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Posts from the ‘plays’ Category

28
Jan

#Plays Thornton Wilder

JANUARY

16. The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, Volume I by Thornton Wilder by Thornton Wilder Thornton Wilder

Finish date: 19 January 2022
Genre: Plays
Rating: D-
Review:

Bad news: The plays felt like homework, outdated lacking in any kind of spark of enjoyment. Every time I started a new play …it was only to get it done and hope the end of the book would put me out of my misery.

Bad news: I still had enough enthusiasm after a good lunch… to start the last 12 one act plays. I only like 2! So it was a very low return on investment. I literally fell asleep reading part II.

Good news: Stage directions: stage appearance, characters arrangement alone or in clusters…that was the best part of the plays I read. I needed some visual to get my through my reading. I will share one for Pullman Car Hiawatha by Harry Feiner Theater Design It helped me so much to understand what was going on in the play. IMO this was the best play in the book because it was so unconventional. Strange play….but oh, what a talent Wilder must have been to create this dialogue!! I liked Wilder’s use of a stage manager that breaks the 4th wall and speaks to the audience.

Personal These are not plays you can just jump into….there is a lot of allegory embedded in Thornton’s writing. Try to at least read a summary of the play beforehand. Here is an excellent resource for many of Wilder’s works…all in one website! The Wilder Society

Thornton Wilder….who mentions his name when asked for 3 great American playwrights? Not me! The spotlight is always on Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller. But Wilder is one of the greatest writers of art of allegorical narrative…and that is always difficult to understand and digest. Malcolm Cowley (literary critic 1898-1989) reveals: “(Wilder is) one of the toughest and most complicated minds in contemporary America.” Amen to that!

We all have read Wilder’s play Our Town and he novel The Bridge of San Luis Ray (Pulitzer Prize 1928)..in high-school …so if you’ve read them there is no reason to venture into the one-act plays in this book.
#Disappointed

3
Dec

#Play Ayad Aktar Pulitzer Prize 2013 Drama

  • Playwright:  Ayad Akhtar (1970)
  • Title: Disgraced
  • Genre: play (1 act; 4 scenes)
  • Opening night: January 2012
  • Trivia: Nominated  Tony Award for Best Play 2015
  • Trivia:  Winner Pulitzer Prize Drama 2013
  • Monthly reading plan
  • #ReadDiversely 2021

 

Quickscan:

Quote from The Economist:

  • Akhtar’s tales of assimilation
  • “are as essential today as the work of
  • Saul Bellow, James Farrell, and Vladimir Nabokov
  • were in the 20th century
  • …in capturing the drama of the immigrant experience.

 

  1. Well, this gives you an idea where Ayad Aktar stands compared
  2. to the great writers of the 20th C!
  3. A Pulitzer Prize winning play
  4. …always needs to be researched before reading.
  5. I discovered so much that otherwise would have passed me by

 

  1. Character development: fury –> rage –> violence  (Amir, Isaac)
  2. Characters represent different parts of society:
  3. Amir:  Pakistani muslim lawyer; apostate, abandons Islam
  4. Isaac: Jewish  museum curator; defends Judaism, Israel
  5. Emily: American privileged artist (wife Amir); fervently embraces Islamic art
  6. Abe: Pakistani muslim (nephew Amir); zealot;  uncompromising belief in Islam
  7. Jory: African-American lawyer (wife Isaac) objects to misogynistic Islam
  8. Plot: Volatile combination of characters at dinner party
  9. …that needs just a spark to explode (read play and discover spark!)
  10. Timeline: opening scene, 2 weeks later (SC2), 3 months later (SC3), 6 months later (SC 4)
  11. Location: Amir and Emily’s apartment, East Side New York City
  12. Spin-in-the-web:  Islamic faith, it connects all the actors
  13. Themes: Islamophobia  – racism – tribalism

 

Strong point:  literary device dramatic irony

  1. Aktar arranges the dialogue and exit/entrances of characters 
  2. so  the audience knows more
  3. than the character they are watching on stage!
  4. #Classic way to create tension and suspense

 

Strong point:  title  “Disgraced”

  1. The title “Disgraced” is the core message of the play.
  2. What it feels like….and what people do as reaction.
  3. Amir learn about 3 shocks in his life:
  4. back round check at law-firm, wife’s affair,
  5. …NO promotion as full partner at work
  6. He feels “disgraced”.
  7. What happens?
  8. Amir reacts with kick-the-dog effect.”
  9. Anger and frustration leads him to lash out at innocent people….

