20TH CENTURY DRAMA: ESSENTIAL READING LIST
- Buried Child - Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a young man who brings his girlfriend home to the squalid farmhouse of his hard-drinking grandparents, who seem to have no idea who he is.
- Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - Tom Stoppard weaves this fabulously absurd tale of Hamlet as told from the worm's-eye view of the bewildered Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Shakespeare's play.
- Accidental Death Of Anarchist - Dario Fo's sharp and hilarious satire on police corruption, concerning the case of an anarchist railway worker who falls to his death from a police headquaters window.
- Death of A Salesman - Arthur Miller's classic tale of Willy Loman, an all-American dreamer who can't accept the failure that is his life.
- He Who Gets Slapped - Leonid Andreyev's best-known play tells the story of a famous writer who takes a job as a circus clown in order to escape his past. In this carnival of human outcasts, Andreyev fashions a meaningful portrait of an intellectual's struggle to exist in a world ruled by Fate, Chance, and the almighty dollar.
- Man and Superman - A powerful drama of ideas in which George Bernard Shaw explores the role of the artist, the function of women in society and his theory of Creative Evolution.
- Ten 10-Minute Plays - An exciting and diverse collection of 10-minute plays--a new sub-genre of the one-act play that came into its own near the end of the 20th century.
- The Balcony - Influenced by the Theater of Cruelty, this play by Jean Genet is set inside the Grand Balcony bordello, a brothel and repository of illusion in a contemporary European city aflame with revolution. After the city's royal palace and rulers are destroyed, the bordello's costumed patrons impersonate the leaders of the city. As the masqueraders warm to their roles, they convince even the revolutionaries that the illusion created in the bordello is preferable to reality.
- Rhinoceros - Demonstrates Ionesco's anxiety about the spread of inhuman totalitarian tendencies in society as the entire population of a small, provincial French town turn into savage pachyderms.
- Waiting for Godot - Samuel Beckett's classic tragicomedy is known for its lack of plot--"Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" Two old tramps beneath a single tree make jokes to pass the time and reflect on the state of human existence while they wait for Godot--who never comes. A classic play of the absurd.
- The Dumb Waiter - Reminiscent of Waiting for Godot, this play by Harold Pinter concerns two hired killers waiting around for their next assignment.
- The Other Shore - This collection of plays by Nobel Prize-winning Chinese playwright Gao Xingjian illuminates the realities of life, death, sex, loneliness, and exile with original imagery and beautiful language.
- Son of an Engineer - David Greenspan's witty and slightly crazed play in which a young man returns "home" to discover that his parents have been replaced by Tom (a large bear), his wife Phoebe, and their almost invisible daughter Diane.
- Marisol and Other Plays - A collection of plays by José Rivera filled with surrealism, magic, and poetry.
- Three Plays of the Absurd - In this collection of plays, Walter Wykes creates a series of modern myths, tapping into something in the strata of the subconscious, through ritualism and rich, poetic language. The worlds he creates are brand new and hilarious, yet each contains an ancient horror we all know and cannot escape and have never been able to hang one definitive word on.
- The Skriker - A variation of the folktale about the malevolent, magical being that tries to trick a young woman out of her firstborn, this play by Caryl Churchill is rich, beautiful, and moving, though it may frustrate those who like their theatre plain and simple.
- The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui - In this satire of Hitler's Nazi Germany, Bertolt Brecht chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui, a fictional Chicago mobster, and his attempts to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition.
- Through the Leaves and Other Plays - A collection of plays by German dramatist Franz Xaver Kroetz whose characters are so rigidly confined by circumstance, by character, by the very language they speak, that violence seems the only natural outcome.
- The Homecoming - Pinter's tale of a man who takes his wife on a visit to his childhood home where she becomes entangled in the family's dysfunctional past.
- The Marriage - Witold Gombrowicz gives expression to the shattered consciousness of postwar European culture in this highly innovative, avant-garde treatment of the nature of personal identity in a world where grimaces have replaced faces and reality itself is accessible only in infinitely reflexive, theatrical posturing.
- Long Day's Journey into Night - Eugene O'Neill's thinly disguised autobiographical account of his dysfunctional family. A brilliant play.
- Pterodactyls - Nicky Silver's absurdist black comedy about the demise of the Duncan family, and, by extension, the species.
- Lost in Yonkers - Neil Simon's 1991 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play about two young boys who are forced to live for a year with their domineering, ill-tempered grandmother while their father takes a job in another state. An insightful drama about one woman's drive and its emotional toll on her family.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - Edward Albee's dazzling work of dark comedy which presents perhaps the most memorable of married couples--George and Martha--in a searing night of dangerous fun and games with a pawnlike other couple who innocently become their weapons in the savaging of each other and of their life together.
- Angels in America - Tony Kushner's breathtaking play (in two parts) mixes magical realism with political speeches, high comedy with painful tragedy, and stitches it all together with a daring sense of irony and a moral vision ... beneath lies a meditation on what it means to live and die--of AIDS, or anything else--in a society that cares less and less about human life and basic decency.
- Glengarry Glen Ross - David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play about four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to do just about anything to unload undesirable real estate on prospective buyers.