The Columnist – David Auburn

columnist

Originally produced by the Manhattan Theater Club, April 25, 2012.

Original Cast:

Joe Alsop (40s-50s)                                         John Lithgow
Susan Mary Alsop (40s)                                  Margaret Colin
Stewart Alsop (late 40s)                                  Boyd Gaines
Andrei (Young Man, Man) (20s-30s)              Brian J. Smith
Abigail (16-20s)                                                Grace Gummer
Halberstam (late 20s-30s)                               Stephen Kunken
Philip (early 20s)                                              Marc Bonan

Director:  Daniel Sullivan
Set Design:  John Lee Beatty
Costume Design:  Jess Goldstein
Lighting Design:  Kenneth Posner
Original Music and Sound Design:  John Gromada
Projection Designer:  Rocco DiSanti
Hair and Wig Designer:  Charles LaPointe
Production Stage Manager:  Jane Grey
Stage Manager:  Denise Yaney

Publication:  Auburn, David. The Columnist. Faber and Faber, 2012. Drama Library PS3551.U28 C65 2012.

Setting:  Various from 1954 through 1968

Language:  Persons in the play are generally upper-class and intelligent; their speech reflects their status

JOE

My boy, politics is life! Politics is human intercourse at its most sublimely ridiculous and intensely vital. You may as well say you don’t care very much for sex.

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic

Plot:  The play was inspired by the life of Joe Alsop, a newspaper columnist who dominated the Washington political scene during the years between World War II and the Vietnam War.  Most people won’t know who Joe Alsop is and most young audiences will have a hard time believing that journalists ever held that much power considering the relatively weak positions of most journalists today, particularly in the Washington press corps.  The only real tension in the play comes from the vague threat of Alsop being exposed as a homosexual after being entrapped by the KGB in 1954.  However, despite the potential for damaging his career, the threat ultimately has no effect on him.  Instead, what damages Alsop’s standing is his unbending position on the Vietnam War.

 

Representative Monologues:  Mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.

p. 34:  Halberstam, a young New York Times newspaper columnist, stationed in Vietnam, is furious about Joe’s column blaming war correspondents for the poor showing of Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem.  

HALBERSTAM

He doesn’t know the country, he breezes over here for a week, he stays with Lodge at the embassy, he gets his army car and driver, Harkins puts a helicopter at his disposal, he gets whatever he wants… [Lines cut] –he notices that this man is not only a corrupt and incompetent and hopeless loser and dope, as the rest of us have been saying for months if not years, but also, by the way, actually insane—He notices this… and then blames… the press! We did it! It’s all our fault!

p. 44:  Joe calls the editor of the New York Times to explain why he wants him to fire his star reporters in Vietnam. (less than a minute long)

JOE

Scotty. I’m sorry, I think we were accidentally disconnected. Well, why would you do that? (Pause.) All right, I’ll tell you precisely where I get off calling the editor of a rival newspaper and telling him to fire his “star” reporters. {Lines cut}

They are boys, goddamnit, they are boys! Does Sheehan even have his driver’s license? And if you let me know the date of Halberstam’s bar mitzvah, I’ll be sure to send him something nice—

Hello?

Shit.

p. 47:  Joe, on the phone with his brother, Stewart, reacts to the news that Ngo Dinh Diem has been assassinated by South Vietnamese generals.

JOE

How dare you hang up on me twice in a row, you miserable son of a bitch, when all I am trying to do is help you? You—

Oh, hello, Stewart, I’m sorry. Welcome back. No, it’s—

Congratulations for what?

[Lines cut]

He is not looking for an excuse to get out. That is a ludicrous misreading of both the situation and the man. Promise me you won’t write that anywhere, you’ll just embarrass yourself. He’s far more tough-minded than you give him credit for, or than you yourself seem to be at the moment, if you don’t mind my saying so.

Fine, I’ll set you straight over dinner. Love to Tish.

 

 

 

Representative Scenes:  

p. 6-7:  Joe lies in bed, talking with a man he picked up in a bar in Moscow. Andrei tells Joe about his sister, a laundress, and how she had once been a great athlete.  Starts with

JOE

Your English is extremely good, you know that?

and ends with

JOE

That’s awful.

p. 17-18:  Joe and Porter on the night of Kennedy’s inauguration.  Starts with

STEWART

You are feeling good

and ends with

STEWART

I have enough sense of history to know that when a man in a tuxedo smoking a cigar announces “This is our moment,” he’s generally fucked.

p.37-38:  Stewart confronts Halberstam about some scurrilous rumors circulating about Joe.  Starts with

STEWART

David, take my advice. Don’t go picking fights with Joe Alsop.

and ends with

STEWART

                My brother’s “compromised” so he’s harder on the Soviets?

Gossip. Spiteful, envious sleaze that doesn’t even make sense on its face. I thought you were a better reporter than that. (STEWART puts down his drink.) Do you know, for a moment there I was actually going to defend you to Joe? But now I think I’d better just say good afternoon, and go fuck yourself.

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Feldberg, R. (2012, Apr 26). Portrait of a power broker. The Record.

Feingold, M. (2012, May 02). The columnist: Neocon job. [open access] The Village Voice, pp. 1

Jones, C. (2012, Apr 26). Engaging ‘columnist’ can’t get beyond biographical. Chicago Tribune, pp. 4.6.