 

Conclusion:

  1. I’m trying to read 50 Best Plays of the last 100 years.
  2. But there are many plays in the 21st C that are not on this list.
  3. I expect Disgraced to be one on the best of the 2000s
  4. I don’t see many “plays” on reading lists.
  5. Try to think of a play as a “surgically crafted” novella
  6. …extremely accurate and precise.

8
Mar

#ReadIreland 2020 Tom Murphy

Quickscan:

  1. The Wake is set in the 1990s.
  2. Vera is a lonely, exiled prostitute
  3. returning from New York to her native
  4. …town to mourn her grandmother.
  5. But she has also inherited a family hotel
  6. …which her siblings covet.
  7. When Vera learns the true
  8. …circumstances of grandmother’s death.
  9. she decides on an unusual course of action.

Conclusion:

  1. Now, after reading this introduction I wanted to
  2. find out what did Vera really do with her hotel?
  3. That was my only smart move.
  4. The play was a slapdash of arguments,
  5. singing, swearing and a grande mélange à trois
  6. …to shock her family and the reader.
  7. The play was a mess on paper.
  8. I can’t imagine having to sit it out in a theatre.
  9. At least I could  read it with a toothless comb.
  10. No, Tom Murphy can do better.
  11. Here are two of his plays worth reading!
  12. Alice Trilogy and Famine.

Last thoughts:

  1. The kindest thing I can say about this play is
  2. enjoy the journey, but realize
  3. you’re going to roll your eyes
  4. in disbelief a lot on the way.
  5. #WasteOfTime
5
Mar

#ReadIreland 2020 Oscar Wilde

  • Author:  Oscar Wilde
  • Title:  Woman of No Importance
  • Premièred : 19 April 1893
  • Genre:  “skeleton-in-the-closet”  play
  • Reading time: 2 hours
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #ReadingIrelandMonth20
  • #Begorrathon20

 

Finished: 05.03.2020
Rating: A+++
#Classic

Conclusion:

  1. Woman of No Importance satirizes upper-class English society
  2. at the end of the 19th C.
  3. It takes place, for the most part, in the homes of
  4. the rich and powerful, where Lord, Ladies,
  5. and Archdeacons socialize and gossip about their contemporaries.
  6. In this play the gossip is about Mrs. Arbuthnot
  7. …a woman of no importance.
  8. How many of us have this play in the bookcase
  9. …in The Complete Works of Oscar Wide?
  10. I have overlooked Wilde’s plays
  11. ….and I am the lesser for it.
  12. There’s a difference between the play as cultural work of art
  13. …and the play as entertainment,
  14. …in the same way that there’s a
  15. difference between a classical symphony and a musical.
  16. No, this play does not have the
  17. …gravitas of Death of a Salesman (A. Miller)
  18. …but is does have the emotion of the heart of a man (Oscar Wilde)
  19. …who has known joy….but also great suffering.
  20. The play touched a heart-string.
  21. #Bravo…Oscar Wilde

 

2
Mar

#Play A Doll’s House

Conclusion:

  1. This was a very easy play to read.
  2. The dialogue is …
  3. clean, simple, evocative, alive and easily spoken.
  4. In Act III when Nora finally finds her voice she
  5. pummels her husband….who can’t handle the truth!
  6. #MustRead  classic play!
  7. This play is an audience favorite:
  8. Film adaptations with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Jane Fonda and Juliet Stevenson
  9. Stage production is planned June 2020 London with Jessica Chastain.

