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7/30/2023        From the Bookshelf:   Another Drama Book Shop Spree




The next batch of DPS Book Club Scripts are still at least a week away, so let’s clear off my “Just Read” script shelf and offer some thumbnails from my July binge at Manhattan’s Drama Book Shop.  I have been a loyal (dare I say rabid?) customer of the Librairie since its days on 7th Avenue as a slowride elevator trip during the late seventies.  It’s the best place EVER for a script addict to simply browse and wallow in the glory of discovering previously unknown plays and playwrights.  I’ve been known to spend hours (and megadollars) browsing its shelves and gathering armfuls of wares, as good an explanation as any for the size of my own theatre library even BEFORE we factor in the Fireside Theatre Book Club.


So, during this trip, I snarfed up more than a few recent Tony nominees, but also grabbed more than a few totally unknown plays by wrights known and unknown.  As usual, I was able to get through a ton of them (there are more) even around my recent wallow in Kim Stanley Robinson’s massive New York 2140 (HIGHLY recommended for fans of apocalyptic epics with a decidedly we-hate-capitalism POV).


So, without further ado, let’s talk about (even more) scripts!





By Tracy Letts

Published by Samuel French / Concord Theatricals


Originally Produced by Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago) September 2019


A sketched-by-Letts-Acid portrait of the mid-life crisis of a guy with little or no social skills or ability to “read the room.”  Wheeler is fifty and has finally moved out of his ex-wife’s garage into the titular apartment complex.   As much about generational abysses, this play shows us a man who just cannot really negotiate the modern dating ethos or his own phobia of relationships and making a connection.  And yet, I couldn’t help being (almost) moved by his failures and the slings and arrows cast his way, as deserved as they may be.  To be honest, this one probably plays better than it reads, but, being a Tracy Letts script, it is still a compelling read.   Be forewarned, any company producing this will require a skilled intimacy director and a fearless cast.





By Suzie Miller

Published by Nick Hern Books (London)


Originally Produced by the Griffin Theatre Company (Sydney Australia) May 2019

Produced in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre April 2022

Produced in New York City at the Golden Theatre April 2023


Winner of the 2023 Best Actress Tony (Jodie Comer)


Tessa is a very successful barrister, even successfully defending (even apparently guilty) men charged with sexual assault.  When she herself is the victim of an assault by a friend and co-worker, she finds herself on the other side of this particular legal quagmire.  A powerful one-person play, this is a vigorous indictment of the biases and paradigms that are an unfortunate aspect of any assault conviction.  Tessa is a compelling character, and, after reading this script, I REALLY wish I had been able to see Jodie Comer sink her teeth into this role.    For the record, I would LOVE to see any number of Atlanta actresses (and companies) take on this play.






By Tom Stoppard

Published by Grove Press (New York) and Faber and Faber Ltd (London)


Originally Produced by Wyndham’s Theatre (London)   January 2020

Produced in New York City at the Longacre Theatre  September 2022


Winner of the 2023 Best Play Tony


Sometimes the Tony’s get it right – this was my favorite script of this batch.  I am admittedly biased in my admiration of Tom Stoppard’s work, having been in a production of Jumpers, still think his Shakespeare in Love is a better movie than Saving Private Ryan, and even ventured to New York to catch a performance (there were ONLY five total) of his “Play for Symphony and Actors,” Every Good Boy Deserves Favor (and when will the Alliance and the Atlanta Symphony join forces to produce that gem?).  And for the record, seeing a tour of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in 1969 (or was it 1970?) was my very first exposure to professional theatre.


Leopoldstatdt (the Jewish enclave of old Vienna) starts in 1899 and follows one “mixed” family (husband Jewish, wife not so much) through two wars and a holocaust.  This is a searing portrait of institutional anti-Semitism and the lengths people go through for family, even annoying family.  The strength of this piece, as in all Stoppard plays, is the vivid characters and blistering dialogue.  The play begins with a Christmas celebration (you read that right) with eight grownups, four children, and an infant on stage at once;  the script is able to establish characters vividly, keeping them clear in the reader’s mind, even as they all argue and kvetch and engage, sometimes simultaneously.  There is infidelity and love and intellectual discussion.  More to the point, because each scene advances many years, we see that infant become a young girl, a young woman, and beyond.  That it ends with a litany of the characters’ fates -- characters we have grown to know and love – is a pile-driver punch to the emotional gut.  After finishing this script, I was literally unable to do anything but sit and “process” for hours.  Hopefully it won’t be long for it to find an Atlanta production.





By Lorraine Hansberry

Published by Samuel French / Concord Theatricals


Originally Produced at the Longacre Theatre New York City October 1964

Revived by the Brooklyn Academy of Music then transferred to the James Earl Jones Theatre April 2023


Winner of the 2023 Best Featured Actress Tony (Miriam Anderson)


Lorraine Hansberry had a tragically short professional life, dying at age 34 shortly after this play opened.  Thanks to this year’s revival, she may just be remembered for more than Raisin in the Sun (not that there’s anything wrong with that legacy).  This play is surprisingly not dated, despite an early ‘60’s Greenwich Village milieu that has long passed into legend and lore (not to mention its skewering of a NYC political ethos that may no longer be relevant).


