“What is a New Play?”

Is it a new story?

Is it something that launches a writer?

Is it something that furthers the artform?

It’s hard to walk out of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ‘new play’ “Appropriate” without these questions swirling.

Let me get this out of the way, this is a young playwright with a gift for ensemble writing and a complicated sense of inheritance.

But “Appropriate” . . . well to put it nicely: it’s a story we’ve heard before.

You can hear more than the echoes of “Crimes of The Heart”, “Buried Child”, “August Osage County” with a coda that summons a bit of “Clybourne Park.”

It’s not that it’s a play about a dysfunctional family – which, thank god, has been a rich vein of theatrical history since the House of Atreus; it’s not that it’s a play about the family splitting the inheritance and unearthing the ghosts of the past; it’s that the ghosts haunting Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins have barely had time to collect dust on their Pulitzers.

Does it matter?

Ironically, probably not. These connections will make marketing departments happy and make it a likely candidate for the regional circuit. “Appropriate” brings into sharp focus that the Humana Festival is about feeding future productions.

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Definition:

ap ° pro ° pri ° ate

verb |-ˌāt| [ with obj. ]1 take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission: his images have been appropriated by advertisers.

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