Recommended by Catherine Haigney

  • Out of the Bookstore
    4 Sep. 2019
    Gordon’s characters have eccentricities that make one sit up and take notice. This murder mystery uses comic and poetic conventions to amuse and provoke thought for all kinds of audiences, maybe especially dinner theater, retirement community, or church groups. The main characters are sharp women who speak to each other with wit and insight, even as they bump up against their own flaws. Gordon captures the sound of real people talking, however odd or stressed they may be, as they discover surprising things about each other.
    27 Aug. 2019
    A brilliantly conceived deconstruction of scientific Time: two “Femme” scientists break through the fourth wall and discover dramatic “time” renders bizarrely unpredictable measurements. Cross uses oblique references to Shakespeare and Marlowe with agile wit, rendering the solemnity of her two characters all the more absurd and yet poignant: their observations suggest Time can be “out of joint” for anyone, no matter how rational or seemingly detached. I love the way this play gets the audience involved in its project.
  • /ärt/
    26 Aug. 2019
    Those who enjoy Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” will find Martin’s language and exuberant conflicts delightful. In this witty send-up of a third-grade art competition, a larger art world is satirized: the jargon of critics, their pretension, and especially competition itself. The children caught in the middle of this fierce battle of judges end up showing us how true art might flourish, but their adult “teachers” can’t learn anything from them.
  • One Step Forward
    19 Aug. 2019
    That crucial one step forward might be calling on Grace, or it might be Dolores herself choosing to “step forward” towards recovery. Dolores (her name means “sorrow”) is the only one who hears Grace’s voice on the other end of a phone line, keeping the audience in suspense about what kind of voice responds to her confiding. Whose “grace” is it? How is Dolores finally able to detach from the grip of alcohol and the pain of abandonment? Gordon’s subtle short play has her characteristic humanity and down-to-earth honesty.
    13 Aug. 2019
    “The Platypodes” makes political pronouncements look hollow by fleshing out the heart-breaking predicament of a woman whose devotion to her brother has drained her of any capacity to care for the baby she’s expecting. The criminalization of choice and incomprehension of zealots make Down’s Syndrome a public issue at odds with her own experience, a tragic isolation Wyndham conveys with sympathy and wit. The play’s dramatic inventiveness resists every platitude risked by its daring plot.
  • A Strange Love
    7 Aug. 2019
    “Strange Love” offers a compact, even compressed, story arc of a man’s addiction as seen through the eyes of the woman who may, or may not, love him. As the crisis unfolds in shock and confrontation, another kind of love surfaces, involving the small gestures or insights of family and friends. It’s not clear what helps and how, but Gordon is holding up a mirror for complicated problems, provoking thought.
  • Kingdom (a play about Snow White and climate change)
    5 Aug. 2019
    Barnett’s imagination has a wild edge. The poetic power of her language conveys by way of incantation, tersely witty dialogue, and a mythical grasp of natural imagery (the Waterfall speaks truth to power, also to a blind girl). She twists strands of Norse myth and Snow White’s possible “ever after” into a daring and marvelous play — I would love to see an anime version of it.
  • Will Somebody Give Me a Sandwich
    4 Aug. 2019
    A wrenching three minutes of dialogue uncovers how far from understanding or coping the ladies of an urban church are when a homeless man steals from them. His sister advocates, recalling memories that help recover a precarious sense of compassion for herself, others, and us.
  • Longing
    3 Aug. 2019
    This play offers juicy roles for young actors and a vivid version of the sixties that looks all too familiar today: college students worried about money, grade-driven, and dreading the future. Gordon’s small-town protagonist falls prey to abusers who exploit her loneliness and passivity. The efforts of a Christian roommate to rescue her cast light on a toxic upbringing at the root of vulnerability.
  • The Men Who Couldn't Save Her
    16 Jul. 2019
    Donna Gordon’s “The Men Who Couldn’t Save Her” gently unfolds the irony of a historical woman’s execution, giving her character something like the poignant self-expression Euripides gave his Polyxena and Iphigenia. Anne Boleyn remembers the poet Thomas Wyatt and her husband-king’s fatal wooing: she’s awaiting execution knowing they both elevated and erased her (Wyatt can’t name her in his poetry; Henry desires her death), yet somehow she rises above bitterness. Gordon avoids the usual depiction of a doomed seductress: Anne’s intelligence and integrity persist even on Death Row for sonless wives.