This morning I finished reading this collection of plays by Christopher Durang. A while ago, my brother turned me on to this playwright and I remember really liking the anarchic absurdity of it all. I also got to see my brother perform the lead role in The Actor’s Nightmare, and it was just hilarious.
This collection contains some of Durang’s most well-known works, like Titanic and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You. I enjoyed reading this collection. But as I read it, I realized how hard it is to fully appreciate a play when you can’t see it being performed. There are stage notes and annotations that help, but a lot of Durang’s comedy really hinges on how it’s played on stage. There’s a lot of casual violence in here, and if you read it with out taking the notes and the intentions into account, it’s sometimes very hard to see how it could be funny.
My favorite piece in this collection is The Actor’s Nightmare. Durang explains that a lot of actors have a nightmare where they have to perform in a play they haven’t rehearsed or don’t know at all. In this play, George Spelvin finds himself in the middle of performances of Hamlet, Private Lives, a fictional piece by Beckett, and, I think, A Man For All Seasons. It’s really funny to see how Spelvin keeps trying to go along with it.