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Four Plays

February 26, 2007

Sunday wasn't meant to be a day devoted to reading plays. Sure, the scripts have been mounting up over the weeks and I've been wondering when I would get around to reading all the texts that people have been sending me, but I was surprised to find myself bowing out of an Oscar party at a friend's house and staying home to read instead.

I suddenly just couldn't face the monotonous ritual of it all -- the red carpet, the envelopes, the back-slapping mush. I was mostly interested in the fashion parade anyway. So I fed my fascination for couture by perusing a slideshow or two online (Cate Blanchett looked the loveliest in a stunning one-shoulder Swarovski crystal mesh gown by Giorgio Armani Prive) and then settled in for the night with the cat, copious cups of tea, and four scripts.

The first was Mr. Dooley's America (1976) by screenwriter Philippe Dunne and Martin Blaine, which was handed to me by Dunne's daughter, Jessica, who attends my dance class. The play is all about a 19th century Chicago newspaper columnist Finley Peter Dunne. The play reads like a newspaper column too, though it is quite characterful in places. The play opened off-Broadway a few months ago at The Irish Repertory Theatre to mixed reviews. Jessica wants to find a Bay Area venue that might be interested in staging a production. I emailed her some thoughts. It might appeal to an older audience of Irish extraction. Perhaps Wilde Irish might like to take a crack at it?

The second and third were both new plays by Deb Margolin. Following some correspondence regarding SF Playhouse's production of Deb's Three Seconds in the Key last month, Deb generously sent me two more of her plays to read: O Yes I Will (which takes place in a hospital and replays a series of scenarios between a patient about to undergo an operation and her anesthesiologist) and Time is the Mercy of Eternity (four short, loosely-connected dramas about death, terrorism, and love.) The first of the two made me laugh out loud. I particularly enjoy the way the playwright mixes the urbane, everyday with flights of lyrical fancy. I couldn't get into the quartet quite as much, though it had some spellbinding moments. I think my main problem with it is that I couldn't see how one of the plays (the third one in particular) would work on stage. But I liked the surreal way that the mention of body parts kept coming up throughout the quartet. This reminded me of dismemberment (or sporagnos) in Greek tragedy.

The final play of the evening was Je Rien Te Deum, by the French playwright Fabrice Melquiot. Ben Yalom of FoolsFURY passed it on to me. Fabrice wants him to translate it into English. Ben isn't sure it would work in the US and I'm inclined to agree. I don't know Ben's reasons for saying so, but Fabrice's text about a man caught between the falling Twin Towers on 9/11 doesn't strike me as a work for the theatre, though the Theatre de Reims and the Maison de la Poesie, Paris recently staged it. It's basically a long poem full of expressionistic imagery. If The New Yorker published long poems, I think it would work well there. But I can't see it on stage. Also, I can't quite help thinking that while its apocalyptic message of falling might have resonated with readers a few years ago, it's moment may have passed.

This morning, I heard all the Oscar news. Doesn't sound like I missed much.

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