New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2008by Lawrence Harbison (Editor)
No one I think can disagree that the theatrical season 2007-2008 was one of the strongest in terms of new plays in recent memory. Amazingly, more than a handful escaped the critics' clutches, though some fine new plays deserved better than the drubbing they received. One thinks of Theresa Rebeck's Mauritius, Stephen Adly Guirgis's The Little Flower of East Orange, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's Good Boys and True-though none of these excellent plays would have made this book, as none are by new playwrights. Of the plays included herein, only one was produced outside New York. Usually, I try to include at least three plays produced by regional theaters. This year I read several, but I just couldn't get as worked up about them as I did the plays I selected. It was also a good year for comedy, lately generally unwelcome on our stages unless it's dark, satiric, and cynical. It is hard for me, usually, to find comedies worthy of inclusion in my new playwrights book. Not this year!
The Butcher of Baraboo, Election Day, and Spain are comedies. The first two plays were produced by Second Stage as part of their summer series. The Butcher of Baraboo is about a small-town woman whose husband has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and the town gossips suspect that she done it. Election Day is about a local mayoral election and examines with amusing dexterity why we vote the way we do. Spain was produced Off Broadway by MCC at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. It's about a young woman who believes that there's a sixteenth-century Spanish conquistador in her living room. Harvest is a touching drama about a farmer who refuses to give up his farm, even ashe is going under. He manages to hold onto his farm but not his wife, who didn't bargain for a life of poverty and struggle. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom is a drama about a group of teenagers in a suburban neighborhood obsessed with an online video game set in their community, who come to believe that they are being invaded by aliens from outer space-who look suspiciously like their parents. It was produced to acclaim by Actors Theatre of Louisville at their 2008 Humana Festival and subsequently at the 2008 Summer Play Festival in New York. 100 Saints You Should Know comes to us from Playwrights Horizons and is about a single mom looking for something to believe in and a Catholic priest who has decided to leave the church as he has lost his faith. Unconditional was produced by LAByrinth Theater Company at The Public Theater. Of its three disparate stories, the central one is about a human resources worker who becomes enraged when he is laid off after many years on the job and just a short while from retirement and the pension he was counting on.
All these plays represent the best of American playwriting. I hope you like them as much as I do, but more important, I hope you produce them!
Brooklyn, New York
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