The Play's the Thing

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The Play's the Thing

Comedy Tonight--and tomorrow night too!

The District of Columbia has a rich and varied theater scene, and the District of Columbia Public Library has a terrific collection of scripts and plays from many different times and cultures to match it.  I've included some of my favorite comedies from the 20th and 21st century below. They're as much fun to read as they are to watch.

You Can’t Take It with You—George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
The Sycamore family is creative, funny, loving, weird, and eclectic.  The Kirby family is uptight, straitlaced, proper, and snobby—oh, and they’re rich too.  When Alice, the younger Sycamore daughter, falls in love with Tony Kirby, son of the president of Kirby Industries, Tony snags an invitation for his family to a dinner at the Sycamore’s home so that the two families have an opportunity to get to know each other.  It should be a pleasant, low key evening.  What could possibly go awry?

A Little Night Music—Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim
Sometimes called the “Send in the Clowns Musical,” this play is about aging actress Desiree  Armfeldt and her onetime lover, attorney Fredrik Egerman.  Based on Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night, the action transpires over one night at the Swedish country estate of one of Fredrik’s clients, the father of Anne, an 18-year-old girl whom Fredrik has married.  Fredrik’s university student son, Henrik, finds himself drawn to Anne.  Another of Desiree’s lovers, Carl-Magnus and his wife Charlotte are also visiting the estate.   After many amusing twists and turns, Desiree and Fredrik realize they are really in love and are reunited.

The Matchmaker—Thornton Wilder
Widowed Dolly Gallagher Levi has her eye on Horace Vandergelder, the “half a millionaire” merchant of Yonkers.  Although her intent is to personally marry Vandergelder, she tells him she intends to introduce him to her friend, Irene Malloy, a widowed milliner.  When Vandergelder leaves Yonkers to meet Irene in New York, his clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, decide to seek adventure of their own, close Vandergelder’s store and head to New York.  A dinner at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant turns into a farcical romp.  But eventually, Cornelius and Irene, and Horace and Dolly are engaged to be married.  

Born Yesterday--Garson Kanin
Billie Dawn, a highly intelligent but uneducated young woman, falls under the influence of racketeer Harry Brock, who has made a fortune in the scrap metal and trash business.  Arriving in Washington on a lobbying trip, Brock realizes that Billie will likely become an embarrassment as he tries to wheel and deal his way through Congress.  He retains the services of Paul Vernall, an idealistic journalist and writer, to serve as a private tutor to Billie.  But Brock gets more than he bargains for as Billie begins to blossom under Paul’s attention.  As Billie’s confidence and intellect expand, she comes to realize that she is Brock’s intellectual and moral superior, and she leaves him for Paul.

August: Osage County--Tracy Letts
Your family may be dysfunctional, but it’s doubtful that it’s as dysfunctional as the Weston clan.  When family patriarch Beverly Weston dies, a possible suicide, his pill popping wife, Violet, attempts to maintain stability.  Beverly and Violet’s three daughters have issues of their own.  The oldest, Barbara is married with a husband and precocious teenage daughter, Jean.  Second born daughter, Ivy, intends to marry “Little” Charles, her cousin.  Everyone agrees it’s strange that “Little” Charles bears a much stronger resemblance to Beverly than his Dad.  Last born daughter, Karen, is engaged to pot smoking Steve Heidebrecht, who seems to have developed an inappropriate level of  interest in Jean.  With extraordinarily smart dialog and nonstop gallows humor, watching a family self-destruct has never been more fun.