Thanks to a canceled flight, I missed the long-awaited August Wilson/Robert Brustein showdown. So when padding about the streets of New York later that night I happened upon a television newsperson whose beat includes the theater, I naturally asked her how the big fight went. Alas, her editors had dispatched her to cover Liza Minnelli’s ill-starred run in Victor/Victoria (by “ill-starred” I mean that, since Miss Minnelli’s arrival on the scene, her leading man had taken to calling in sick). Before you start sniggering at the priorities of TV news, it should be said that Liza’s woes— and the audience’s—were a peculiarly vivid example of the issue at the heart of Wilson/Brustein, though it’s probably not the issue they thought they were talking about.

Obviously, I can’t review Wilson/Brustein as a performance (I’m eschewing the judicial...


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