Stasio, M. (2012). The Columnist. Variety, 426(12), 16.

The Idiot Box – Michael Elyanow

television

First produced by Naked Eye Theatre Company in Chicago in 2003.

Original Cast:

Fiona                     Kathy Logelin
Connor                 Jim Slonina
Veronica
               Meghan McDonough
Omar                     Ansa Akyea
Chloe                    Beth Lacke
Raymond              Bradley Balof
Billy                       Brad Eric Johnson
Harvey                  Rom Barkhordar
Mark                     Joe Dempsey
Stephanie            Lisa Rothschiller

Characters (All early-to-mid-30s)

The Cast Regulars
Mark:
  The Neurotic New Yorker. He’s a paramedic.
Chloe:  The Spoiled Rich Girl. She’s a curtain designer.
Billy:  The Sex-Crazed Dummy. He’s a model.
Fiona: The New Age Hippie. She’s an acupuncturist.
Stephanie: The Controlling Wife. She’s a romance novelist.

The Guest Spots
Harvey: 
He’s a doctor in the navel reserves.
Raymond:  He’s a drag queen/cabaret singer.
Veronica:  She’s an Australian dog shusherer.
Omar:  He’s a non-Caucasian PhD student.

Director:  Jeremy B. Cohen
Scenic Design:  Brian Sidney Bembridge
Costume Design:  Rachel Healy
Lighting Design:  Jaymi Lee Smith
Sound Design:  Andre Pluess

Publication:  Elyanow, Michael. The Idiot Box. Samuel French, 2008. Drama Library PS3605. L93 I35 2008.

Setting:  New York City, winter, the living room of a split-level penthouse suite.

Language:  Contemporary sitcom

CHLOE

Toast. What A Slice of Toast Might Say. Since when does a hooker ever say “My crust is turning brown?” Never. A hooker never says that.

Genre/Style:  The first act, according to the playwright, should play like a great modern sitcom; the second act should be more gritty, honest, and real.  However, one problem with the play is that the regulars in the first act are, for the most part, annoying and not very likeable and the situations they find themselves in are so farcical that by the time the second act arrives, it’s difficult to make the transition to caring about them as “real people” with “real problems.”  Another problem with the play is the plethora of problems they face, from strange boyfriends with chubby chasing tendencies, emergent homosexual feelings, racism, social consciousness, etc.

Plot:  The play tells the story of six sitcom characters whose lives are changed when reality crashes into their perfect world.

 

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p. 27:  Omar tries to explain to Chloe why he felt the need to find her and leave her a letter.

OMAR

…I’m sorry. I’m gonna. Sorry.

He exits. But just as CHLOE is about to close the door:

No, wait. Please. The thing is. I was watching the play and somewhere toward the end of the first act I happened to take my eyes off the stage for a second and…I saw you sitting across from me and you were so completely “in it”, I mean, leaning forward, tears in your eyes, you know, and I was thinking, Yes! [Lines cut] You must be the most extraordinary person. And I must be a complete idiot for talking all this time and not introducing myself. Omar Jackson. Blabbermouth.

p. 36:  Fiona defends herself against Harvey’s charge that she only pretends to be a hippie so that her friends will like her and explains to him just what she’s gotten out of being a hippie.

FIONA

Okay. Stop. I’m gonna stop you right there. You know, just because we went out a few times, don’t presume you know me and don’t presume I don’t know what I’m doing. [Lines cut] I haven’t had to pay for anything—quite literally—since I was TWELVE. That’s what being a so-called flighty, wind-in-her-hair-hippie has gotten me.

p. 61-62:  Stephanie’s on the phone talking to her hero, LaVyrle Spencer about her writer’s block. (A very long monologue, at least 2 minutes.)

STEPHANIE

Hello? HellomMYGODhello!  I’ve been on hold so long I wasn’t sure if I got disconnected but I don’t think I did if this is you, LaVyrle, IS this you, LaVyrle, do you mind if I call you LaVyrle? Um,oh, it’s me, Ms. Spencer: Stephanie Dah. No-no-no-no, don’t hang up! [Lines cut] I write about Love. I need Love. And if [I] give that up, if I give up Love… I have no husband, no marriage, no career, and then what? What am I left with? What the fuck do I have then, LaVyrle?

 

 

Representative Scenes:  

p. 35-37:  Harvey and Fiona argue in a subway car. Starts with

FIONA

You feel sorry for me?

and ends with

FIONA

Oh, Harvey. FUCK OFF.

p. 41-44:  Billy accuses Raymond of trying to seduce him by pretending to be something he’s not:  a woman.  Starts with

BILLY

What did you do to me?

and ends with

RAYMOND

What are you?

p. 62-64:  Chloe and Omar confront each other about the fact that Omar has accepted a job in Berkeley without telling Chloe but Chloe found out and is looking for a job on the West Coast, hoping he’ll take her with him.  Stars with

CHLOE

It’s not what you think.

and ends with

OMAR

I didn’t think you’d say yes. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a little… I’m far from perfect. That’s just me. Sometimes I do, I get scared and I make mistakes. Does that sound like something you could be a part of?

