The theater has been created to drain abscesses collectively.
Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) French poet, actor, theater director
The name Christopher Durang is well-known to The Theater Project’s patrons. His Obie awarded play Betty’s Summer Vacation, staged here in 2004, was proclaimed a “hilariously deranged production.” Previously, The Theater Project successfully presented many of Durang’s satires including The Actor’s Nightmare; For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls; Desire, Desire, Desire and Beyond Therapy.
In the mid-70s, Durang electrified the theatrical world with his first professional production, The Idiots Karamazov, a musical comedy travesty based on Dostoevsky’s novel. Since then, the playwright’s iconoclastic approach to so-called sacred themes (religion, for instance), controversial subjects (politics), troubling issues (families in crisis) has been acknowledged as his distinctive gift.
“A disappointed idealist,” as he describes himself, Durang sees society as a victim of selfish interests, outworn clichés, and dysfunctional families. His feeling for what “is rotten in the state of Denmark” is astute, and his commentaries on the burning topics of the day are relentlessly sarcastic. To reveal the bitter truths about life, the playwright creates grotesque situations -- sometimes absurd, sometimes nightmarish, but invariably provoking laughter and thought. But, who are we laughing at?
For three decades, Christopher Durang’s work has continued to be a challenge both for theaters to present, and for flabbergasted theatergoers to admit that the plays are all about them as well. Of course, we don’t have guns or knives in our pockets (not everyone, at least!), but torture can assume various forms -- the spiritual wounds we sometimes inflict deliberately or unintentionally are painful, too.
Durang’s plays, including Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, have many levels of perception and understanding. Even though the politics triggering the plot may have changed, the play contains ethical situations to consider such as families in which no one wants to listen, hear, or understand.
Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them premiered in 2009 with great success Durang’s other plays include A History of the American Film, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You (Obie award), Baby With the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo (Obie award, Dramatist Guild Hull Warriner Award, and the Obie award to Best Ensemble Cast, which included Mr. Durang as a performer), Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, and the musical Adrift in Macao, with music by Peter Melnick and book and lyrics by Durang.
Over the years Durang has won many prestigious awards, including the Sidney Kingsley Playwriting Award in 2000, and an award in literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. Mr. Durang is a member of the Dramatist Guild Council. Since 1994 he and Marsha Norman have co-directed the Playwriting Program at the Juilliard School in Manhattan.
In his unconventional plays about the negative and positive aspects of human beings, Christopher Durang is not completely pessimistic. Mr. Durang always leaves room for the hope that the current state of affairs can change for the better, if only we can change ourselves.
Zoya Bromberg has served as dramaturg for The Theater Project since its inception in 1994. She also researched, scripted and narrated Theater Project's "staged documentaries" on Russian literature, presenting excerpts from the work of Chekhov, Bulgakov, and Meyerhold.