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7/4/2024        From the Bookshelf:   More Plays from the DPS Broadway Book Club




It’s time to recap the Second Quarter DPS Book Club Selections.  We’re “sheltering in place” to avoid the cruel excess of Mr. Sun’s pique, so what better activity than to pile into a pile of scripts and never come up for air.  Or wine.


As a reminder, script publisher Dramatists Play Service offers a book club, where, once a quarter, they will deliver to your doorstep a box of scripts, curated by an established playwright, brimming with talent and creative life force.  I look forward to every shipment as, to put it bluntly, I love reading scripts, even those for plays I know not and may never see brought to life on stage. 


This quarter’s curator is Bekah Brunstetter, playwright of The Cake (seen here in a marvelous 2019 production at Horizon Theatre, on whose stage her The Game opens this weekend) and the libretto for the new musical of The Notebook.  She has chosen seven plays about love and connection-ating, the better to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Unfortunately, she has chosen NOT to include any of her own work.  Pity – I am a fan and look forward to seeing The Game this weekend.


So, forthwith are my thoughts on this eighth seven-script set.  As an avowed Hallmark Movie addict, reading these love stories ALL scratched that happily-ever-after itch that is so tolerant of pretty much anything Hallmark gives us, even if calling any of these endings “happy” can be a bit of a stretch.





By Melissa Ross


First presented by Labyrinth Theatre Co, New York City, May 2015


Jo is a single woman “of a certain age,” seemingly stuck in a dull job while being caretaker to her seemingly ungrateful mother.   She may (just may) have a chance at love, when an ex-high school friend asks her to join him at their reunion.  That he has baggage of his own – an estranged but not divorced wife – makes “happily ever after” problematic.  Jo also has a work chum, Sherry, who is going through issues of her own – her long-term boyfriend has just informed her he has a wife.  Set in 1984 Boston, this is a compelling and complex character study, equally funny and heartbreaking, filled with recognizable family tensions and unspoken grudges, and serving up a dilly of a plot reveal just when it’s least expected (or wanted).   Is there happiness in store for Josephine?  Playwright Ross avoids the easy “Hallmark” ending, yet keeps it  hopeful (ish), if a large number of “if only’s” actually come true.   This could be a tour-de-force for four actors and would work equally well in a large well-budgeted venue or in a small no-budget black box.  





By Julia Cho


Originally Produced at Roundabout Theatre in New York City October 17, 2010


(If this seems familiar, it was part of the first set two years ago.  Apparently, the curators don’t check for repeats.  In any case, this was well worth a second read.)


George is a linguist, a fanatical student of languages obsessed with keeping dead and dying languages alive and spoken.  So why can’t he find the words to say to his wife to make her stay with him?  Why can’t he understand the silent subtext with which his devoted lab assistant soaks her every word to him?  And how can he make the squabbling couple he is studying, the last speakers of the language of the Ell-o-wa River People, stop arguing in English and communicate in their own tongue?   A whimsical, very often funny play about language and marriage (and bread), one that is ultimately quite moving and quite eloquent in so many indescribable ways.   Words, after all, can carry only so much weight before they become meaningless.  I really loved reading this play and hope it eventually gets an Atlanta production,


(Note:  Ms. Cho is also an actress who has appeared in may shows, including as Charlotte in “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.”)





By John Patrick Shanley


Originally Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City, January 2014


Playwright Shanley (Doubt, Moonstruck) takes a deep dive into his Irish roots with this rain-soaked family saga, a tale like those told in a pub while sharing a pint.  Anthony’s Da is thinking of not leaving him the farm when he passes, because Anthony takes no joy in farming and may just be touched a wee bit in the head.  Anthony has been carrying a torch for neighbor Rosemary since they were kids, but because, decades ago,  he shoved her down in a childlike pique, she claims to hate him, all evidence to the contrary.  There’s also the detail that Anthony can only access his farm through a double gate on the road, gates made necessary when Anthony’s Da sold a strip of land to Rosemary’s Da.  


This is a tale of feckless love, steeped in the wry humor and untold feelings of Irish farm country and isolated families.  It’s doubtful Shanley would let his middle-aged neighbors creep into old age without some satisfaction.  Whether it’ll be love or vengeance is anybody’s guess.   I loved this script and just learned (literally ten minutes ago) that it was made into a 2020 movie called, for reasons beyond my ken, Wild Mountain Thyme, that is now stream-able on HBO or Max or whatever it goes by these days.  I will be watching the movie soon.  

Maybe I do know why the movie is named how it's named.  It has something to do with a traditional Irish Folk melody heard in the play and in the film.  It just seems like an odd choice, one guaranteed to keep audiences from tasting this wee slice of romance.  Pity.  Not that Outside Mullingar is any better as a title.





