The Balancing Act

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Could there be one thing that holds the world together: amidst all the chaos, of war, poverty, illness and ecological breakdown, could one spot anchor it all?

Viv thinks so, and cowers beneath the floorboards of a soon-to-be-demolished tower block to protect the notion. Nelson tries to convince her otherwise, but fails, then lives his life in penance. The demolition expert who demolished the tower block (and unwittingly killed Viv) believes it, and wittingly kills his wife to protect the notion too.

The Balancing Act, is a hilarious and unsettling black comedy that shows what happens when people let the world be run by superstition, obsession and confusion.

Born in the Gardens

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Not much has changed in the days since Maud’s husband, Victor, died, except for the addition of the casket in the music room. She and her son Maurice are still pottering around the house, watching television and enjoying their eccentric hobbies.

Everything becomes much less comfortable, however, when her other children arrive for the funeral. Quirky, dark, and hilarious, Born in the Gardens combines a commentary on Thatcherite politics with an examination of a family in transition.

Born in the Gardens was written by Peter Nichols for the bicentennial anniversary of the Theatre Royal, now the Bristol Old Vic, in 1979, and then transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. After a television adaptation in 1986, it was revived by the Peter Hall Company in 2008.

audio The Brothers Karamazov

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Dostoyevsky’s titanic masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov is here adapted into a spellbinding full-cast drama by playwright David Fishelson.

The passionate Karamazov brothers spring to life, led by their rogue of a father, who entertains himself by drinking, womanizing, and pitting his three sons against each other. The men have plenty to fight over, including the alluring Grushenka.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring John de Lancie, Sharon Gless, Arye Gross, Harry Hamlin, Kaitlin Hopkins, Joseph Mascolo, Richard Hoyt Miller, John Randolph, John Rubinstein, Tom Virtue, Ping Wu

Featuring: Brothers: John de Lancie, Sharon Gless, Arye Gross, Harry Hamlin, Kaitlin Hopkins, Joseph Mascolo, Richard Hoyt Miller, John Randolph, John Rubinstein, Tom Virtue, Ping Wu Idiot: Edward Asner, Kate Asner, Angela Bettis, Arye Gross, John Kapelos, Robert Machray, Jon Matthews, Johanna McKay, Paul Mercier, Laurel Moglen, Michael Rivkin, Peggy Roeder, Douglas Weston

audio The Cherry Orchard

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Chekhov’s masterful last play, The Cherry Orchard, is a work of timeless, bittersweet beauty about the fading fortunes of an aristocratic Russian family and their struggle to maintain their status in a changing world. Alternately touching and farcical, this subtle, intelligent play stars the incomparable Marsha Mason. Translated and adapted by Frank Dwyer and Nicholas Saunders.

Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Directed by Rosalind Ayres
Producing Director: Susan Albert Loewenberg
Marsha Mason as Madame Lyubov Andreyevna Ranyevskaya
Hector Elizondo as Leonid Andreyevich Gayev
Michael Cristofer as Yermolay Alekseyevich Lopakhin
Jennifer Tilly as Dunyasha (Avdotya Fyodorovna)
Joey Slotnick as Semyon Panteleyevich Yepikhodov
Christy Keefe as Anya Ranyevskaya
Amy Pletz as Varya Ranyevskaya
Jordan Baker as Charlotta Ivanovna
Jeffrey Jones as Boris Borisovich Semyonov-Pischick
Charles Durning as Feers
Tim DeKay as Pyotr Sergeyevich Trofimov
John Chardiet as Passer-By

Sound Effects Artist/Stage Manager: Jane Slater
Assistant Stage Manager: Cary Thompson
Radio Producer: Raymond Guarna
Associate Producer: Susan Raab

The Cherry Orchard (adapt. Murphy)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

In Chekhov’s tragicomedy of inertia and loss – perhaps his most popular play – an aristocratic family cling to their sheltered lives in a picturesque estate while the forces of social change beat on the walls outside.

Completely bankrupt, Lyubov Ranyevskaya returns with her daughter Anya from Paris to her childhood home, to the beautiful cherry orchard outside the house and to her grief. The estate is paralysed by debt, but she and her billiard-playing brother refuse to save their finances by having the vast orchard cut down to build holiday cottages. Hopelessly paralysed, incapable of decisive action, they put the estate up for auction, and find their world is brought crashing down by powerful forces rooted deep in history and in the society around them

Chekhov maintained that the play was a cheerful and frivolous comedy, but audiences have found its tragedy irresistible. The comedy is poignant; the tone is ambiguous, both farcical and piercing. While remaining faithful to the original, Tom Murphy’s adaptation reimagines the events of this classic play in a language that resonates with wit, clarity and verve. It was first performed in 2004 at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

video The Cherry Orchard (NT)

National Theatre
Type: Video

Age recommendation: 12+

Recorded through National Theatre Live on 30th June, 2011.

Ranyevskaya returns more or less bankrupt after ten years abroad. Luxuriating in her fading moneyed world and regardless of the increasingly hostile forces outside, she and her brother snub the lucrative scheme of Lopakhin, a peasant turned entrepreneur, to save the family estate. In so doing, they put up their lives to auction and seal the fate of the beloved orchard.

