There was a blurb about this play in the back of "PIGmalion," which is how I even knew it existed in the first place. The premise -- a neighborhood is...moreThere was a blurb about this play in the back of "PIGmalion," which is how I even knew it existed in the first place. The premise -- a neighborhood is sloppily corralled and haphazardly quarantined across seven houses in the wake of an alien visitation's viral leavings (yes, really) -- intrigued me to the point of running to Amazon to hunt down a copy of the script.
Mark Dunn expertly populates his plays and novels with quirky, sympathetically flawed and often well-meaning characters. He's also got a mighty fine knack for writing communities, too, which seems to stem from a genuine understanding of how people interact with and affect each other. I was initially going to say that I love how he writes women but it's really that he knows how to write people. The dialogue is never forced, the emotions always translate as genuine.
The play's two acts examine relationships of all kinds and in all sorts of stages: young friendships, old friendships, blossoming romances, longtime crushes, crumbling marriages, newly discovered families, siblings' bonds, parents' concerns, a daughter's unspoken paternal insights. Dunn plays the specific goings-on of each pair or trio against each other, using the concerns or realizations of one to implicitly intensify another.
There's a warm heart beating at the core of this play, which, like pretty much everything else of Dunn's I've ever read and loved, made me hope that life after the last page worked out well for each of the 15 characters.(less)
An utterly charming and warmly human variation on "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady," with loads of references to both.
Dunn's creative liberties successfu...moreAn utterly charming and warmly human variation on "Pygmalion" and "My Fair Lady," with loads of references to both.
Dunn's creative liberties successfully reimagine the English flower girl as a pig farmer's daughter in the modern-day American South. This play is populated by a small but specific cast who are acting quite differently from their previous incarnations, if they were originally there at all -- I don't recall Eliza having a trannie pal before, which is a shame because Tiffany Box is both a hoot and a delight.
Prof. Higgins wasn't a blustery old sot in this (except through Higgins's remembrances of arguments past), which I loved because he's one of my favorite theatrical characters ever and I want him to be less cranky. The conflict, instead, arises from Freddy's unpleasant sister, Eliza's own floundering sense of self worth, and the question of when does self-improvement stop being a few helpful tweaks and start compromising an individual's endearing idiosyncrasies.
Thanks, Mark Dunn, for making insomnia suck a little less. You're one of my favorites for a reason.(less)
I've neither studied nor seen this play before picking up a copy at my favorite used-book store, but I have heard and read references to it so many ti...moreI've neither studied nor seen this play before picking up a copy at my favorite used-book store, but I have heard and read references to it so many times that I had a pretty solid idea of where the plot was going before I even digested the first page. The third act might not have been much of a surprise, but it sure let me appreciate the writing itself because I could pretty much tell how everything fit together.
The honesty and humanity of "Our Town" are its strongest assets: The characters and their stories are so universal that one doesn't need to have lived in turn-of-the-century small-town New England to relate to any of it. For someone who errs on the side of embracing the bigger picture instead of getting all caught up in the little things, spending some time with this play was a welcome reminder of all the beauty found in daily life's smallest moments, which is what gave this play so much heart. (less)
I read this for "No Exit" and, since it only comprised the first 40-some pages of the collection, felt obligated to try the other three plays that mad...moreI read this for "No Exit" and, since it only comprised the first 40-some pages of the collection, felt obligated to try the other three plays that made up the bulk of what I paid for. "No Exit" was pretty damn good, though I'm pissed that someone beat me to publicizing the sentiment that hell is other people simply by virtue of existing before I did.
"The Flies" and "Dirty Hands" were engaging enough but it wasn't until "The Respectful Prostitute" that I felt like this was a four-star effort. It stings to be faced with the knowledge that American racism in the '40s was so prevalent that a French playwright was able to emulate it to such heartbreakingly believable results.(less)
This has been the year of retooled Shakespeare, which is pretty wonderful. If "Fool" satisfied my love of well-done satire, this play delivered everyt...moreThis has been the year of retooled Shakespeare, which is pretty wonderful. If "Fool" satisfied my love of well-done satire, this play delivered everything I love about word play and the absurd.(less)
One of my biggest complaints about the way history is taught is that it doesn't leave much room for the human aspect of monumental goings-on of the pa...moreOne of my biggest complaints about the way history is taught is that it doesn't leave much room for the human aspect of monumental goings-on of the past. Leave it to T.S. Eliot to rectify that problem.
Using a Greek theatrical method as the vehicle for an American emigrant's retelling of 12th-century English martyrdom satisfied so many of my geekier interests. As did Eliot's breathtaking way with words. (less)
Between "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Farnsworth Invention," Aaron Sorkin has more than made up for the regrettable experience that was "Studio 60."...moreBetween "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Farnsworth Invention," Aaron Sorkin has more than made up for the regrettable experience that was "Studio 60." And I'll admit, even my utter devotion to all things Sorkinese had me wondering just how interesting my all-time favorite writer could make the advent of television. Rest assured, the script is abso-freaking-lutely fascinating, human and dripping with opportunities to showcase the best of what Sorkin's writing has to offer. I simply loved reading this play and am so bummed out that I never got to see this on Broadway.(less)
Wow, this was a surprising little treat. Having read two of Mark Dunn's novels ("Ella Minnow Pea" -- which is one of my all-time favourite pieces of p...moreWow, this was a surprising little treat. Having read two of Mark Dunn's novels ("Ella Minnow Pea" -- which is one of my all-time favourite pieces of prose ever -- and "Ibid") and enjoying them thoroughly, I bought this play on a whim. And I'm quite glad I did.
First of all, Mr. Dunn is pretty great at writing female characters. His writing is precise, creatively layered and almost flowery, which makes for a literary environment conducive to the masterful show-don't-tell development of three-dimensional and amusingly engaging female protagonists. He also has a way of glossing over the less-appealing foibles peculiar to women (because, come on gals, you know we're all a little imperfect in all the same ways) and, instead, infusing his leading ladies with a very palpable kindness and wryly intellectual humour. This isn't to say they're entirely without fault -- the six sisters wouldn't be believable characters if that were the case -- but their individual shortcomings and familial squabbles are highlighted just enough to help the plot move along while contributing to the subtle exposure of a backstory.
Secondly, Dunn's a writers' writer. His command of the English language is nothing short of intimidating, and he knows how to paint a beautiful, vivid image with his arsenal of ten-dollar words and awesomefabulous metaphors.
Yep. Mark Dunn's just as solid of a playwright as he is a novelist -- that is to say, a really, really great modern writer whose works should be required reading for humanity. (less)