Maybe Rent has reminded us of the virtues of a “Bohemian” lifestyle (at least for young adults just discovering their passions and politics).  Maybe because there are trenchant and compelling observations about sexuality and gender roles, about political compromise and corruption  that resonate in today’s ’”culture wars”   Or maybe Hansberry was just an extraordinary playwright who was able to tap into a universality that transcends period and historical specificity.  All I know is that after finishing this script, I couldn’t get the characters and the situations out of my head.


For the record, the “Sign” is a political endorsement of a local candidate who may (or may not) be a threat to the “established political machine.”  What can possibly go wrong? 





By Carolyn Gage

Published by Samuel French / Concord Theatricals


Originally Produced by Cauldron & Labrys Productions (Portland, Maine) 2002


This is one of those unknowns that grabbed my eye and attention.  This is an “audience participation” piece for a bare stage and nine women.  A feminist theatrical troupe have gathered to put on trial a number of women who “betrayed” Anastasia Romanov for “crimes against our gender.”  It accepts as fact the legend that Anastasia survived the Russian royal massacre and went on to a mental asylum in Europe.   I was first put off by its extreme feminism – one member of the troupe describes herself as a techie and doesn’t want to participate as an actor but is told “you’re only a techie because men have convinced you that’s all you’re good for.”  It basically elevates the group over the individual, which I ALWAYS find suspect.  Not to mention that comment’s implicit denigration of techies.


But, as the play goes on, those attitudes are heavily taken to task, and the arguments become engaging and sometimes, infuriatingly fascinating. It helps that the dialogue is peppered with wit and humor and reads smoothlier than a cold drink on a hot day, even when the structure means you have to jump around to follow a particular audience deciksion.   The audience (at least the female-identifying audience – probably not logistically possible if performed in a small block box theatre – and this play is GREAT for a small black box theatre) is cast as both judge and jury and must rule on variations objections.  I suspect this may get “old” in production, but it may also create more engagement.


In the final analysis, despite my initial misgivings, I ended up liking this one.  A lot!





By Samuel D. Hunter

Published by Samuel French / Concord Theatricals


Originally Produced by Theatre Breaking Through Barriers (Off-Broadway) June 2016


Another unknown that grabbed my eye – a group of disabled friends gather for the funeral of one of their own.  They met as children at a Religious Camp that taught Christian Science, that their disabilities were not physical ills but spiritual ones.  A strong, often funny look at the damage blind faith can do to a child, to an adult.  As a crotchety old Atheist, I may have wanted to see more of a screed in the faith vs science debate, but there is plenty of anger, plenty of condemnation.  It makes its points with a roster of strong characters and a plethora of stinging dialogue.  This play requires casting of disabled actors (including one in a wheelchair and one deaf).  That the disabilities of the four others is only hinted at, not specified, could lead to dynamic casting opportunities and results. 





By Martin McDonagh

Published by Faber & Faber (London)


Originally Produced by Wyndham’s Theatre (London) December 2015

Produced on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre April 2022


Somehow this one slipped under my Play-Dar, despite its Broadway run being nominated for four Tony Awards in 2022 (I missed last year’s telecast, of course), but Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite playwrights, so of course once I saw an MM title I didn’t recognize I HAD to read it.  I am so glad I did.  It is 1965 and Britain has just stopped all hangings.  What is a professional hangman to do now?  Well Harry (“the 2nd best hangman in England”) runs a pub in the North, filled with a group of barflies of whom “everybody knows their names.”  Harry never cared if his “charges” were innocent or guilty – that was not his job.  It could be he hanged innocent men, but why should that bother him?   When his daughter disappears on the anniversary of a particularly difficult hanging and a stranger from London with a questionable manner and a sharp eye comes in for a drink, it all comes to a violent climax.  (Shocker)  Filled with McDonagh’s memorable characters, dialogue, and plotting!  I look forward to seeing this sometime somewhere somehow.  Maybe then we can NOT answer Benjamin’s Franklin’s observation that “It is better for 100 guilty men to escape than for one innocent man to hang.”





By Lynn Nottage

Published by Dramatists Play Service


Originally Produced by the Guthrie Theatre (Minneapolis MN) 2019

Produced in New York City by Second Stage Theatre 2021

Atlanta Production Scheduled by Theatrical Outfit March 2024


Pulitzer Prize Winner Lynn Nottage returns to the Reading PA of her Sweat for this gem, one of the most produced plays of the year.  Clyde’s is a greasy spoon restaurant in Reading, frequented by truckers and other travelers.  Clyde hires ex-convicts, but treats her kitchen like her own personal kingdom, because what can they do?  Essentially a workplace comedy, Clyde’s shows us a group of characters trying their best to make it in a world that really would prefer they stay away.  OTOH, durn, those sandwiches sound wonderful!  I cant wait to see this one!




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!


In the meantime, here is a link to set up your own subscription to the DPS Book Club, which will have another shipment for me in August.  I, for one, can’t wait:


For those who can’t make it to Manhattan and enjoy the pleasures of the Drama Book Shop, they are now on-line:


    --  Brad Rudy  (    #DramaBookShop   #MoreMoreMore!!! )

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