Set at the very start of the twentieth century, Andrew Upton’s new version of Chekhov’s classic captures a poignant moment in Russia's history as the country rolls inexorably towards 1917.

For teacher resources, visit this page.

Dunyasha: Emily Taaffe
Lopakhin: Conleth Hill
Yepihodov: Pip Carter
Anya: Charity Wakefield
Ranyevskaya: Zoe Wanamaker
Varya: Claudie Blakley
Gaev: James Laurenson
Charlotta: Sarah Woodward
Simyonov-Pishchik: Tim McMullan
Yasha: Gerald Kyd
Firs: Kenneth Cranham
Peya Trofimov: Mark Bonnar
A Passer-by: Craige Els
The Station Master: Paul Dodds
Ensemble: Mark Fleischmann
Ensemble: Colin Haigh
Ensemble: Jessica Regan
Ensemble: Tim Samuels
Ensemble: Stephanie Thomas
Ensemble: Joseph Thompson
Ensemble: Rosie Thomson
Ensemble: Ellie Turner

Director: Howard Davies
Author: Andrew Upton
Designer: Bunny Christie
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Music: Dominic Muldowney
Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis
Choreographer: Lynne Page

audio The Credeaux Canvas

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Ah, to be young, gifted, and broke! Three struggling artists swindle an art collector in Keith Bunin’s critically acclaimed play. Exploring a complex labyrinth of love, friendship and true intimacy with moon-washed delicacy, Bunin’s deft dialogue drives this beautifully constructed play to its soul-shattering climax.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance starring Hilary Swank, Chad Lowe, Shirley Knight and Jeremy Sisto.

Featuring: Hilary Swank, Chad Lowe, Shirley Knight, Jeremy Sisto

Creditors (trans. Greig)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

Anxiously awaiting the return of his new wife, Adolph finds solace in the words of a stranger. But comfort soon turns to destruction as old wounds are opened, insecurities are laid bare and former debts are settled.

Regarded as Strindberg's most mature work, Creditors is a darkly comic tale of obsession, honour and revenge. David Greig's version premiered at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in September 2008.

Dreams of Violence  

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stella Feehily's play Dreams of Violence is a tragicomedy about love, death and responsibility. It was first performed at Soho Theatre, London, on 9 July 2009, in a co-production with Out of Joint.

The play is set in London in September 2008. For forty-something Hildy, political activism comes easier than dealing with the disorder of her family life: her druggie son, Jamie; her philandering soon-to-be-ex husband, Ben; her father, Jack, misbehaving in a hugely expensive retirement home. Then there's Shirley, Hildy's charismatic mother – a former pop star with a fondness for booze – who sets up camp in Hildy's spare room to belittle her from close range. By day, Hildy leads the City's cleaners in revolt against the bankers. But by night, she dreams of unsettling acts of violence.

The Out of Joint/Soho Theatre production was directed by Max Stafford-Clark and designed by Lucy Osborne. It was performed by Jamie Baughan, Nigel Cooke, Giles Cooper, Thusitha Jayasundera, Ciaran McIntyre, Catherine Russell (as Hildy), Mossie Smith and Paula Wilcox.

audio Each Day Dies With Sleep

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Written by José Rivera, recent Academy Award Nominee for The Motorcycles Diaries, Each Day Dies with Sleep is the story of a young woman’s struggle to find an identity apart from the two men in her life – her father and her husband. Written in Rivera’s typical satiric and super realistic style, this fantastical tragic-comedy leaps from coast to coast, and from one outrageous moment to the next.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Laura Ceron, Noe Cuellar and Frankie Davila.

Featuring: Laura Ceron, Noe Cuellar, Frankie Davila

A genre that blends elements of tragedy and comedy. Tragicomedies tend to fall into two main categories; those in which a potentially tragic series of events is resolved happily and those in which the comedy has dark or bitter overtones. Although the form can be traced back to Euripides and Plautus, tragicomedy first emerged as a recognizable genre in the Renaissance. In Spain, Fernando de Rojas’s frequently staged dialogue novel La Celestina (1499) was subtitled the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, while in 16th-century Italy the term was applied to several plays by Giovanni Giraldi. A number of Shakespeare’s works – most notably, perhaps, The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, and Cymbeline– are regularly described as tragicomedies. Many pastoral works of the 16th and 17th centuries are essentially romantic tragicomedies. The first French tragicomedy, Robert Garnier’s Bradamante, was published in 1582. Alexandre Hardy (c. 1575–c. 1632) developed the genre in the early 17th century, influencing his countrymen Molière and Corneille, whose Le Cid (1637) has been called the perfect tragicomedy. He was also imitated by the Jacobean and Caroline dramatists in England. The last example of a romantic tragicomedy in English is probably Dryden’s Secret Love, or the Maiden Queen (1667). Although it has disappeared as a distinct genre, tragicomedy has arguably become the dominant mode of serious dramatic writing in the 20th century. The works of Chekhov, O’Casey, Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter could all be described as tragicomic.

from Jonathan Law, ed., The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre (London, 2011).