Given I may be about to collaborate on the play (dealing with the contract stuff presently) of A Son Called Gabriel, I've been doing some preparatory work and am thus understandably obsessed with all things theatre currently. So, last Sunday I went to up to Princeton to see the final matinee of Miss Witherspoon by Christopher Durang. Full disclosure here: Mr. Durang is a neighbor and I do know him.
Durang's play is billed as a comedy fantasy and described thus:
"The show's title character is a persnickety woman forced to reincarnate against her better judgment. Miss Witherspoon's previous lives - whose highlights include a ringside seat at the Salem witch trials and an exasperating tendency to run into Rex Harrison - were no picnic, so it's no wonder she's dragging her feet. The 21st century, after all, isn't going too well so far. With a motley cast of characters that include appearances by Jesus and Gandalf, Miss Witherspoon is a fractured fable for our time."
Scenes play out in the place souls go to when they're awaiting reincarnation --represented by azure sky, fleecy clouds and ornate glowing Indian lights because her guide in the afterlife is an Indian deity replete with colorful sari--and on earth. Sound effects such as something akin to the tumultuous whine of jet engines or perhaps a rocket bound for space during the unsuccessful reincarnation sequences were superb, though the scenery was a trifle minimalist for my taste on occasions. Though wary of works tending toward the crackpot and/or whimsical, I found the play entertaining without having to belly laugh (unlike some members of the audience in attendance) and thought it well written and executed. At the core of the play is the theme of religion, though unlike his Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You where a Catholic education is held up for scrutiny, Durang refers to Christianity and at one point concludes God has more than one face.
(The play will begin a run at the Playwrights Horizons theater in NYC in November.)
Still consumed with preparations for writing my first play, I popped into the Drama Bookstore on W40th Street and purchased copies of the adaptations of The Cider House Rules Parts I and II, Michael Cunningham's adaptation of Flesh and Blood , and, since he won the Nobel Prize last week, the complete works of Harold Pinter 1971-81. Pinter is a dramatist I can relate to; his work is clean, understandable, relevant and breathtakingly brilliant.
I've now gone through my novel and broken it down into 68 scenes. From some of these scenes will emerge the play and, as the writing progresses, I'll post little excerpts so you can get an idea of how the thing's going. All very exciting, though daunting too, of course, because of the looming decisions about what to include and more importantly what to exclude. In effect, one is trying to distill a 341 page novel into around 100 pages of story and dialogue.
[technorati: Princeton, Miss Witherspoon, Harold Pinter, Christopher Durang]