1 Waiting 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."

2 The 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 husband.

3 Rosencrantz & 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.

4 Rhinoceros - 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.

5 Endgame - 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.

6 The 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.

7 The 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.

8 Who's 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.

9 The 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.

10 The 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.


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