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Houlihan, M. (2003, May 9). “More than just ‘Friends’ – Typical sitcom characters get dose of reality from playwright in ‘The Idiot Box’.” Chicago Sun-Times 9; nc.

Chris Jones, T.,arts reporter. (2003, May 25). `The idiot box’ needs fine-tuning. Chicago Tribune.

Rosell, K. (2011, April 18). The Idiot Box opens at CSUF. Daily Titan, The: California State University – Fullerton (CA) n.pag.

Street, N. (2007, August 3). Bipolar Express: ‘Idiot Box’ takes a trip. Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The (CA) n.pag.

Zeff, D. (2003, June 5). Theater Review – `The Idiot Box’: A misguided event. Beacon News, The (Aurora, IL) E6.

 

Steve & Idi – David Grimm

donut

Produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, in New York City, on April 23, 2008.

Original Cast:

 

Steve                                    David Grimm
Ralph 
                                   Greg Keller
Max 
                                      Zachary Knower
Brad
                                      Michael Busillo
Idi Amin                                 Evan Parke

Steve:  Intelligent, defensive, neurotic gay Jewish writer in his 30s
Ralph:  Scruffy, unshaven, hyper-intellectual writer in his 30s
Max:  Heavyset, long-haired, bearded left-wing teddy bear of a writer in his 30s
Brad:  A beautiful young man in his mid 20s
Idi Amin:  Apparition of the former President of Uganda


Director:  Eleanor Holdridge
Scenic Design:  Kris Stone
Costume Design:  Jessica Ford
Lighting Design:  Les Dickert
Sound Design:  Scott Killian
Stage Manager:  Emily M. Arnold

Publication:  Grimm, David. Steve & Idi. (2009). Dramatists Play Service. Drama Library PS3607. R56 S74 2009

Setting:  Steve’s apartment in downtown Brooklyn, New Year’s Eve and after.

Language:  Contemporary with contemporary references that will date it quickly; but it has some great one-liners

MAX

Dreaming about John McCain is the first sign of madness.

Genre/Style:  Comedy; if you find the idea of the ghost of Idi Amin eating Krispy Kreme donuts and discussing torture funny.

Plot:  The ghost of Idi Amin, former Ugandan strongman, haunts a New York playwright, demanding that he write a play about him in three days.   His boyfriend and his agent have just dumped the playwright, Steve, and he’s suicidal. The play begins with an intriguing idea:  a playwright with writer’s block is visited by the ghost of Idi Amin, who demands that he write a play about him in three days, but doesn’t go far enough with it.  Idi Amin as a character, as a symbol, as a metaphor, carries substantial weight; he was a tyrant who used violence to cow both his enemies and the citizens of Uganda.  To reduce him to a pizza- and donut-eating ghost who lounges about haranguing a playwright misses dramatic opportunities even if, in the end, Amin is just a figment of the writer’s imagination.  The play does have scenes where the playwright, seemingly under the influence of Amin, succumbs to darker impulses, but overall, the play barely skims the surface of its setup.

 

 

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.10:  Steve ranting about the futility of playwrighting.

STEVE

Reading, workshop, reading, workshop—Suck my fucking dick. What are we doing, anyway? Why are we pretending? You can play the politically engaged writer all you like, Ralph, it won’t make you a better artist and it won’t absolve you. [Lines cut] I look in the mirror and my fucking gorge rises till I wanna tear my face off and flush it down the toilet. “Let’s write a play!” Jesus Christ, what an utterly pointless waste of time.

p.31-32:  Idi explains hunger and yearning.

IDI

When yearning ends, life ends. I am what becomes of yearning that will not die. You think I do not understand?

 For eight years, Field Marshal Amin loved his people. For eight years he makes them beautiful and strong and asks for nothing but their love. But always they betray him. Even in Jiddah, in exile. [Lines cut]

What is done cannot be undone. The glorious past is lost forever.

p.41:  Idi pushing for a final time for Steve to finish the play.

IDI

I want Danny Glover. Danny Glover must play me. The Forest Whitaker was good but everybody loves the Danny Glover. Plus he was a Lethal Weapon. Roger Murtaugh. I also like the Lethal Weapon 2: “The magic is back!” Number Three and Four, not so much, but still… Danny Glover!

[Lines cut]

Why do you stare? Get me donuts. Get me steak. Get me a bottle of wine and a woman!

p. 42:  Steve, upon smelling a t-shirt belonging to his ex.

STEVE

(In a kind of reverie.) Sandalwood and sweat—Salt and honey. Bitter steel. If only I could bottle this. (He smells it again, tastes it. He speaks very calmly.)

If he were here right now, I would take him in my arms and taste his lips. I would rock him and comfort him and tell him everything’s all right. I would place around his neck a thin gold wire, sharp as razors. And oh so slowly I would draw it: Oh so gently but oh so tight and watch as it pinches his skin and breaks it. [Lines cut] I would taste his blood and pull at his hair and chew skin off his face and swallow it. And I would shout the name of God and know it only has the meaning I give it, because everything is empty. And then I would know what it’s like to be free.

