Allison Page is listening.
Often the plays I’m really excited about don’t happen to be playing anywhere near me, so I can’t see them. CLEVER WORKAROUND: Audible. For the last week I’ve been listening to high quality recordings of plays on Audible — often with the original cast I would never have had the chance to see in action. I’m in the middle of writing a new play right now, and I have to say it’s been extra hard somehow and has made me feel a little inadequate. *gasp*
Listening to really well-crafted works has felt like a mini masterclass. I totally recommend it. Here’s some I have listened to and some I intend to listen to:
THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT
by Stephen Adly Guirgis
This was an extra great listen because I’m obsessed with Bobby Cannavale, and he absolutely kills it in this role. Bonus: Chris Rock. In a play. How often does that happen? There’s a lot to love in this script – it opens so quickly. There’s a brief phone conversation, then a character enters and shit hits the fan within a few minutes, in a really big way. Guirgis doesn’t waste time, and I really appreciate that. It’s a very full play, and none of it feels unimportant. I’m constantly trying to make that happen in my own work, and I only succeed sometimes.
by Gina Gionfriddo
Okay, I was into the characters in this one, but something about the story didn’t quite gel for me when it was over. I’m not sure exactly what I wanted out of the ending but somehow I felt like I wasn’t quite satisfied. I was interested in what was happening, but at some point the story started to feel a little less structured to me in a way that caused me to distract myself a lot with thoughts of “But…what’s happening? Is something about to happen? Or is nothing about to happen?” Performance wise – I really liked the actors. I will freely admit I tend to be a pretty traditional storyteller and so something that doesn’t feel like it’s got a really tightly stitched-up ending is sometimes not my bag. I can be boring that way.
BEST OF SECOND CITY
By…ya know, everybody in Second City
I’m about 20 minutes into one of these right now (there are actually 3 volumes, it seems) and mostly it’s pretty delightful if not actually hilarious. I think just listening to scenes often doesn’t result in as many actually laugh-out-loud moments. It’s much more like “Hm, yes, that is funny. I see how that is funny.” But it is a fun recording in that it is chock full of a bunch of top notch funny people: Amy Sedaris, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Marsha Mason and Paul Dinello. So even if it weren’t great it would still be pretty great. And it’s good for listening on commutes because the scenes are short. You can end any time and pick it back up later not having to actually remember what was happening.
LA THEATRE WORKS COLLECTIONS
LA Theatre Works has several collections of plays on Audible: Modern Classics, Pulitzer Play Prize Plays (Volumes 1 and 2) and probably other things I don’t feel like looking for right now, which contain plays like: ‘Night Mother, Anna in The Tropics, Lost in Yonkers, Six Degrees of Separation, Agnes of God, True West, Anna Christie, and others. I haven’t dipped into these yet, but I plan to.
OUR LADY OF 121ST STREET
by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Yes, more Guirgis. I’m going through a phase. GREAT cast (including Laurence Fishburne). It’s much more an ensemble piece than Motherfucker, and thusly feels a lot more like vignettes on common themes and character relationships as opposed to one big story. Everything somehow ties back to a dead nun – though the actual death of the nun is sort of secondary to everything else that’s being talked about. A lot of talk of broken relationships and how traumatic events impact people over time. Fascinating, definitely, and Guirgis’ ability to write AMAZING arguments means I love him to tiny pieces. I dig a good fight.
Other plays to listen to:
The Noel Coward Collection
Pride and Prejudice
This is Our Youth
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Lion in Winter (with Alfred Molina!)
Basically, there are a lot of them. I’m getting out and seeing more local productions this year, but having this resource to experience stuff not happening here is pretty cool. I don’t know about you, but reading scripts often makes me sleepy. And since I have a commute to contend with, I’m killing two birds with one stone.
Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director of Killing My Lobster. You can catch KML’s new show (which she happened to head write) Murder, She Was Murdered this Friday and Saturday at PianoFight. www.killingmylobster.com