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The Designated Mourner

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  233 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
"The play nicely combines Pinterian menace with caustic political commentary." -"Time"

"Acerbic, elusive, poetic and chilling, the writing is demanding in a rarefied manner. Its implications are both affecting and disturbing." -"Los Angeles Times"

"In his exquisitely written dramatic lament for the decline of high culture. . . . [Shawn] offers a definition of the self that s
ebook, 108 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Theatre Communications Group (first published December 1st 1996)
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Aug 17, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
I have been familiar with Wallace Shawn primarily as an actor, but impressed with my memories of My Dinner with Andre, I decided to read one of his plays. The Designated Mourner is a strange set of monologues mostly in a world which, at first, seems very much like our own, particularly in Manhattan.

Suddenly, we are made aware of violence at the edges of society, of people being killed on the street and in restaurants. There are changes in government. Two of the characters are imprisoned for fiv
"Greg Adkins"
When Wallace Shawn dies, his obituary will inevitably begin by citing his most famous roles -- in The Princess Bride, Clueless, and the "homunculus" in Woody Allen's Manhattan. Eventually, a few paragraphs in, it'll mention that he was also a playwright of some minor note. What a sad and strange fate awaits one of our best writers, to be immortalized in a million Facebook memes-in-waiting ("Inconceivable!"), while his true intellectual and artistic merit goes largely unremarked.

Not that it's a
Jan 15, 2017 Marlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this one, and having just read a great review about a film version of it will be looking for that.
Helen Haskin
My father reviewed The Designated Mourner many years ago for a journal and Wallace Shawn invited us to come see the play performed in New York this summer. Before going to the show decided I would like to read the play first, as my father had warned me this wasn't like seeing Shawn in the Princess Bride.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend reading this book if you are a sophomore in high school like myself, but I could see someone really liking it. I really thought Shawn wrapped the play up nicely in
Black Elephants
I saw this play years ago in a crypt in Dublin, which in hindsight, was a very fitting setting for it. The three actors sat on stools in a spotlight, or maybe it was three spotlights. They told their story to a small audience. It was definitely treated like a wake, a eulogy, which is what The Designated Mourner is all about.

I'm really glad I saw the play because the written version doesn't contain many stage directions. The live performances helped me understand how the monologues might interact
Edward O'Neill
Jun 27, 2011 Edward O'Neill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A man marries his professor's daughter. A change in political regime forces the triangle to choose sides. The man chooses safety.

On this simple framework but slippery moral terrain, Shawn builds a kind of chamber trio in three voices. If you have seen the David Hare film (based unashamedly on a London stage production), you know how magical this kind of spoken word performance can be.

This play carries on Shawn's unsettling reflection on intellectuals and revolution: when the revolution comes, t
Jack Cheng
Have to be honest: I didn't fully grasp this play. Perhaps a staging would help. Three characters tell intertwined (braided?) monologues about the political structure of their nation, and the intellectuals who are associated with an uprising of some sort. Thematically, I found connections with Aunt Dan and Lemon -- the transference of ideas from one person to another. Ultimately, Jack (who married Judy, the daughter of Howard, a celebrated writer) resents and distances himself from Howard and hi ...more
Experimental, intimidating metaphor for art and dissent in a totalitarian state spoken through dense but at times disarmingly telling observations on the banality and cruelty of everyday life. I'd never (ever!) want to sit through this play in live performance, but there is no denying the flashes of casual brilliance in the prose. "Maybe my problem was just always having been very unhappy - you know, unhappiness being a kind of cold sort of marshland in which other emotions just refuse to grow."
Jan 25, 2014 Nan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if a staging would help my dis-ease with the play. The braided monologues do little to make the piece come alive. Jack, Judy, and Howard live in fascistic world or a utopian world of their own making and unmaking. They are the educated elite, the artists, the rulers who invent the big house and move in. But the barbarians are always at the gate. Only Jack, a bit of a barbarian himself, survives. He survives. He remembers. And does it matter? I'm not sure I care.
Jul 17, 2015 J.M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama, borrowed
To its credit, this was interesting, in parts, cerebral and circular. A set of monologues for three actors, which I'd never really care to see performed. All the (to the audience) stuff. There are occasional flashes of brilliance, and I sympathize with many of the arguments made, but overall it felt kind of leaden.

Should I try My Dinner With Andre? Hmm...
Dec 27, 2007 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10
Along with Adorno's Minima Moralia, Brecht's poems, and Phil Ochs' last few albums, the work that cracked my little aesthete head open in relation to politics, political art, and the relation of interpersonal ethics to social conscience. Also amazing writing, brilliant in detail and large-scale form.
Jun 13, 2008 Tran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theatre
Ever wondered why you have so much liberal guilt, living in the lap of civilized luxury while the rest of the world goes pretty much to shit? Well, read this book and feel somewhat vindicated that civilized living has some high points as well. That's all I can remember about this play. I probably oughta reread it again.
Apr 27, 2015 Marie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
i am lost in trying to process what the meaning of the play or even the title conveys. one thing that struck me is how the author has an obsession with genitalia especially the male variety. yet i must admit i still have no idea of what i just read. all in all the only positive thing i can say on this book is the cover was aesthetically pleasing.
Leah Angstman
Really depressing and heavy. The monologues are cumbersome. The allegory is plentiful. But it's still a moving and important piece of theater. Not sure I could sit through a performance of it. It's a bit too straight-forward and preachy to make me want to wait it out.
Jun 10, 2012 Mommalibrarian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play
Pretentious people observed and discussed by Wallace Shawn and two other actors. Not fun like HA HA but interesting in a tickle your brain fashion. I am a big fan of My Dinner with Andre
Jan 16, 2009 Amber rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times the dialogue gets complicated but reading it then watching the mike nichols film version really helps to gain perspective.
Ben Morrison
Mar 26, 2007 Ben Morrison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. If you're too lazy to read, you can listen to it on the NPR website. No shame in that.
Jul 09, 2013 Pgregory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dug this out of the basement in light of current revival in NYC. Still unnerving, still Wally Shawn grappling with liberalism, wealth, and political turmoil.
Janet rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2012
Sarah Gioia
Sarah Gioia rated it it was amazing
Feb 08, 2016
Lizzie rated it it was amazing
Aug 19, 2012
Peter Cook
Peter Cook rated it it was amazing
Mar 12, 2012
Elizabeth rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2011
Angela Schuster
Angela Schuster rated it really liked it
Apr 27, 2011
A.J. rated it liked it
Jan 04, 2015
Gregory Knapp
Gregory Knapp rated it it was amazing
Jan 07, 2015
Bucky McMahon
Bucky McMahon rated it liked it
Jun 21, 2014
Matt rated it really liked it
Oct 20, 2009
Zoe Erwin-Longstaff
Zoe Erwin-Longstaff rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2013
Greer rated it it was amazing
Jan 07, 2017
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Wallace Shawn, sometimes credited as Wally Shawn, is an American actor and playwright. Regularly seen on film and television, where he is usually cast as a comic character actor, he has pursued a parallel career as a playwright whose work is often dark, politically charged and controversial. He is widely known for his high-pitched nasal voice and slight lisp.
More about Wallace Shawn...

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