Sunday, November 2, 2014

Plays I'd really like to see

I've been lucky and/or privileged enough to see a huge number of plays in my time, including nearly all of Shakespeare, aside from some of the history plays, the core Tennessee Williams and Tom Stoppard plays, and a fair bit of Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neill and José Rivera.  I'll probably make a list one of these days of the best of the best.

However, there are quite a few that I have not seen, either because I just missed them (and they won't be back in town for a long time*) or because they have fallen out of fashion (and are very rarely staged).  Indeed, if I ever became truly wealthy (unlikely at this point I suspect), I would probably start up a company just to try to put on the ones I'd like the most, particularly the Orphans' Home Cycle, which I doubt I'll ever see in its entirety unless I was the one that made it happen.  I'd probably lean a fair bit on staged readings, at least at first.  And maybe slip in one of my works each season... (Anyway, that's just a pipe dream for now.)

So here are some plays that got away or I just never had a chance to see them:
Paula Vogel -- Hot 'n' Throbbing
Paula Vogel -- Desdemona, A Play About a Handkerchief
X Ann-Marie MacDonald -- Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)  (just missed this twice)
X Bertolt Brecht -- Galileo (will be in Chicago in April 2016 -- I'm leaning towards going)
Lynn Nottage -- Mud, River, Stone (at Eclipse in Chicago in Nov.-Dec. but I don't think we'll be going again so soon)
Steven Dietz -- Yankee Tavern (the Vancouver production was cancelled apparently but it is still on in Chicago, but at an awkward time for us)
X Arthur Miller -- Incident at Vichy (will be at Soulpepper in 2016 -- I'm definitely going)
Arthur Miller -- A View from the Bridge
X Arthur Miller -- The Creation of the World and Other Business (saw in Ottawa)
Paul Rudnick -- The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
Jean-Claude van Itallie -- The Serpent
X Terrence McNally -- A Perfect Ganesh (quite possibly better left in my imagination, though as Eclipse will be doing it next summer it is probably the first off this list that I actually could see...)
Gina Gionfriddo -- Becky Shaw
Melissa Ross -- Thinner Than Water (perhaps an inspiration for my own riff on Lear?)
Beth Henley -- Crimes of the Heart (ditto)
Beth Henley -- The Jacksonian
A.R. Gurney -- Family Furniture
A.R. Gurney -- Love & Money
Amanda Peet -- The Commons of Pensacola
John Cariani -- Last Gas
American Hero -- Bess Wohl (thought I would get to see this in Detroit, but it was not to be)
William Inge -- Picnic (this is actually going to be done in 2015 both at UT-Mississagua and in Scarborough, but in the end it just didn't work out)
Craig Pospisil -- Months on End
Craig Pospisil -- Somewhere in Between (did Pospisil crib heavily from Scorsese's After Hours?)
Christopher Shinn -- What Didn't Happen
Christopher Shinn -- Where Do We Live
Christopher Shinn -- Four?
Christopher Shinn -- The Coming World?
X Christopher Shinn -- Dying City?
Catherine Butterfield -- The Sleeper
Nell Benjamin -- The Explorers Club (sounds slightly inspired by Overmyer's On the Verge)
Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig -- 410[Gone] (probably a bit too much Scott Pilgrim-y)
Craig Wright -- Recent Tragic Events (sounds a bit gimmicky but it might be interesting to see)
Michael Frayn -- Alarms and Excursions
X David Lindsay-Abaire -- Wonder of the World
Shelagh Stephenson -- An Experiment with an Air Pump
Richard Greenberg -- Eastern Standard
George F. Walker -- Better Living
Horton Foote -- The Orphans' Home Cycle, a cycle of 9(!) shortish plays: Roots in a Parched Ground; Convicts; Lily Dale; The Widow Claire; Courtship; Valentine's Day; 1918; Cousins; The Death of Papa
Horton Foote -- Dividing the Estate
Alan Bennett -- Office Suite
Alan Bennett -- The Insurance Man
Alan Bennett -- People
Eugene O'Neill -- A Moon for the Misbegotten
Samuel Beckett -- Happy Days (While I've seen Endgame twice, I don't think I've ever seen Happy Days.  At least I can't recall doing so.  Apparently I missed a chance to see it in Chicago, though reviews were mixed.  It's been well over 10 years since it's been on in Toronto proper, though the Mississauga Players did it in early 2014, a bit before we arrived in town.)  
Tennessee Williams -- Vieux Carré
Tennessee Williams -- Something Cloudy, Something Clear
Tennessee Williams -- The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
X Tom Stoppard -- Travesties (in Montreal in April-mid May 2015, but I think it might be too hard to justify the whole family going just so I can see a play and the kids don't have any days off from school anyway...)
X Thomas Middleton -- The Changeling (I've seen very little Middleton -- only Women Beware Women -- and was very disappointed when this Vancouver company dropped The Changeling. Finally coming to Stratford in 2017.)
Thomas Middleton -- A Mad World, My Masters
Thomas Middleton -- A Chaste Maid in Cheapside
Ben Jonson -- Bartholomew Fair
George Etherege -- The Man of Mode
Ibsen -- Ghosts
Ibsen -- The Master Builder
X Ibsen --  John Gabriel Borkman (Abbey Theatre did an acclaimed production in 2010 which came to BAM in Brooklyn, but it didn't travel on to Chicago. However, I just learned that Stratford will be doing it in 2016.)
Strindberg -- The Ghost Sonata
Bulgakov -- Adam and Eve (I've seen Madame Zoyka and a good adaptation of The Heart of a Dog, but this one seems unlikely to come to Toronto or Chicago for that matter)

