Recent plays?
December 14, 2009 8:53 AM   Subscribe

What plays from the last 50-odd years should I read? Satire, black comedy, or scathing political criticism a plus. Also plays challenging the bounds of normal theater.

Or, you know, whatever's good.
posted by beerbajay to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Twelve Angry Men is a good read. Not that recent, though.
posted by torquemaniac at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2009

Waiting for Godot
posted by sickinthehead at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

When I applied to the Dramaturgy program at Yale Drama, this is the list of plays they told me I'd need to read before I started the program. There are only a few plays on there from the past fifty years, but I'd consider all of them essential.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2009 [8 favorites]

Ever since playing Mr. Smith in a college production, I've had a soft spot for Ionesco's The Bald Soprano.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:57 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Angels in America by Tony Kushner won a bunch of awards.
posted by mmascolino at 8:58 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Cloud Nine.
posted by rtha at 9:02 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Caryl Churchill's Far Away is fantastic, and was written in the past few years. If you can see it performed, it's even better - the defining moment of the play is a parade of prisoners walking to execution, each modeling an elaborate and fantastical hat.

Absurd, terrifying, glorious. "If it's a party, why was there so much blood?"
posted by harperpitt at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2009

Here's a list of plays that have been nominated for the Best Play Tony Award. I especially recommend Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Whose Life is it Anyway?, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and A Raisin in the Sun.
posted by decathecting at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2009

The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard ... this is probably true of all these plays, but you should really see it performed live.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2009

Also, anything by David Mamet. David Mamet rules!
posted by decathecting at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2009

David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross
posted by nestor_makhno at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2009

Gah, I forgot the link to the Tony nominees. Here.
posted by decathecting at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2009

The hottest new playwright I know is Tarell Alvin McCraney. He has a trilogy called the Brother/Sister plays which should not be missed. Read him now because you are going to see more amazing things to come from this guy.
posted by caddis at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2009

Best answer: Agreeing with Mamet, Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard; and adding Sarah Kane.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:22 AM on December 14, 2009

Check out Alan Bennett- The History Boys or The Madness of George III (known by its film version, The Madness of King George).

Also Peter Shaffer - Amadeus and the forever controversial Equus
posted by bookgirl18 at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2009

My book club did a reading of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and it was really quite funny and thought-provoking.
posted by radioamy at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2009

Fifty years gives you all of David Mamet (try American Buffalo), all of Sam Shepard (try True West), and all of Tracy Letts (August: Osage County; consider Bug, as well).

Individual plays: Arcadia, Noises Off, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Strangerer, if you can find a copy, and 4.48 Psychosis,, the Play That's Also a Psychotic Break.
posted by Iridic at 9:26 AM on December 14, 2009

(and nthing everything by Tom Stoppard. The Invention of Love, Arcadia, Rock n Roll, and of course R&G Are Dead. I think he is my favorite contemporary playwright.)
posted by bookgirl18 at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2009

Suzan-Lori Parks is essential.

Topdog/Underdog won the Pulitzer, but I'm partial to The America Play probably because I worked on a production of it recently. Really, any of her work.

This year's Pulitzer was awarded to Lynn Nottage for Runied, which I hear is fantastic. I've only read her early play, Intimate Apparel and recommend it very highly.
posted by LinnTate at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2009

Hard to add to this list! Nthing most everything. I will add some of my recent favorites:

, by Mary Zimmerman.
Take Me Out, by Richard Greenberg.
Defying Gravity, by Jane Anderson.
Our Lady of 121st Street, by Stephen Guirgis.
How I Learned to Drive, by Paula Vogel.
I Am My Own Wife, by Doug Wright.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:44 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and everything by Charles Mee.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:45 AM on December 14, 2009

Seconding Glengarry Glen Ross, infinitely re-readable.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:46 AM on December 14, 2009

The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter.
Betrayal by Harold Pinter.
Bug by Tracy Letts.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut.
Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer.
Endgame by Samuel Beckett.
Plenty by David Hare.
Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill.
A Lie of the Mind by Sam Shepard.
True West by Sam Shepard.
Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2009

