Ribman, in the manner of a number of dramatists who came to prominence in the 1960’s, has set his plays in widely differing historical and national contexts, while remaining faithful to the same set of themes. To mention a comparable writer, the British playwright Peter Shaffer has centered one play, The Royal Hunt of the Sun (pr., pb. 1964), on a conflict between Montezuma and the invading conquistadores, and another, Amadeus (pr. 1979, pb. 1980), on a battle between Mozart and a musical rival. However, each play thematically has concentrated on the contest between untutored authenticity and world-weary cynicism. By the same token, Ribman has set plays in nineteenth century Russia, postwar Berlin, and a California prison, while using each context to examine the irrepressibility of evil in man’s nature and the inevitable destruction of innocence and sensitivity.
In an exquisite earlier work, The Journey of the Fifth Horse (pr. 1966, pb. 1967), Ribman chronicles the poignant tale, adapted from Ivan Turgenev, of a Russian nobleman who cannot seem to find love or acceptance in a provincial town. This touching story, however, is the diary of a dead man, which has fallen into the hands of his illiterate, avaricious servants. It has been given to the uncaring editor, Zoditch, who is forced to consider it for publication against his will because of office machinations. Thus the telling of the sensitive tale is intermixed with...
(The entire section is 558 words.)