And a small handful I'd like to see a second time:

Caryl Churchill -- Cloud 9 (definitely my favourite of hers, though Top Girls is the one that always seems to be remounted -- indeed Top Girls is coming to Shaw this summer -- and I'll probably go.  (I did make it in the end.) Unfortunately, it might be a while.  Cloud 9 was last done in Toronto in 2010 and Chicago in 2011.)
Penny Penniston -- Now Then Again (this would have fit in well with the science vibe at Stratford next season -- alas not to be)
Tom Stoppard -- Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Tennessee Williams -- The Night of the Iguana
José Rivera -- Cloud Tectonics (the play that made me fall in love with Chicago's Halcyon Theatre)
David Henry Hwang -- Chinglish
Strindberg -- A Dream Play (I saw this at Northwestern, but don't really remember much at all)
Bulgakov -- Madame Zoyka (I think I would appreciate this far more if I saw it again now that I have read up on Bulgakov's era)
William Congreve -- The Way of the World
X Sheridan -- The School for Scandal (coming to Stratford in 2017)
X George Farquhar -- The Beaux' Stratagem (will be done in Toronto by George Brown in 2016!)

I'm sure I'm forgetting quite a few that I wanted to see at one time or another, but this is a solid list to use to keep track of what I still need to see.  I suppose I should be clear that I am not even sure I would like a number of the plays on the first list, but I am simply curious about them.  Fortunately, a fair number of plays do come through Toronto, and we'll probably continue to make summer trips to Chicago, which remains (to my mind) the best city for theatre in North America.

Just as an example, this season, Toronto offers up a contemporary play of interest -- Andrew Bovell's Speaking in Tongues and a Restoration classic -- Congreve’s Love for Love.  Not to be outdone, Stratford has announced they will be doing Sheridan's She Stoops to Conquer, which is another play I wouldn't mind seeing again, so I shall try to go, along with Durrenmatt's dark comedy The Physicists, which I'll also try to catch.  Indeed, Stratford's 2015 season looks incredible, and I just don't know how I can see everything of interest, let alone afford to go down twice next summer.

And I see that next fall, one play from my list -- Lindsay-Abaire's Wonder of the World -- will be hitting Toronto, so in some cases it is just a case of being patient.

Edit: As a corollary, it is very hard to decide when to give in the towel and just read the play.  I really do go see plays primarily for the plot, so I generally prefer not to know the ending going into them.  People in my situation (in major theatre cities) may luck out and see many of the hot plays (and that is maybe 1/3 of the plays listed above, as they were suggested to me by the DPS website), but remounts of classics (other than Shakespeare and Chekhov) are quite rare but because they are royalty-free they may still be put on more often than plays from the 50s or 60s (and many plays from the 70s haven't dated that well at all and may be deservedly obscure).  My general rule of thumb is to go ahead and read the plays that interest me if it is published before 1980 and to try to wait and see it live if it is more recent than that.

* Drat -- I'm finding that Soulpepper has done quite a few on my list within the last 10 years, including The Way of the World and the really obscure John Gabriel Borkman, so it might be a very long time before they are produced again here, though sometimes out of town is nearly as good.  Stratford will be doing Borkman in 2016.  George Brown is generally the best bet for Restoration comedy in Toronto proper.

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