Shopping and Fucking by Mark Ravenhill
posted by OmieWise at 10:09 AM on December 14, 2009

Master Harold . . . and the Boys"
posted by drlith at 10:11 AM on December 14, 2009

Oh, also, The Best Man by Gore Vidal.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2009

Abigail's Party
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2009

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2009

Most of what I'd recommend is listed above, so just for emphasis: Churchill, yes, try The Skriker. And yes to Sarah Kane and 448 Psychosis.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2009

The Fever by Wallace Shawn. So good.
posted by alpinist at 10:37 AM on December 14, 2009

Patrick Marber's "Closer"
Christopher Durang and David Ives might be a bit too "cutesy", not "serious", but have some clever concepts and wordplay.
posted by knile at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2009

nth-ing Sarah Kane's 4:48 Psychosis.
posted by somanyamys at 11:34 AM on December 14, 2009

The Shadow Box
posted by rmd1023 at 11:34 AM on December 14, 2009

I agree with most of the plays listed above, but would add any or all of Martin McDonagh's work for black comedy, along with David Hare's Stuff Happens and maybe Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon for your politics fix. 4.48 Psychosis is a very good play, but Sarah Kane's Blasted is um... challenging and scathing to say the very least. Give it a try. You might like Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss as well. Also- just to repeat for emphasis: read more Caryl Churchill. And don't beat yourself up too badly if you can't get in to Tom Stoppard.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2009

Steven Berkoff's verse plays: particularly West.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2009

+ Joe Orton's Loot
posted by James Scott-Brown at 12:26 PM on December 14, 2009

I love the list ocherdraco posted. (As a NU theater grad I loved scanning it and marking how much of it I'd read or seen.) The only thing I think is maybe missing from it is there's no mention of Dario Fo, who's been a major force in Italian theater since the 60s at least, and recently won the Nobel Prize.

The only other things not on that list would be just the very newest plays. Of which I think "August: Osage County" and "God of Carnage" are the names I hear most about.

I must also put in the word for a personal favorite, Mary Zimmerman's Metapmorphoses. It's a collection of myths and stories from Ovid, each presented in a unique and unusual way. The original production was performed surrounding a pool of water, and the ways it was used were always surprising and amazing. I'm told other productions have since been done without the water, though, and that the text holds up just as well.
posted by dnash at 12:39 PM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

A bit less mainstream than many of the other suggestions, two plays by Mickle Maher:

* An Apology For The Course And Outcome Of Certain Events Delivered By Doctor John Faustus On This His Final Evening

* The Hunchback Variations

Nicely collected together here.
posted by j-dawg at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2009

K2 requires its actors to learn mountain climbing techniques, and is apparently extremely physically demanding.

Plus, it's a great play.

I've heard the movie is terrible, though.
posted by Gorgik at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2009

I don't know if it's good. It was "initially censored due largely to the infamous 'stoning of a baby' scene."

Edward Bond's "Saved".
posted by Sully at 1:59 PM on December 14, 2009

Bond's "Saved" is indeed good, but will probably feel dated. Nottage's "Ruined" is good if not perfect, and Suzan-Lori Parks is indeed essential.

If you want to get a bit out of the Anglo-American axis, a couple of things that come to mind and are pretty available are Griselda Gombaro's "Information for Foreigners" (Argentina), and the plays of Gao Xingjian, a recent Nobel Lit winner with a very interesting sense of modernist style. While we're mentioning Nobel laureates, Elfriede Jelinek (Austria) is a total trip as a playwright and has been produced in the UK in translation.
posted by Mngo at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seek ye the plays of Christopher Durang.
posted by wittgenstein at 6:42 AM on December 15, 2009

Rhinoceros, The Lesson, and (as previously mentioned) The Bald Soprano by Ionesco. The first two in particular are both satirical and experimental, so they might be particularly up your alley.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:18 AM on December 15, 2009

Best answer: I also found
posted by beerbajay at 3:44 PM on December 15, 2009

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