragedy in 1942 America. The problems of families being torn apart; of bride and groom, fresh from the preacher, being forcibly separated; of living for country or for self; are (to coin a phrase) too much with us. It isn't that the playwrights don't realize what this war means. It is simply that its meaning has become so obvious as to be both platitudinous and commonplace. The stuff of tragedy is rapidly becoming as easy to swallow as water. And even though it might look like gin to the public, no discerning critic can get drunk on water. Anderson et ilk seem to insist on taking the short cut to universality, and it invariably leads them to brutality.
Why does the playwright do this in war time? Because emotional set-ups are a dime a dozen; because the types are twice as apparent as they ever were before. So it looks like the critics will have to wait till this epidemic of symbolitis blows over before they can expect first rate war drama. As a matter of fact, it probably won't disappear altogether until after the armistice.