English Touring Theatre recently made a call to people to tell them their favourite play. They intend to program a season based on the results of their crowdsourcing. The risks of doing this are many, but this post is not intended to discuss this specific endeavour. Filling out their brief poll made me think about what my all-time favourite plays were. And so I’ve compiled a “Top 10″ list. They’re in no particular order, but these are plays that have left their mark on me…
10. Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire
I love this play because of the world the playwright creates. It’s weird and zany but also dark and dangerous. It’s like a fun-house mirror image of reality. Hilarious and dark. Loves it.
9. The house of blue leaves by John Guare
John Guare at his comic/tragic best. He takes the American dream and smashes it into a million pieces and shows us the remains. It’s a very funny tragedy about what is essentially a plot to blow up the Pope when he visited New York City in the 1960’s. Hilarious.
8. Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo
The first act of this show is a very funny but pretty standard 30-something relationship play. Yawn. But this ends up being a great setup for the far superior Act II, which is insightful and moving. A tribute to the fallen women of old.
7. The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
One of the weirdest, darkest most unnerving plays I’ve ever seen. A modern classic. A valentine to storytelling in general and a very funny play about a serial killer of children. It’s a perfect, black comic gem.
5. Cock by Mike Bartlett
Another relationship play. But what a specimen. The ultimate bitch fight in which a man has to choose between another man and a woman. Smart, surprising, sparse and incredibly dramatic.
4. Loot by Joe Orton
Orton was a master of social criticism, wit and humour. I prefer this farce to the more polished “What the butler saw”. Orton has a knack for finding the hilarity in the darkest parts of human nature.
6. The beauty queen of Lenaane by Martin McDonagh
Small, vicious and sweet. This little play is expertly crafted, everything just fits together perfectly. What happens when you marry a savage sense of humour and a keen sense of human despair and desperation.
3. Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Another classic. Never has marital dysfunction been so entertaining. And what an ending, emotional devastation that is oddly hopeful.
2. M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang
This is one of the most bizarre plays that’s ever crossed my path. Its structure is odd and the protagonist is a selfish jerk. Yet it’s an unforgettable experience. A fascinating play of ideas that pits East against West, taking the classic opera Madame Butterfly and turning it on its head.
1. Six degrees of separation by John Guare
I first saw the excellent film adaptation and then read the play itself. What a ride. Social criticism, comedy, tragedy, homeless con artists and the upper middle classes. And it supposedly originated from a real-life story. A wildly entertaining piece of work. This is the one I submitted as my all-time favourite.
OK, yes the list was somewhat in order of adoration. Sue me…by