By John Patrick Shanley


Originally Produced by Actors Theatre of Louisville, February 1984), then by Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, June 1984

Produced in Atlanta by Actor’s Express, Summer 1992


Because no one should read just one John Patrick Shanley play, here’s another, a classic two-hander popular with small theatres and acting teachers.  Danny and Roberta are rough and tumble loners who make a connection in a dive bar and reluctantly fall into a one-night stand, a night that reveals hidden cruelties in each and vulnerabilities that make them come together in either a blissful joining or an explosive mutual destruction.  Seriously, it could go either way.  This is a tight script that may be unproduceable these days because of some of the choices made by the characters.  Or not – there was a 2023 New York revival.  But, at heart, it is a vivid portrait of two lost souls who, if they can figure out a pathway, just may be each other’s salvation. 





By Nilo Cruz


First Produced in Coral Gables FL, October 12.2002

Subsequently developed by the McCarter Theatre, Princeton NJ, September 2003

Produced in Atlanta Metro by Theatre in the Square, October 2020.


Scheduled for a production by Merely Players Presents opening August 16 (with alternating English and Spanish Language Performances)


Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama


It’s 1929 in a Cigar Factory in Tampa FL  Immigrant women from (mostly) Cuba work long hours wrapping the cigars, while a “Lector” reads to them, news and novels.  A new Lector has been hired, and his choice of  material is Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina.  It makes an odd sort of sense – what better way to cope with the oppressive heat and working conditions than a classic tale of love and betrayal and snow?  It soon becomes evident that the lives of the workers (and factory owners) begin to mirror the lives of Tolstoy’s characters, leading to passion and betrayal and violence.  


Mr. Cruz has written some vividly alive characters and constructed a story that echoes Tolstoy’s, creating a compelling valentine to narrative, to story, and to performing literature for a willing audience.  I am really looking forward to seeing this at Merely Players Presents.





By Chiara Atik


Originally Produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre February 2015


So, to be blunt this is a play about sex.  Or to be more accurate, this is five (short) plays about sex.  It starts with a post-apocalypse scenario in which the two survivors must figure out how to “repopulate” the world” when they are utterly unattracted to each other.  It ends with Adam and Eve accidentally discovering that those parts that are so different can actually do interesting things.  In between, there’s a story about an accidental pregnancy, a couple finding irreconcilable differences in what is exciting, and the classic tale of Abelard and Heloise, told in epistolary style.  These are all amusing little pieces that can be performed by the same two actors (or not), that, shortness aside, add up to an exhilarating (or is it baffling?) portrait of human sexuality.  Be forewarned – this may be a tough one to get by your group’s board of censors, and, at least in the Adam and Eve segment, be an almost impossible challenge to an intimacy director to keep it safe from the morality police.





By David Ives


World Premiere at Classic Stage Company, New York City, January 2010

Transferred to Manhattan Theatre Club, October 2011


Performed in Atlanta by Actor’s Express, September 2013

Scheduled for July 2025 at Live Arts Theatre


(Sloth Alert:  These notes are excerpted from my review of the 2013 Actor’s Express Production)


This is an exciting and sexy tour-de-force that peels away the layers of sexual (dys?)function in the context of a close encounter between an actress and a director.  Ives had wanted to adapt the 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher Masoch (from whom Krafft-Ebing coined the term "masochism") that details a man's submissive longing for a dominating woman, but the subject matter failed to ignite any theatrical sparks.  So, he made the brilliant decision to "stage" the story in a grungy New York audition space, where a frustrated writer-director, Thomas, is fed up with the clueless actresses he's been seeing for the central role of Vanda.  Into his domain bursts Vanda Jordan, a young actress arriving late, and full of all the same aggravating modernisms that have driven him to his metaphorical (for the moment) knees.  What follows is a recreation of parts of Masoch's story as well as a modern analysis of them.  If that sounds a little too English-Major-esque for you, rest assured it is funny and sexy enough to keep the most avid non-reader entranced.


It is equal parts actress versus director, man versus woman, reader versus writer, maybe even a little goddess versus mortal.  At its root it is a compelling portrait of relationship dynamics -- when are partners equal, when is one dominant and another submissive, what makes those roles change, and, most obviously, who has the power and where does it come from? 




I hope you get a chance to check out any (or all) of these plays and hope you find them as satisfying to read as I did.  Better yet, I hope they create a desire to see them live on stage!   The next collection (due in August) will be curated by Appropriate playwright  Branden Jacobs-Jenkins


As usual, thank you for indulging my latest Bibliowallow!  


    --  Brad Rudy  (



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