A year ago, amidst whoops and hollers and a cocktail or two, the "War Horse" team marked the winning of five Tonys at PJ Clarke's restaurant near Lincoln Center. As we approach this year's ceremony on Sunday, I find myself hoping that Lincoln Center Theater's nominees find favor with the Tony voters and set off similar glee. I also think that this season of theatrical kudos is an opportune moment to celebrate something else: the fact that five new plays are currently being produced or co-produced or offered to members by LCT.
The sheer bounty of the productions - "War Horse," "4000 Miles," "Other Desert Cities," "Clybourne Park," "Slowgirl" - is reason alone to note the milestone: never in the theater's history have so many shows concurrently had the LCT association. But there's more: four of them have found intense acclaim from both critics and audience. The only reason I can't save all five have found intense acclaim is that "Slowgirl," the inaugural offering of LCT's new Claire Tow space, is still in previews.
I suppose at this point I should apologize for sounding like a publicist rather than a blogger. Okay. So let me make the point of a critic rather than that of a press agent: It is really difficult to find and produce superb work. Though our age of a million writing courses may make it appear otherwise, first- rate dramatists are a rare occurrence; as Stephen Sondheim pointed out in his 2010 book "Finishing the Hat," no form of writing is more treacherously difficult than the full- length play. Without the technical tricks of movies and TV or the brevity of poetry or the expansiveness of the novel (which unlike a play does not require a two-hour sit to experience), the playwright must have tremendous skill to succeed. And even if the play is terrific, it then needs an enhancing production to make its way in the world.
I have a final reason to make my celebratory comments just now. Like this week's transit of Venus, the conjunction of elements contributing to the five-play phenomenon is transitory: "Optima dies, prima fugit" says the Roman poet Horace, which translates as "The best days are the first to flee." "Other Desert Cities" closes at the end of next week, "4000 Miles" on the first of July, "Slowgirl later in July , and "Clybourne Park" on August 12 . Summer flies by in a flash - like good plays.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com