 

 

Representative Scenes:  

p. 23-24:  Steve tries to convince Max that he really is being haunted by the ghost of Idi Amin. Starts with

MAX

Okay, so where is it?

and ends with

MAX

What better inspiration for a writer than a blank page? I’m sorry, man, but with Daniel there was never any there there. Come on—You saw something beautiful in him—Great. That’s part of your gift, man. But all that stuff, that wasn’t in him. That’s in you.

p. 30-31: Idi is upset because Steve seems obsessed by his ex and isn’t working on the play. Starts with

IDI

(Looking at compute.) What is this? Answer me! What is this?

and ends with

IDI

I am proud of you for it. Love cannot be trusted. It is better to be feared. Fear lasts longer than love.

 

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

 

Feingold, M. (2008, May). Some unenchanted evenings. The Village Voice, pp.54

James, Caryn. (2008, May 7). A lesson before writing, courtesy of idi amin’s ghost. The New York Times, pp.4.

Scheck, Frank. (2008, May 6). Absurd tale with Ugandan dictor is “idi’-otic. The New York Post, pp.42.

Thelman, S. (2008). Steve and Idi. Daily Variety, 299(22), 4-7.

The Gingerbread House – Mark Schultz

gingerbread

First produced at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York, opening April 11, 2009.

Original Cast:

Stacey (30s)                                                                              Sarah Paulson
Brian (30s)                                                                                Jason Butler Harner
Marco (30s)                                                                               Bobby Cannavale
Fran (40s)                                                                                  Jackie Hoffman
Collin (20s)                                                                                Ben Rappaport
Curtis (very young boy, son of Stacey and Brian)                     L.J. Foley
Maggie (even younger girl, daughter of Stacey and Brian)       Clare Foley

Director:  Evan Cabnet
Set Design:  John McDermott
Lighting Design:  Ben Stanton
Costume Design:  Jessica Wegener
Sound Design:  Zane Birdwell
Video and Projections:  Richard DiBella

Publication:  Schultz, Mark. The Gingerbread House. Dramatists Play Service, Inc. 2010. Drama Library, PS3619. C4784 G56 2010

Setting:  Various.  There should be a window floating somewhere onstage onto which images and titles can be projected.  Otherwise, the stage should be as bare and minimal as possible.  Time, the present.

Language:  Contemporary. People speak in staccato rhythms. Text in parenthesis is not spoken. (Note:  in the published play, the unspoken text is in brackets.)

BRIAN

It’s not oh, please, it’s true. It’s fucking true. And I feel bad. (A little.) I do. For even saying it. But. More than that. I feel. We have to be honest. With ourselves. Okay? Can we do that? Can we be honest? (Beat.) We’re shitty fucking parents. Stacey.

Genre/Style:  Dark comedy

Plot:  Brian and Stacey contemplate selling their children.  As hinted at by the title, this is a contemporary take on Hansel and Gretel, in which both parents are culpable for their actions.  There are no wicked stepmothers in this version, just two very selfish individuals who are tired of being responsible for their children.

 

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.14-15:  Darren is trying to convince Stacey that selling their kids, instead of putting them up for adoption, is a great idea. 

Brian

You don’t get paid. When you give up your kids. For adoption. No one pays you. For giving up your full-grown. Kids. but this isn’t about the money. (At least not entirely.) Because. Adoption? They’re put into some system. They get shoved into some system. Foster homes. It’s all dragged out. They get fucked. For life. And is that really what we want? For them? I mean this isn’t just about making us happy. This is about them. Too. ‘Cause I’ve given this a lot of thought. I may hate them. But I don’t wanna hurt them. [Lines cut]  We’ll think of something. When the time comes. If we have to. And. So. (Beat.) We can do this. It’s the best we can do. All things considered. (Beat.) I miss you. Is all. (Beat.) What do you think?

p.19:  Marco gives a sales pitch; Brian’s line can be cut.

Marco

Okay. These are the facts. Cold hard facts. A: Kids know when they’re a burden. They know. And it’s fucked up, I gotta say. And B: You got an opportunity here. To make things better. For everyone involved. Brian’s told me all bout it. (Beat.) Se, I know what’s going on here, Stacey. I’ve seen it before. Lots of people. Lots of moms. They settle. For whatever. Little. Crumbs. Life gives them. But you got a husband. Who’s willing to dream big for you.

[Brian

That’s right. That’s true.]

Marco

[Lines cut] Because I know you want to believe me. This is the truth. Simple as I can make it: They will be loved. By some very wealthy people. They’ll have a great time. Everybody wins. That’s all there is to it.

p.52-53:  Brian finds out that Stacey has kidnapped Marco’s children in an attempt to get their kids back.

Brian

You’re shitting on me. Let’s be honest. And you’re shitting on us. Which is worse. And it’s a really fucking horrible thing. It is. To realize. After all my work. After everything I’ve done. Tried to do. That you never. Never. Ever. Really. Wanted. Me. [Lines cut] You don’t deserve them. And frankly. Really. Quite frankly. your behavior here. Today. Recently. Shows. You don’t deserve me either. So. Let’s just say. That. The woman I married is gone. Right? Let’s just say that she’s gone. And let’s just say that. In here place. Is this old fucking hag. This child-selling fucking vampire hag. Who wouldn’t know what motherhood was. If you hit her over the head with it. (I mean. If you could do that. With motherhood.)

