Laughing Stock gets Durang-ed
Four plays by Christopher Durang at NexStage add up to "a fun
house," the playwright says in an interview
"There has to be some psychological truth to even the
most crazy things I do."
- Christopher Durang, playwright (photo by Joan Marcus)
"Its bold. Its broad. Its over the
- Gordon Noice, director (photo by David N. Seelig)
By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer
"Insanity," wrote psychiatrist R. D. Laing, "is a perfectly
rational adjustment to an insane world."
In Four Play, the four one act plays by Christopher Durang
presented by Laughing Stock Theatre Company this week, insanity is a perfectly rational and
hilarious adjustment to an insane world.
The plays, Dentity Crisis, Wandas Visit, Diversions and
The Actors Nightmare, are vintage Durang: comic exaggerations of
"The plays are like a fun house," said Durang in a telephone
interview from his home in New York City, where he teaches playwriting at the Juilliard
School. "They reflect something truthful, but they distort it and have fun with
Laughing Stock presents the Durang one-acts Thursday, Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. at NexStage Theater in Ketchum.
Durang has been providing theater audiences with unruly laughter and
outlandish entertainment since he was an 18-year-old freshman at Harvard in 1967.
Now 51, he has earned the titlebestowed by theater critics like the New
Yorkers Edith Oliverfunniest playwright alive.
Besides his many Obie-award winning plays and performances, Durang has
received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Fellowship, the CBS Playwriting Fellowship
and the Kenyon Festival Theatre Playwriting prize. In 1995, he won the prestigious
three-year Lila Wallace Readers Digest Writers Award.
"Ive never read a playwright that made me laugh until I cried
until I read Durang," said the director of Four Play, Gordon Noice.
Noice, who played Sykes in Laughing Stocks November production of Oliver,
is a film, television and stage actor who moved here recently from Los Angeles.
"Durangs work has an edge, and I appreciate that," he
added. "It affirms my passion for doing theater."
Durangs edgy comedy is a bit of a departure from Oliver, but
like Oliver it has serious psychological underpinnings.
"Durang takes elements of the human condition, as dark as they may
be, and forces us to laugh at ourselves," said Noice. "And laughter is the best
medicine that we have. Its been proven clinically to heal."
Some may question if Durang wanted to heal or just to disturb when the
drama ensues with an incestuous relationship (Dentity Crisis), a suicidal
father and a bizarre nun (Diversions), a troubled marriage (Wandas Visit)
and a tortured accountant (The Actors Nightmare).
"I honestly dont want to upset audiences," said Durang,
whose acerbic play Bettys Summer Vacation caused many to walk out when it was
performed off Broadway last year. The play also won the prestigious Obie award.
Durang compared his humor to the sketch comedy of the Carol Burnett Show
and to "Monty Python without the random craziness."
Echoing that comparison, Noice said the one-acts are "like sitcoms
gone terribly awry."
Dentity Crisis, about a girl who has been diagnosed as
mentally ill but who is surrounded by even more deranged family members, was inspired by a
book about schizophrenia.
"The book was filled with intriguing case studies," Durang said.
"It included people in their 20s or teens who werent able to function in the
world. I found that the families were so crazy that the patients reaction to the
family wasnt wrong."
Dentity Crisis, like the other plays, contains real
psychology presented in cartoon form, Durang said.
Some 20 locals, ranging in age from 17 to 70, interpret those cartoonish
characters. There are familiar actorsScott Creighton, Kathy Wygle, Patty Parsons,
Claudia McCain and Patricia Conwelland some faces that have never been on a local
stage beforeKatie Orr, Rebecca Haithcoat, Hans Ibold and Lindi Schooley.
Other cast members include Dean Cerutti, Dana DuGan, Michael Lanzarone,
Toby Wilson, Kim Harrison, Sarah Hjort, Sam Parker, Joe Marshall, John Sack, Noah Richter
and Mandie OConnell.
Noice said Durangs one-acts provide the perfect material to get
locals, most of them 20- and 30-somethings, involved in community theater.
"We have a mix of professional actors, community theater people and
neophytes," Noice said. "And everybody is uplifting each other in the process. I
didnt expect community theater to be this rewarding."
Is Noice worried about anyone walking out on Durangs dark humor?
"If I have one person who walks out and Ive forced that person
to look inside themselves, then Ill be happy," he said. "If youre
willing to laugh at yourself and at your friends and neighbors on stage, then this is for
The plays run under two hours. Refreshments will be available at the
Tickets, at $13, are available at Chapter One and at the door.