PLAYS OF THE ABSURD
for Godot - "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes,
it's awful?" Estragon's complaint, uttered in the first
act of Waiting for Godot, is the playwright's sly joke
at the expense of his own play - or rather at the expense of
those in the audience who expect theatre always to consist of
events progressing in an apparently purposeful and logical manner
towards a decisive climax. In those terms, Waiting for Godot
- which has been famously described as a play in which "nothing
happens, twice"- scarcely seems recognizable as theatre
at all. As the great English critic wrote "Waiting for
Godot jettisons everything by which we recognize theatre.
It arrives at the custom-house, as it were, with no luggage,
no passport, and nothing to declare; yet it gets through, as
might a pilgrim from Mars."
Homecoming - In an old and slightly seedy house in North
London there lives a family of men: Max, the aging but still
aggressive patriarch; his younger, ineffectual brother Sam; and
two of Max's three sons, neither of whom is married -- Lenny,
a small-time pimp, and Joey, who dreams of success as a boxer.
Into this sinister abode comes the eldest son, Teddy, who, having
spent the past six years teaching philosophy in America, is now
bringing his wife, Ruth, home to visit the family she has never
met. As the play progresses, the younger brothers make increasingly
outrageous passes at their sister-in-law until they are practically
making love to her in front of her stunned but strangely aloof
& Guildenstern Are Dead - Acclaimed as a modern dramatic
masterpiece, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is
the fabulously inventive tale of Hamlet as told from the
worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
two minor characters in Shakespeare's play. In Tom Stoppard's
best-known work, this Shakespearean Laurel and Hardy finally
get a chance to take the lead role, but do so in a world where
echoes of Waiting for Godot resound, where reality and
illusion intermix, and where fate leads our two heroes to a tragic
but inevitable end.
- A rhinoceros suddenly appears in a small town, trampling through
its peaceful streets. Soon there are two, three, until the "movement"
becomes universal. In one scene, Ionesco shows us the transformation
into a beast of an average citizen who knows he must "move
with the times." Familiar arguments are marshalled on behalf
of the rhinoceros: "It's just a question of personal preference.
One must make an effort to understand. To understand is to justify."
Finally, only one man remains. A commentary on the absurdity
of the human condition made tolerable only by self-delusion,
Rhinoceros shows us the struggle of the individual to
maintain his integrity and identity alone in a world where all
others have succumbed to the "beauty" of brute force,
natural energy, and mindlessness.
- Originally written in French and translated into English by
Beckett himself, Endgame is considered by many critics
to be his greatest single work. A pinnacle of Beckett's characteristic
raw minimalism, it is a pure and devastating distillation of
the human essence in the face of approaching death.
Balcony - First staged at a private club in London because
it was considered too scandalous for Paris audiences, The
Balcony is set in a brothel of "nobel dimensions,"
a palace of illusions in which men can indulge their secret fantasies,
perhaps as a judge inflicting punishment on a beautiful thief,
or as a dying Foreign Legionaire being succoured by a beautiful
Arab maiden. But outside the brothel, the country is caught up
in the throes of revolution, and these false roles become confused
with the real roles of "bishop," "judge"
and "general" until nothing is certain.
Bald Soprano - In his very first play, adapted from an English
primer, Ionesco rejects the logical plot, character development,
and thought of traditional drama, instead creating his own anarchic
form of comedy to convey the meaninglessness of modern man's
existence in a universe ruled by chance.
Afraid of Virginia Woolf - Audiences at the original Broadway
production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? were keenly
aware that they were witnessing the transformation of a promising
playwright into a figure of worlf importance, through a play
clearly destined to become a modern classic. Time has richly
borne out this view. This dazzling work presents perhaps the
most memorable of married couples--George and Martha--in a searing
night of dangerous fun and games with a pawnlike other couple
who innocently become their weapons in the savaging of each other
and of their life together. By the evening's end, a stunning,
almost unbearable revelation provides a climactic shock of recognition
at the bond and bondage of thier love. In its superlative construction,
in its mastery of razor-honed dialogue and emotional crescendo,
and above all in its power to strip away layer after layer of
a social pretense to expose the naked nerve of truth, Who's
Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the most riveting and
unforgetable experiences of the American theatre.
Maids - The two protagonists of The Maids indulge
in erotic and secret rituals of hate and revenge, alternately
acting as "Madame" and abusing one another as either
servant or employer. The ceremony reveals not only the maids'
hatred of the Madame's authority, but also their hatred of themselves
for participating in the hierarchy that oppresses them.
Ubu Plays - This volume contains the three cardinal Ubu texts:
Ubu Rex, Ubu Cuckolded, and Ubu Enchained. When
the first play was staged in Paris in 1896, this strange parody
of Macbeth, set in an imaginary Poland, let loose upon
the world Jarry's grotesque figure of Ubu, a personification
of all that is base and stupid in mankind. Ubu Cuckolded
is written in the same savage vein, and Ubu Enchained
is an outrageous satire on the idea of freedom. These plays are
part of the history of the modern theatre.
MORE PLAYS OF THE ABSURD: