Voting for this Book Club is now Closed.
We’re going to round out our 2017 book clubs with an adventure into the theatre: let’s read a play! There are many ways to experience dramatic literature, and reading it can be challenging. You might feel like you’re reading a set of instructions or the work may play out on the stage of your imagination. Regardless, a play can be a moving literary experience.
I’ve pulled together a few options, so give them a look over and decide which you’d like to read and discuss on December 13, 2017.
Set in the mountains of Connemara, County Galway, The Beauty Queen of Leenane tells the darkly comic tale of Maureen Folan, a plain and lonely woman in her early forties, and Mag her manipulative aging mother whose interference in Maureen’s first and potentially last loving relationship sets in motion a train of events that is as gothically funny as it is horrific. The Beauty Queen of Leenane was first presented as a Druid Theatre/Royal Court Theatre co-production in January 1996.
Shaw wrote the part of Eliza Doolittle – an east-end dona with an apron and three orange and red ostrich feathers – for Mrs Patrick Campbell, with whom he had a passionate but unconsummated affair. From the outset the play was a sensational success, although Shaw, irritated by its popularity at the expense of his artistic intentions, dismissed it as a potboiler. The Pygmalion of legend falls in love with his perfect female statue and persuades Venus to bring her to life so that he can marry her. But Shaw radically reworks Ovid’s tale to give it a feminist slant: while Higgins teaches Eliza to speak and act like a duchess, she also asserts her independence, adamantly refusing to be his creation.
The ultimate parody of the stage and literary convention of the country-house mystery. ‘It’s an object of pure, virtuoso craft and display, as luxuriously self-sufficient as a netsuke or Faberge Easter egg. But it’s as nearly perfect in its kind as a P.G. Wodehouse plot; tiny, ludicrous and beautiful as an ivory Mickey Mouse…It’s time we stopped dismissing comedy as an inferior genre.’ Observer
Winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A rain forest bar and brothel in the brutally war-torn Congo is the setting for Lynn Nottage’s extraordinary new play. The establishment’s shrewd matriarch, Mama Nadi, keeps peace between customers from both sides of the civil war, as government soldiers and rebel forces alike choose from her inventory of women, many already “ruined” by rape and torture when they were pressed into prostitution. Inspired by interviews she conducted in Africa with Congo refugees, Nottage has crafted an engrossing and uncommonly human story with humor and song served alongside its postcolonial and feminist politics in the rich theatrical tradition of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.
From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Theatre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama. The story revolves around two seemingly homeless men waiting for someone—or something—named Godot. Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree, inhabiting a drama spun of their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning. Beckett’s language pioneered an expressionistic minimalism that captured the existential post-World War II Europe. His play remains one of the most magical and beautiful allegories of our time.
A quick note: plays are often difficult to come by via library system, so please take availability and price point into consideration when voting (generally everything is available for $10 or under). Also, two plays are available for free online: Waiting for Godot and Pygmalion. If one of those should win, we’ll provide direct links to that option as well.
(P.S. Keep an eye out for our Cannon Fodder newsletter, we’ve got some questions for you about next year’s book clubs.)