 

Representative Scenes:

p.9-10:  Brian brings up the idea of selling the kids. Starts with

BRIAN

(I) Got an idea.

and ends with

STACEY

It does.

p.22-23:  Stacey’s at work trying to sell a cruise ship vacation to a customer.  Starts with

FRAN

I’m really interested in the Fantasy Cruise?

and ends with

FRAN

The Fantasy Cruise. If there’s a cruise that’s more.  Fantasy. Fantastic. Whatever. If there’s a more Fantasy Cruise than the Fantasy Cruise, then it’s not really much of a Fantasy Cruise, at least not as much as the Cruise that’s more Fantastical (Pause.)

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.

Isherwood, C. (2009, Apr 22). Chaotic household? sell the kids. New York Times. [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

Rosenberg, David A. The Gingerbread House. Back Stage, 4/23/2009, Vol. 50 Issue 17, p29-29. [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

Soloski, Alexis. No Kidding. Village Voice, 4/29/2009, Vol. 54 Issue 18, p33-33. [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

The Gingerbread House. Theatre World, 2008-2009, Vol. 65, p175. [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

Thielman, Sam. The Gingerbread House. Daily Variety, 4/21/2009, Vol. 303 Issue 11, p22-23. [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

Voss, Brandon. Drama Queen. HX Magazine, 5/1/2009, Issue 921, p54.  [Review of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production in NY]

 

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them – A. Rey Pamatmat

pamatmat

Received its world premier at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2011.

Original Cast:

Edith  (12, Filipino-American, a girl, Kenny’s sister)                       Teresa Avia Lim
Kenny (16, Filipino-American, a young man, Edith’s brother)        Jon Norman Schneider
Benji (16, any race, a friend)                                                          Cory Michael Smith

Author’s Note:  The play should be performed by young-looking adult actors, not actual teenagers.  The adults in the play can be portrayed with puppets, projections, or something else non-human.

Director:  May Adrales
Scenic Design:  Brian Sidney Bembridge
Costume Design:  Connie Furr Soloman
Lighting Design:  Jeff Nellis
Sound Design:  Benjamin Marcum
Properties Design:  Joe Cunningham
Media Design:  Philip Allgeier
Fight Director:  Drew Fracher
Stage Manager:  Kimberly First-Aycock
Dramaturg:  Michael Bigelow Dixon

Publication:  Pamatmat, A. Rey. Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. Samuel French. 2012.  Drama Library, PS3616.A3567 E35 2012

Setting:  A remote non-working farm outside of a remote town in remotest Middle America in the early 90s.

Language:  Contemporary

KENNY

I have this special glue that will keep a dress stuck on you for a week, and if you try to take it off, it will rip off your skin. So either put one on for a couple of hours, or plan on having one stuck to you for days.

Genre/Style:  Darkly comedic drama

Plot:  Edith and her brother, Kenny, try to survive on their own in a farmhouse in the country after the death of their mother and their father’s apparent abandonment.  The basic premise is a little shaky—that a father would abandon his school-aged children to live with his girlfriend in the same town—as is some of the plotting, but the characters are engaging and they draw you into the play.  Particularly affecting is the budding relationship between Kenny and Benji.

 

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.14:  Benji explaining why his mother has kicked him out of the house.  [Kenny’s line can be cut.] 

BENJI

I’m doing my chores—washing dinner dishes. I go in my room when I’m done and she’s sitting there holding the tape and the note. Her face is all twisted. Disgusted. And then she yells for my dad and brother, and when they come in, she shoves the note at me and goes:  “Read it. Aloud. To your father.”

And I read. And she shakes and cries. And my bother swears. And my dad just stands there. I get to the end and I hear this…this crack sound. And she snapped it in half. Your tape.

[Lines cut]

[KENNY

Don’t be sorry.]

BENJI

My dad goes, “I’m going to make sure Mom talks to you tomorrow.” But I don’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to go home, to…with her. I want her to leave me alone.

p.39:  Edith explaining to Benji how he needs to take care of himself and learn to be like her.  [Benji’s line can be cut.]

EDITH

[I just do.]

Sometimes I go to Dina Osheyack’s house, and her mom is always there. She teaches us how to do stuff, helps us do our homework. And it’s fun, even though Mrs. Osheyack can be really annoying. She wants to see Dina all the time and hear all about school and stuff. But Mrs. Osheyack? She’s always telling Dina what to do—pick this up and throw this out and show Tom some respect, he has cross country tomorrow! [Lines cut]

[BENJI

No.]

Right. You’re almost as smart as me, and I don’t need anyone. So just do what I do, and you’ll be fine. Show her you’re fine. Live here and be like me.

 

Representative Scenes:  (Note:  This play has a number of three-person scenes as well as the two-person scenes below.)

p.23-24: Kenny and Benji discussing words for various sex acts.  Starts with KENNY and BENJI in the barn, sitting in the hay. BENJI pulls a dictionary out of his bookbag.)   

KENNY

That’s what you brought?

and ends with

BENJI

That’s what I mean. There are words for it. And not just crass words or words they use at my mother’s church. These words…”fellatio” is scientific. It’s not—there’s no. It’s not condemning people who do it, and it’s not glorifying them either. No bias. There’s a scientific word for it, because it is a scientific fact that it happens. And since it happens it needs to be named. And so it is.

