Gurney, Jr. The cutting edge of his humor is his insistence on the commonplaceness of suffering in the world. His plays are populated by archetypal sadists and victims, and the comedy is usually cruel as the audience is made to laugh at the exaggerated and grotesque misery of the characters and nearly always violent; death, suicide, disaster, and murder are never too far away in typical Durang slapstick. While his plays are repeatedly criticized for not being positive and for not suggesting any remedy to the problem of human evil, they are in fact relentlessly moral, fueled by a profound sense of outrage at the crimes against human dignity. If his endings seem less than perfectly conclusive, and if his characters seem to be no more than cartoons, still, underneath all the madcap and sophomoric nonsense is a serious and humane plea for tolerance, diversity, and individual liberty. This figure embodies for Durang all the evil elements of human nature and social hierarchy.
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Gurney, Jr. The cutting edge of his humor is his insistence on the commonplaceness of suffering in the world. His plays are populated by archetypal sadists and victims, and the comedy is usually cruel as the audience is made to laugh at the exaggerated and grotesque misery of the characters and nearly always violent; death, suicide, disaster, and murder are never too far away in typical Durang slapstick.
While his plays are repeatedly criticized for not being positive and for not suggesting any remedy to the problem of human evil, they are in fact relentlessly moral, fueled by a profound sense of outrage at the crimes against human dignity. If his endings seem less than perfectly conclusive, and if his characters seem to be no more than cartoons, still, underneath all the madcap and sophomoric nonsense is a serious and humane plea for tolerance, diversity, and individual liberty.
This figure embodies for Durang all the evil elements of human nature and social hierarchy. The Idiots Karamazov , which he wrote with Innaurato, is a musical-comedy travesty of the great Russian novelists of suffering, Fyodor Dostoevski and Leo Tolstoy. The principal character, Constance Garnett, is the translator, an older woman who uses a wheelchair and is attended by a suicidal manservant, Ernest.
Durang ridiculed Hollywood and motion pictures in A History of the American Film , a musical that opened on Broadway in The five principal characters are caricatures based on familiar Hollywood types. Loretta as in Loretta Young is the long-suffering and lovingly innocent heroine. Jimmy as in James Cagney is the tough guy, part hoodlum and part romantic hero. Bette as in Bette Davis is the vamp, a vindictive but seductive figure who enjoys nothing more than making Loretta suffer.
Hank as in Henry Fonda is the strong and silent all-American good guy, who eventually turns psychotic. Eve as in Eve Arden is the ever-present true friend, who covers up her own sexual frustration with dry witticisms and hard-boiled mottoes.
The play treats the horrors of war, mental illness, inflation, unemployment, and suicide with chilling comedy. Inspired by R. The action centers on a young, depressed woman named Jane and her mother, Edith. Summers, is bizarrely inconsistent.
In scene 1, the role is played by a man, and in scene 2, after a sex-change operation, by a woman the actor who plays Mr. Summers in the first scene plays his wife in the second. Jane reveals the motive behind her suicide attempt in a poignant and surrealistic monologue concerning a production of Peter Pan she had seen as a girl. Life is not worth continuing, she says, if it only leads to death in the end. The authoritative Mr. Like its glib title, the play pokes fun at those who would offer easy explanations of the mysteries of existence and evil.
Presiding over the events of the drama are Ronald and Elaine, who pretend to render meaningful the random catastrophes that they inflict on the Job-like Eleanor. The play falls into three sections.
In the first, Sister Mary catechizes the audience on basic doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. More than anything else, the play demonstrates the triumph of dogma over narrative in traditional Christianity and portrays an absurdly abbreviated life of Christ. With only three characters, Mary, Joseph, and Misty the camel two actors impersonate separate humps , and a doll as the infant Jesus, the play spans the time from the Immaculate Conception of Mary to the Ascension of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Misty.
Gary Joseph has had homosexual relationships. Diane Mary , whom Sister Mary especially detests, has had two abortions. Diane engineers the climactic confrontation in order to embarrass Sister Mary and then reveals her intention to kill her, much to the surprise of her three cohorts.
Victorious in the end, Sister Mary whips out a gun and kills Diane; then, after assuring herself that he has made a recent confession of his sexual sins, she kills Gary as well.
The play ends with a recitation of the catechism by Thomas, a boy currently enrolled in the parochial school. In Beyond Therapy , he again attacks psychoanalysis from a Laingian perspective, portraying the analysts in the play as more bizarre versions of Mr. Their clients are a heterosexual woman and a bisexual man who meet through an advertisement in the personals column of a newspaper.
Both Baby with the Bathwater and The Marriage of Bette and Boo have their origins in plays Durang wrote while in college and pertain to American family life. Baby with the Bathwater is a grim but humorous indictment of the science of child-rearing. Born as a boy but reared as a girl, Daisy, the baby of the title, is the victim of two inept parents and a manipulative nanny.
The several stillborn infants she produces she names after animal characters inWinnie the Pooh storybooks. The father, Boo, is an alcoholic whose life is a cycle of a reformation and backsliding. Though a comedy, the play touches on serious philosophical questions concerning God, suffering, death, the absurdity of life, and the meaning of love. He soon returned to the theater, however, with Media Amok , a satire on the sensationalism of television talk shows.
A more serious and disturbing play followed. Sex and Longing tells of Lulu, a nymphomaniac whose roommate is a sexually compulsive homosexual. Lulu is attacked by a serial killer; her savior, a fundamentalist preacher, first converts her, then later rapes her. Betty is spending her vacation at a time-share by the beach with five bizarre strangers, one of whom is a serial killer.
The American fascination with sensationalism on television is a theme again, with such targets as Fox network specials and coverage of the trials of Lorena Bobbit and O. Bibliography Brustein, Robert. Durang, Christopher. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, Flippo, Chet. Savran, David. New York: Theatre Communications Group, This is an example of a sitewide notice - you can change or remove this text in the Customizer under "Store Notice" Dismiss. Other major work Screenplay: Beyond Therapy, Like this: Like Loading Analysis of J.
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Category:Plays by Christopher Durang
Christopher Ferdinand Durang born January 2, is an American playwright known for works of outrageous and often absurd comedy. His work was especially popular in the s, though his career seemed to get a second wind in the late s. He lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his husband, actor and playwright John Augustine; they have been together since His work often deals critically with issues of child abuse , Roman Catholic dogma , culture, and homosexuality. While Durang's use of parody and his criticism of many social institutions might appear overly cynical at times, he states:.
Analysis of Christopher Durang’s Plays