  1. At the moment a spin-off is on stage in London.
  2. Nora: A Doll’s House –> Young Vic Theatre in London.
  3. Stef Smith’s adaptation of the Ibsen play sends the title character on a time-traveling mission,
  4. exploring how far women’s rights have progressed in the last 100 years.
  5. The play re-frames the drama in three different time periods:
  6. the women’s suffrage movement,
  7. the Swinging ’60s in London, and
  8. present day.
  9. The play was recently named a finalist for the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Structure: Three act play:

Act 1: exposition (married life, Christine returns)
Act 2: rising action (Nora’s secret is discovered!)
Act 3: climax and resolution occur simultaneously (Nora…walks out the door with her baggage!).

Well-made play:

  1. This created a sensation in 19th C Royal Theatre Denmark on 21 December 1879!
  2. Ibsen broke with the traditional well-made play  structure.
  3. The well-made play  from 19th C first codified by French dramatist Eugène Scribe
  4. …with 5 equal parts  in 5 acts:  exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.

Genre:

  1. Problem play…
  2. …character Nora is  in conflict with a social issue or institution ( marriage)
  3. Ibsen presents in A Doll’s House the
  4. treatment of women (..as unequal)
  5. particularly the entrapment of women …in marriage
  6. in a very realistic manner.

Timeline: 3 days

  1. The play begins on Christmas Eve and
  2. concludes the day after Christmas… the 26th.

Main characters:

  1. Nora and Torvald (married)
  2. Christine (BFF)
  3. Nils – employee at Torvald’s bank
  4. Dr Rank (family friend)

Quickscan:  (…no spoilers)

  1. — The institution of marriage was sacrosanct in 19TH C
  2. — This play was highly controversial and elicited sharp criticism.
  3. — Nora Helmer gains the reader’s empathy.
  4. Nora’s change: sheltered 19th C child wife….to mature woman who finds her voice
  5. Theme: woman trapped in a patriarchal society (…loveless marriage)
  6. Foils:   Nora —> Christien (friend); Torvard (husband) —> Nils (employee)
  7. Foils:   partners Nora and Tovard —> partners Christine and Nils
  8. Symbol: most important is the Christmas tree —> beautiful, admired, decorated
  9. …parallel with Nora. During the play the tree loses it’s splendour, ornaments as does Nora
  10. …appearing in a bedraggled state.

Contrast relationships:

Nora and Tovald:
NO…communication openly.
NOT honest with each other
NO respect for each other
KEEP secrets (…at least Nora does…)
UNEQUALS – man controles and is above wife
NO true love

Christine and Nils —> exactly the opposite!
YES…communication openly.
YES honest with each other
YES respect for each other
NO kept secrets
EQUALS

27
Feb

#Play Tony Award Best Play 1984

Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close

  • Playwright:  Tom Stoppard (1937)
  • Title: The Real Thing
  • Genre: play
  • Opening night: 1982
  • Trivia: Tony Award for Best Play 1984
  • Trivia: Tony Award for Best Revival Play 2000
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly reading plan

Finished: 27.02.2020
Genre: play
Rating:
D

Quickscan:

  1. Playwright Henry (J. Irons)  and
  2. ….actress Annie (G. Close)  fall in love
  3. while cheating on their spouses.
  4. They then marry and cheat on each other.
  5. Core message:
  6. Reality catches up with those who ignore it (2 married couples).
  7. Art (playwriting) is no longer impossible imaginings
  8. …but what is really happening.
  9. — investigating adultry
  10. — questioning the nature of true love
  11. Title: The Real Thing…finding “the real thing” in second marriages
  12. Type play: semi-autobiographical…Tom Stoppard is divorced and remarried.
  13. Literary device Stoppard uses a theatrical device, the play-within-a-play.