(KENNY kisses BENJI)

p.37-38:  Edith wants Kenny to ask Benji to come to her recital  [Starts with

BENJI

So…uh, what are you doing tonight?

and ends with

KENNY

Bye, whore. I’ll pick you up in twenty minutes, whore.

p.55-56:  Edith and Benji are sitting in an ice cream shop after Kenny has just stormed out.  The kids have been hiding out since Edith shot her dad’s girlfriend by mistake with her pellet gun.  Starts with

EDITH

I wouldn’t have shot her if I knew who she was.

and ends with

EDITH

Even if she loves you, her love doesn’t mean anything. When it matters, it doesn’t mean a thing.

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Cox, G. (2011). Trio of shows shines at Humana fest. Variety, 422(10), 23. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

Hubbard, R. (2012, Mar 18). Theater review: ‘edith can shoot things and hit them’ is rewarding but uneven. Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Osborne, B. (2011, Nov 04). ‘Edith can shoot things’ targets hopeful audience: Unconventional but fairly functional unit formed by trio. The Atlanta Journal – Constitution.

Royce, G. (2012, Mar 19). ‘Edith can shoot things’ misses. Star Tribune.

Schneider, R. (2011). 35th HUMANA FESTIVAL OF NEW AMERICAN PLAYS. Plays International, 26(7/8), 48-51.

Sheward, D. (2011). Less Is More at Louisville. Back Stage (19305966), 52(15), 12-13. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

Maple and Vine – Jordan Harrison

harrison

First produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in March 2011; and had its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons in December 2011.

Original Cast:

Katha  (mid to late 30s)                                                                  Kate Turnbull
Ryu (mid to late 30s)                                                                       Peter Kim
Dean (late 30s)                                                                               Paul Niebanck
Ellen/Jenna (late 30s.  Also plays Jenna)                                     Jeanine Serralles
Roger/Omar (mid to late 30s.  Also plays Omar)                         Jesse Pennington

Director:  Anne Kauffman
Scenic Design:
  Brian Sidney Bembridge
Costume Design:  Connie Furr Soloman
Lighting Design:  Jeff Nellis
Sound Design:  Benjamin Marcum
Properties Design:  Alice Baldwin
Stage Manager:  Melissa Rae Miller
Dramaturg:  Amy Wegener

Publication:  Harrison, Jordan. Maple and Vine. Samuel French. 2012.  Drama Library, PS3608. A78348 M37 2012

Setting:  There are many locations, both in the present and past

Language:  Contemporary

RYU

I think…people aren’t happy. People have never been happy. The whole idea is a tyranny. Slaves building the pyraminds…Serfs. They didn’t have enough time to ask “Am I happy?” This is not even a hundred-year-old idea: “Am I happy.”

Genre/Style:  Darkly comedic drama.

Plot:  A contemporary, professional couple decides to abandon their Manhattan lifestyle for a simpler existence right out the 1950s, 1955 to be exact, with a group of people who have recreated Eisenhower America somewhere in the Midwest, the SDO, the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence.  The play’s premise holds a lot of promise, however, it doesn’t satisfactorily deal with the various issues it raises.  Particularly interesting is a sub-plot involving two secondary characters who are far more interesting than the two lead characters.

Representative Monologues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.14:  Dean speaks about the difference between the modern world and the world of 1955. 

DEAN

It wasn’t that the modern world was too fast, or too noisy. In a way, it was too quiet. Let me explain.  IN the 21st century, everything’s pretty easy, right? You have your thrive-thru espresso. Your drive-thru pharmacy. Or why go to the store when you can get it online? You hardly have to interact with anyone—except for all those people you’ve never en met who enter your life through our computer, pulling you every which way.

 [Lines cut]

In the modern world, I used to make it through half the day without talking to a single soul. I used to have it so easy. And now, looking back—I realize how lonely I was.

p.39:  Ellen explains her work on the Authenticity Committee.

ELLEN

We take our job very seriously on the Authenticity Committee.  It’s not just clothes and mimeograph machines—it’s about everyone’s emotional experience.  And the question we have to answer again and again is how far do you take it.

We have people from all walks of life in the SDO. And the question sometimes is how do we respond authentically to these people. [Lines cut] It can be complicated to navigate, but authenticity is very important to us.

p.74:  Roger responds after Ryu tries to blackmail him into putting him up for a raise by insinuating that he saw Roger and Dean kissing outside of his house.

ROGER

Let me tell you about a heap of trouble, Ryu. See, I know you’re really a nice guy. And I know you wouldn’t want to do something to mess up your prospects here. Because I’ve been giving you the good word. I’ve seen lots of people come through here and nobody does well without the good word from the floor manager. Especially the non-whites. [Lines cut] So why don’t you keep your head down and do your work and eat your fucking bologna. See you later.

 

Representative Scenes:

p.43-44:  Ryu and Katha are discussing what to do if they decide they need to talk about the 21st century while living in the past. Starts with

KATHA

What if we had a Safe Word.

and ends with

BOTH

I like Ike!

I like Ike!

I like Ike!

I like Ike!

p.95-96:  Ryu and Kathy are now the leading couple in town.  Starts with

(RYU speaks out.  KATHY stands farther off, enormously pregnant now.)

