The Designated Mourner - Acting Edition
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The Designated Mourner - Acting Edition

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  175 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Woven out of three monologues in what one reviewer called "a triple sonata of oppression and incomprehension" (The Sunday Times, London), Wallace Shawn's new play is a masterful drama about the self, politics, and the pursuit of aesthetic subtleties in brutal times. The three characters are the eponymous designated mourner, Jack; his wife, Judy; and Judy's erudite father,
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Paperback, 72 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Dramatists Play Service, Inc. (first published December 1st 1996)
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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...more
Nan
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.
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...more
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
Edward ONeill
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...more
Moorejohn
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."...more
J.M. Slowik
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...
Tran
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.
Andy
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.
Mommalibrarian
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

http://www.wnyc.org/articles/arts/200...
Pgregory
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.
Amber
At times the dialogue gets complicated but reading it then watching the mike nichols film version really helps to gain perspective.
Ben Morrison
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.
Albie
The Designated Mourner : A Play by Wallace Shawn (1997)
Erik
Fahrenheit 451 meets the upper west side.
Rhiannon
Absolutely, soul-destroyingly awful.
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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...
Essays The Fever My Dinner With André Aunt Dan and Lemon Grasses of a Thousand Colors

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