Conclusion:

  1. I am trying to read 50 Best Plays of the last 100 years.
  2. The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard is nr. 20 on the list.
  3. Characters stumble to enlightenment….
  4. but realize that marriage is the ties that bind
  5. …and strangle.
  6. Dialogue is a combination of
  7. …chit-chat and philosophical discussion
  8. on the nature of true love.
  9. The writing is interesting, but a bit belabored
  10. Stoppard is trying too hard to be clever.
  11. Probably The Real Thing
  12. …must be seen on the stage.
  13. It won 2 Tony Awards
  14. …so Stoppard must be doing something right.
  15. Still it is ….not my kind of play.
6
Feb

#Play Oslo

  • Playwright:  J.T. Rodgers
  • Title: Oslo
  • Genre: political play
  • Reading time: 2,5 hours
  • Opening night: June 16 2016 – Newhouse Theatre, NYC
  • Trivia: Tony Award for Best Play  2017
  • Epilogue: “…out of the crooked timber of humanity
  • …no straight thing was ever made.” (I. Kant)
  • Wikipedia link:  J.T. Rodgers
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly reading plan

 

  1. Timeline: April 1992 – September 1993
  2. Structure: 3 acts

 

Plot:

  1. Oslo tells the story behind the peace process that led
  2. to Israeli PM Rabin and PLO chairman Arafat
  3. shaking hands in Washington, with President Bill Clinton.
  4. Characters are Norwegian (9) , Israeli (5) and Palestinians (2).
  5. This moment was brokered by Terje Rød-Larsen
  6. …the central character of the play.
  7. He was a Norwegian diplomat who arranged secret meetings
  8. …between Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

 

Conclusion:

  1. I thought this would be a great play to read
  2. on the heels of Trumps Peace Plan for
  3. the Middle East dd. 28 January 2020.
  4. This is a blueprint for a two-state solution
  5. …it was dead on arrival.
  6. At least the play OSLO….shows that negations are
  7. …needed before a peace can be brokered.
  8. Trump’s plan is a Netenyahu’s wish-list.
  9. Strong point: serious political ideas within the form of a thriller
  10. Strong point:  familiar narrative from a surprising angle. (Norwegian)
  11. Weak point: not a play you can  just dive into!
  12. I had to map out each act (scenes, characters)
  13. so I could at least follow the plot.
  14. Act 1 –> scenes change swiftly 18 x !
  15. Pacing: is also very smooth.
  16. Trivia: J.T. Rodgers read Noel Coward’s comedic plays
  17. …to get a sense of pacing for a political play!
  18. Storyline: entertaining though slightly predictable as
  19. we go towards the ending
  20. …the iconic shaking of hands Rabin, Arafat, Clinton.
  21. Strong point: its more about the journey of it all
  22. …the secrecy, the deal-making.

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. This was a difficult play to read.
  2. But the play has been  inundated with awards
  3. …so J.T. Rodgers must be doing something right!
  4. I included a quick scan of the play to
  5. …help you if you ever read it.

 

Characters: Act 1:

  1. 4 minor (Marianne, Holst (married), Toril and Finn domestic staff at castle)
  2. 7 major (Mona, Larsen (married)  (PL) Qurie and Afour – (ISR) Hirschfeld, Pundak and Beilin
  3. Mona “breaks the 4th wall” 16 xspeaks directly to audience

Setting: Act 1

  1. Larsen flat (home of couple Mona and Terje Larsen (5 scenes)
  2. Borregaard Castle (entrance hall reception, drawing and negation rooms) (5 scenes)
  3. Hotel Suite London (3 scenes)
  4. University lecture hall (1 scene)
  5. UN Club Gaza Strip (1 scene)

Characters: Act 2

  1. 4 minor ( Holst,Toril, Finn, Am diplomat, Trond and Thor (intel police)
  2. 8 major (Mona, Larsen, (PL) Qurie and Afour – (ISR) Hirschfeld, Pundak, Savir, Beilin
  3. Mona “breaks the 4th wall”  6 x

Setting: Act 2

  1. Borregaard Castle (castle grounds, reception, drawing, cocktail, negation rooms) (8 scenes)
  2. Oslo (Foreign Ministry, Fornebu Airport (2 scenes)
  3. Larsen flat (1 scene)
  4. Frogner Park near HotelBristol London (1 scene)

 

Characters: Act 3

  1. 9 minor (Marianne, Holst (married), Finn, Thor, Trond
  2. Swedish hostess, German man, German woman, Am. diplomat
  3. 10 major (Mona, Larsen (central characters)
  4. (PL) Qurie and Asfour
  5. (ISR) Hirschfeld, Pundak, Beilin Savir, Singer – Peres
  6. Mona “breaks the 4th wall”   13 x