RYU

First of all, welcome.  Welcome to the SDO.

and ends with

KATHY

(hand to her belly) The present.

 

Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:  (Note:  article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)

Carter, A. T. (2012, Oct 22). ‘Maple and vine’s’ sentimental journey doesn’t lead where expected. Tribune – Review / Pittsburgh Tribune – Review. (Review of Pittsburgh production)

Cox, G. (2011). Trio of shows shines at Humana fest. Variety, 422(10), 23. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

D’Souza, K. (2012, Apr 12). Unplug at ‘maple and vine’. Contra Costa Times, p. T.20.  (Review of San Francisco production at ACT)

Isherwood, C. (2011, Dec 08). Exchanging lattes for an ‘ozzie and harriet’ world. New York Times, p. C.1. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Kennedy, L. (2013, Jan 11). Curious theatre wrestles with nostalgia at “maple and vine”. Denver Post, p. C6. (Review of Denver production)

Kennedy, L. (2013, Jan 18). Darkly fun “maple and vine” sends modern pair to 1955. Denver Post, p. C12. (Review of Denver production)

Maple and Vine. (2011). Daily Variety, 313(47), 3. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

SHEWARD, D. (2011). Less Is More at Louisville. Back Stage, 52(15), 12-13. (Review of production at the Humana Festival)

SHEWARD, D. (2011). Maple and Vine at Playwrights Horizons. Back Stage, 52(50), 40-41. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Soloski, A. (2011, Sep 07). Fall arts: Playwright jordan harrison’s simple plan: “maple and vine”. The Village Voice. [open access] (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Vincentelli, E. (2011, Dec 08). An era-neous take on 1950s. New York Post,p. 61. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Weinert-Kendt, R. (2011, Nov 27). Back to the ’50s, trying to escape freedom’s pitfalls. New York Times, p. AR.4. (Review of NY production at Playwrights Horizons)

Mercury Fur – Philip Ridley

First produced at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth, England, February 10, 2005; transferred to the Menier Chocolate Factory, London, on March 2, 2005.

Original Cast:

Elliot (19 year-old man with a bad knee)                 Ben Whishaw
Darren (16 year-old boy; a little slow)                      Robert Boulter
Naz (young looking 15 year-old boy)                        Shan Zaza
Party Piece (10 year-old boy)                                  Neet Mohan                                                                                     (Plymouth)
Party Piece (10 year-old boy)                                  Prem and Previ Gami (London)
Lola (19 year-old boy who lives as a girl)                Harry Kent
Spinx (21 year-old man)                                          Fraser Ayres
Duchess (38 years-old woman and blind)              Sophia Stanton
Party Guest (23 year-old man)                               Dominic Hall

Director:  John Tiffany
Designer:  Laura Hopkins
Lighting:  Natasha Chivers
Original Music and Sound:  Nick Powell
Fight Director:  Terry King


Publicatio
n:  in Ridley, Phillip. Plays, v. 2. Methuan Drama. 1997. p.71-202.  Drama Library, PR6068. I292 A6 1997 v.2
ridley


Setting: 
A derelict flat in a derelict council estate in the East End of London, after a biological plague has devastated England; a future gone horribly awry

Language:  Poetic but profane

ELLIOT

You’ve been acting like a kitten after a twirl in the microwave all afternoon and this microwave feline behaviour is eating up time faster than a peckish piranha on a freshly aborted foetus. Do I make myself cunting clear?

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic and very, very dark in the vein of Martin McDonagh’s work.  If you like The Lieutenant of Inishmaan or A Behanding in Spokane, or Blasted by Sarah Kane, you’ll like this play–I love all of those (plus Pillowman) and I love this play.  Warning:  graphic violence and disturbing imagery; Farber and Farber refused to publish it when it was first produced, if that gives you any indication of its effect.

Plot:  Two brothers, Elliot and Darren, are getting ready to put on a party for a mysterious guest.


Representative Monologues:  
(Monologues contain the first few lines and the last few lines; please consult the published text for the monologue in its entirety.)

p.86-87:  Elliot talks about murdering his younger brother, Darren, in a bathtub full of acid, because he’s annoyed by Darren who has eaten a butterfly (which acts like a drug) and is dragging him down as they prepare for a ‘party’. 

ELLIOTT

Know what I’m gonna do? One night, I’m gonna fill the fucking bath with sulphuric acid. I’m gonna say, ‘Fuck me, you’re a bit whiffy tonight, brov. Why don’t you give ya bollocks a good soak.’ And you’ll jump in the tub and—oh, ya might think ‘Ooo, this is a bit hot,’  but, like the bloody remedial shit for brains you are, you’ll happily lay back for a soapy wank or something. [Lines deleted] You’ll cause the poor cunt so much fucking grief it’ll deliberately beach itself. Do-gooders’ll come rushing down to save it and the whale will say, ‘Fuck off! I’m better off dead! I’ve got Darren inside me like a million miles of Paki afterbirth!’ Jesus!

p.88:  Darren reminisces about watching The Sound of Music with his Mom and Dad and Elliott and eating pizza in the days before the disaster.  Elliot’s line can be deleted.

