Ace plays for table readings
February 13, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Week-long cottage holiday with friends coming up. We're planning a table reading. Last year's "Macbeth and margaritas" night was a roaring success, but we want to branch out. Recommend us some great plays!

Further specs:

There will be 8-10 of us, slightly more women than men.

Literariness, high drama and trashiness/camp are enjoyed. (Many of us are Game of Thrones fans.)

One of us is a gifted improviser of sound effects.

Plays that have drinking game potential are especially welcome.

BONUS POINTS for plays we can obtain in iPad/laptop format.
posted by stuck on an island to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
* pulls up chair and sits down *

Hi, I'm a literary manager and I've actually written a one-act play.

* The play I wrote was based on an Edith Wharton short story; it has a cast of 7-8 women, is short, is very witty (thanks to Edith) and is available for download (for a small fee) at Indie Theater Now. Actually, you can find a whole crap-ton of indie plays on that site; all the plays are in e-reader format and you can by them for like $1.29 apiece or something, so if you wanna browse while you're there you'd also be making a lot of up-and-coming playwrights really happy.

* Failing that - I used to work with a company that focused on older American plays (one advantage for these is that you may be able to find a lot of these online). Some of the ones that we've done would fit the bill nicely - track down some of the one-acts Eugene O'Neill did before he got big (one called "The Abortion" is campy as all hell). There's also something by William De Mille called "The Woman", that was about a congressional sex scandal; De Mille's grandson tipped us off to a play he liked from the same period called "The Melting Pot" that we did later on (that was an immigrant story - think like "The Jazz Singer" meets "Fiddler On The Roof") and a play about a naive actress and a sugar daddy called "The Easiest Way" by Eugene Walter. Anything by the playwright David Belasco would also do.

* For comedies, there was a broad comedy from 1895 we also once found called "What Happened To Jones?" that's got kinda corny dialogue but a wonderfully rollicking plot worthy of the Marx Brothers, and another comedy, Mrs. Bumpstead-Leigh, starts out sounding like Downton Abbey until someone finally leaves Mrs. B.-L. alone and you realize she's a con artist from Arkansas. "It Pays To Advertise" was another screwball comedy about a guy trying to start a soap company to rival his father's soap company, but ends up just buying up his dad's stock cheap and re-selling it with better marketing.

Lemme know if you want anything more specific and I'll keep thinking.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2013

(Oh, duh - didn't link to my own play directly for fear it was a self-link, but let me know if you're interested and I'll memail you details.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on February 13, 2013

Oh, last one - Shel Silverstein's poem The Devil and Billy Markham was staged as a one-act play alongside another one-act by David Mamet in the 80's. I never saw it, but heard it as a table reading when I was with another company and we had a "let's read through some plays and decide what we're going to do next" meeting. This is ostensibly a one-man show, but we ended up with three guys taking turns at the reading and the guys reading it and the rest of us watching had a god-damn blast.

The link is indeed the entire poem (there are abridged versions floating around online, so I wanted to check).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 AM on February 13, 2013

Depending on how you feel about singing, there's The Rocky Horror Show.
posted by mkultra at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013

The Book of Liz, Amy & David Sedaris. Literary...not so much. It centers on a sweaty, introverted, but profoundly gifted cheese ball maker. Delightfully campy and high drama. Lots of drinking game potential.

Mystery of Irma Vep, Charles Ludlam. Hilariously over-the-top gothic melodrama about an English country house with a werewolf, a vampire, and an Egyptian princess on the loose. Play was originally performed by 2 actors, but lots of roles to share around. Your special effects person will be in heaven.
posted by apparently at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aw, brings me back to Play & Wine nights in university. "The Importance of Being Earnest" was always a big hit, as were a few dialogue-heavy screenplays we tried ("Clerks" for example).
posted by saturday_morning at 9:15 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding "The Importance of Being Earnest", it's a riot to read with friends!
posted by TheTorns at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not a play, but if people would be up for taking turns reading an epic poem, the Simon Armitage translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is pretty awesome — very much meant to be read aloud. (My husband, snarking as we read it to each other: "And then Sir G sez, 'Fuck yeah, we drink & swear fucked-up wagers at Camelot all the time! I like how you roll, Bertilak!'")
posted by Lexica at 8:30 PM on February 13, 2013

My boyfriend and I read The Rover by Aphra Behn last week. It was the first time we did anything like this and it was an absolute blast. I did all the women's roles and he did all the men.

But yeah, The Importance of Being Earnest would be great too, or any other Wilde play.
posted by Skyanth at 2:37 AM on February 14, 2013

posted by kamikazegopher at 9:17 AM on February 14, 2013

I have always wanted to do a group reading of Picasso at the Lapin Agile. [First few pages in PDF.] Picasso and Einstein encounter each other in a French cafe in 1904. Wisecracks and magical realism ensue.

(You probably want something non-Shakespeare after Macbeth last year, but I once did a reading of King Lear at my house with a bunch of friends and it was quite an experience. That shit is emotionally scarifying, yo. We had Vietnamese takeout, a giant squashy chocolate cake that I had made for the occasion, and Elizabethan music from a laptop. Also, everybody fights over who gets to do Edmund's best evil speeches.)
posted by ostro at 12:02 AM on February 15, 2013

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