Setting: Act 3

  1. Larsen flat  (1 scene)
  2. Jerusalem (foreign ministry)  (1 scene)
  3. Oslo (foreign ministry (1 scene)
  4. Stockholm (Swedish Guest House) (1 scene)
  5. Borregaard Castle (reception, drawing, negation rooms) (6 scenes)
  6. White House Rose Garden (1 scene)
  7. Center stage empty (last scene) only 2 main characters Mona and Larsen

 

Playwright J T. Rodgers

16
Jan

#ReadIreland 2020 Irish Theatre

Set Design by Francis O’Connor  for  play “The Big House” (Abbey Theatre)

 

 

Introduction:

  1. There is so much to learn from Helen Lojek’s essays.
  2. I have selected a few ideas to share with you.
  3. I learned to think more about the title of a play.
  4. You would be surprised what the author had hidden in it!
  5. I learned to look carefully at the setting.
  6. Who knew you could compare a bar (pub) with purgatory!

 

The Gates of Gold by Frank McGuinnes

  1. Setting: the domestic interior
  2. Stage: divided in “living room” and bedroom (“dying room) – EMPHASIS ON THEMES
  3. Title: explore meaning ‘The Gate’ is the theatre the partners founded in Dublin.
  4. On a metaphysical level the title frames Gabriel’s looming death.
  5. Stage directions: Silence: there is a definite significance of silence and lack of action
  6. Silence and lack of motion can be just as powerful as dialogue and action
  7. Irony: characters… Conrad  is teaching Gabriel how to die
  8. …and Gabriel is teaching  his partner how to live!!
  9. Dialogue: overlapping it is a
  10. …challenge to read or follow but provides a reflective commentary.
  11. Major threat: inescapable biological reality of death
  12. Ireland: the Irish future has arrived with
  13. …neither priest nor colleen nor greenfield in sight.

 

 

 

The Weir by C. McPherson

  1. Setting: local bar
  2. Bar = sacred place or even purgatorial where people
  3. can tell the truth b/c no one will return here.
  4. People ease their loneliness by sharing their interior lives.
  5. Stage: aging photos on the wall, barflys are male, the fire is peat and
  6. …the preferred drink is Guinness.
  7. Titel: is a metaphor The Wier for damned up emotion/feelings
  8. that will spill out in their stories…
  9. “on one side it is quite calm on the other side water is being squeezed through.”
  10. Lots under the surface is coming out.
  11. Stage directions: Silence: TV and radio are present but not turned on.
  12. Patrons  would rather tell stories.
  13. Irony: Valerie….the ‘intruder’ is  leaving the city for rural Irish landscape
  14. ….while other characters are rushing to the city!
  15. Dialogue: no indication that is bar has a window so exterior space
  16. …is only what the characters describe.
  17. Major threat: never-seen-but-often-discussed toerists (modernity)
  18. Ireland: rural area…a place for lonely bachelors and nonworking bathrooms
  19. …where Valerie comes to heal.

 

 

 

 

11
Sep

#AWW2019 Mary Anne Butler (playwright)

 

Conclusion:

  1. Some plays should not be analyzed…they just have to sink in.
  2. Mary Anne Butler
  3. …has written a phenomenal script.
  4. It is intimate, realistic and breathtaking drama.
  5. Three characters weave their story
  6. ….criss-crossing their lives with each other.
  7. I read the play 4 times:
  8. 1 x reading the role of Ham (man driving on desert road)
  9. 1 x the role of Ash (female in car accident)
  10. 1 x Mia (Ham’s wife…home alone after a great loss).
  11. Now I was ready to read the play
  12. with the voices echoing in my mind.
  13. This is THE best play I’ve read in a very….long time!
  14. Strong point:
  15. Stellar example of dramatic construction (dramaturgy)
  16. and …inventive dialogue!
  17. #MustRead….really a must!

4
Jul

#Play The Weir

Playwright:  Conor McPherson (1971)
Title: The Weir (1997)
Theme: loneliness.   Setting: pub in isolated town western Ireland
Trivia: Won Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play 1997.
Trivia: Was voted one of the 100 most significant plays in 20th C
Genre: pastoral play. It gives the reader a slice of rural Irish life.