DARREN

Know what I liked the best? Watching telly late at night. That musical Mum and Dad liked.  The mountains and all those kids going, ‘Do, re, mi.’ Running up and down mountains and going, ‘Do, re, mi.’ Remember that, Ell?  [Lines deleted] Dad made sure each part had the same number of sausage bits so we wouldn’t argue. That’s right, ain’t it, Ell?

[ELLIOT

Yeah, that’s right.]

DARREN

We’d eat it with our hands. Really greasy. Mum would say, ‘Don’t wipe your hands on the sofa.’ Mum gave us a tea towel each. I loved the way the whole room was lit by just the light of the telly. [Lines deleted] And Mum on this side and Dad on that and—Where’re you, Ell?

p.109:  Naz recounts how his mom and little sister were killed in a supermarket by a gang with machetes.

NAZ

Yeah! Mum grabs me by the hair. Mum pulls Stace by the hand. We try to get out through the back of the supermarket. But some of the gang are already there. We rung back down the aisles. I slip in something. It’s red. Blood. There’s blood pouring from under the shelves. I look through the packets of cornflakes. I see a machete goin’ up and down. And someone’s hand goin’ up and down. Then no hand. Then no machete. But more blood. [Lines deleted] They all drink Coke. They fuck Stace and they drink Coke. I think Stace must be dead now. She ain’t moving. I get right to the back of the shelf. I stay there for ages.

Slight pause.

Is the ice-cream van and stuff yours?


Representative Scenes:

p.88-91:  Darren and Elliot pretend to be an outlaw in a shootout with a lawman. Starts with

DARREN

Bang!

Slight pause.

Bang!

and ends with

DARREN

I love you so much I could burst into flames.

p.96-98:  Naz appears and he and Darren get to know each other. Starts with

NAZ

Wotchya.

and ends with

NAZ

Cut me neck right now, me blood’ll spurt right across the room, I reckon.

p.115-117:  Darren tells Naz how he got a dent in his head. Starts with

NAZ

That’s horny.

and ends with

DARREN

I remember…Mum was hurt. She’s been hit with a hammer too. She’s on the floor and she ain’t moving. I drag myself over to her. I put my hand on her chest. I can feel her heart beating. I think, She’s alive. So long as I can feel that heart beating…everything is okay. I’m safe.


Select Bibliography of Reviews and Criticism:
(Note:  article title links are to the online versions, mostly UW-only restricted unless designated as open access.)

Bassett, K. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 281-282. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur)

Chappell, H. (2005). State of Confusion. New Statesman, 134(4732), 42. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur)

Gardner, L. (2010). Guardian. Theatre Record, 30(4), 180. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Gross, J. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 280-281. (Review of the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Mercury Fur

Harpin, A. (2011). Intolerable Acts. Performance Research, 16(1), 102-111.

Jette, D.  (2009). Mercury Fur at Imaged Life.  LA Theatre Review. [open access] (Review of LA production at Imaged Life Theater)

Logan, B. (2005). Mercury Fur. Theatre Record, 25(5), 279-280. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Lukowski, A. (2010). Time Out London. Theatre Record, 30(4), 180. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Malone, R. (2005). Mercury Fur. Stage, (6463), 12. [open access] (Review of original production at the Drum Theater in Plymouth)

Marchese, E. (2007). Mercury Fur Back Stage West, 14(11), 14. (Review of Rude Guerilla Company in Santa Ana, California)

Margolies, D. (2009). Mercury Fur. Back Stage (19305966), 50(24), 23-24. (Review of LA production at Imaged Life Theater)

More on Previous Productions. (2012). Theatre Record, 32(8), 429-430. (Review of London production at Trafalgar Studios)

Ridley, P., & Sierz, A. (2009). ‘Putting a New Lens on the World’: the Art of Theatrical Alchemy. New Theatre Quarterly, 25(2), 109-117. (Interview with Philip Ridley)

Shuttleworth, I. (2005). Prompt Corner. Theatre Record, 25(5), 265-266. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Smith, P. (2012, June 7). Mercury Fur, Trafalgar Studios, Review.  Daily Telegraph, p. 30. [open access] (Review of London production at Trafalgar Studios)

Spencer, C. (2005, March 5). A Vicious Kick in the Guts. Daily Telegraph, p. 24. (Review of London production at the Menier Chocolate Factory)

Stuff of Nightmares:  Mercury Fur @ The Ringwald. (2011, April 9). The Ferndale One-Fifteen News. [open access] (Review of Ferndale, Michigan production at The Ringwald)

Tripney, N. (2012). Mercury Fur. Stage, (6829), 18-19. [open access] (Review of production at Old Red Lion in London, England from March 27 to April 14, 2012)

Trueman, M. (2012). Mercury Fur: Time Out London. Theatre Record, 32(7), 346. (Review of London production at the Old Red Lion Theatre)

Sierz, A. (2010). Tribune. Theatre Record, 30(5), 273. (Review of London revival at Picton Place)

Wyllie, A. (2013). Philip Rridley and memory. Studies In Theatre & Performance, 33(1), 65-75.

Additional Information:

James Turner Designs:  Directed by Ned Bennett, Produced by Greenhouse Theatre, Old Red Lion Theatre, March 2012 and Trafalgar Studios, May 2012, Off-West-End Award 2013 winner, Best Set Design (Images of award-winning set design)