 

Analysis:

 

1. Explain the title. The Weir In what way is it suitable to the story?
a. OLD – The weir is a barrier whose function originally was a fence made of sticks or wattles built across streams or rivers that trap fish. It acts as a sieve.
b. NEW – The weir refers to a local dam built in 1951 to regulate water and generate power. c. The title is suitable as a symbol between the contrasts in the play: old vs modern; world of folklore vs contemporary life; between agricultural tradition vs 20th C modern development.

2. What is the predominant element in the story – plot, theme, character, setting?
Jack: garage owner, 50’s
Brendan: the owner of the pub 30’s (only listens, no story to tell)
Jim: garage assistant, 40’s
Finbar Mack: a local businessman late 40’s
Valerie: a Dublin woman 30.

3. Who is the single main character about whom the story centers?
Jack: is the main character. He undergoes the greatest change.
b. He is the talkative leader of the barflys, ‘old-school’ Irish,
c. devoted to the national beverage of Guinness.
d. Finbar: (foil for Jack) ‘get rich quick’ Irish real estate man, flashy, content to drink
e. the ‘last beer anyone would choose’ bottled Harp.
f. Valerie: incomer; city folk, drinks white wine; Brendan is flustered….Wine?
g. He finally finds a bottle he received as a gift.
h. When pouring her glass he fills it up as he would a pint.

4. How does the story get started?
The play opens on a stormy night in Brendan’s pub.
b. A rural Irish pub is located in an isolated town in County Leitrim.
c. Brendan, the owner of the pub, opens the bar, fills the till and checks the beer taps.
d. Jack and Jim (his regulars) are gathering for their daily pint.

5. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
The action in the play is very subtle. The arrival of a stranger from Dublin city, a beautiful woman (Valerie). She has just rented an old house in the area.
The barflys want to impress her or perhaps scare her off (?) …with eerie stories about souls past, spirits present, ghosts and …half-haunted encounters. It is an authentic night drinking with locals who have the gift of blarney.

6. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. 4: Valerie’s true story…(read the play and discover this for yourself!)

7. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
After Valerie’s story the mood changes.
Jack’s talk with Brendan and Valerie is the last…..it is a confession.
McPherson bookends the play.
Brendan closes the bar.

 

Conclusion:

  1. This was my first one-act play.
  2. It should be tightly compressed, short,
  3. …with playing time max forty-five minutes.
  4. A single setting (pub) should be a ‘pressure-cooker play’.
  5. The energy should build up, ready to blow off the pan’s cover.
  6. This play is ninety minutes long on stage.
  7. The play felt like it was quietly simmering on the back-burner.

 

a. Weak point….but not really!

  1. No real conflict. But I’ve learned that play writing is NOT all about conflict.
  2. The power of the play derives from the
  3. power of argument in the dialogue.
  4. The story  about transition….people realize that their
  5. beloved village, rural life is becoming the thing of the past.

b. Weak point…but not really!

  1. I was looking for the ‘lilt of Irish humor, the
  2. …capacity to make rapid and irresistible remarks.
  3. In this play I only chuckled twice:
  4. at the beginning (defect beer tap) and
  5. at the end (who are the Germans, really?)
  6. Perhaps McPherson choses to embed the humor in gestures
  7. …..intonation of the voice that is impossible to relate to while reading a play.

c. Weak point….really!

  1. The play contains 3 ghost stories barflys tell each other
  2. that were not scary.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. This play does not come to life on paper.
  2. It….MUST have actors to relate the emotions in the dialogue.
  3. I read the play twice before making a conclusion.
  4. I want to see if I missed something

 

  1. The only way to really enjoy the play is to see a stage performance.
  2. Playwright’s task is to create stories that generate emotional responses.
  3. The rhythm of the language is as important as the words themselves.
  4. Conor McPherson uses the smallness of a tiny Irish village
  5. …in the service of bigness.
  6. He illustrates the difference between fading rural life
  7. …and the encroaching urban lifestyle.