least favorite “best” plays and better alternatives

We just did a bang up job on narrowing the Western canon to 20 or so books. Let’s please winnow the stage’s best known plays to those that are actually worth producing and watching…

Five plays others love that I can’t stand:
“A Streetcar Named Desire”
“The Death of a Salesman”
“Waiting for Godot” (Good lord, wait for Lefty instead.)
“Three Sisters” (Russians don’t have the depression market cornered. Oh, wait, yes they do. Try “The Cherry Orchard,” instead.)
“Hamlet” That’s right. I said it. Can’t stand Hamlet. Like most of Shakes, except the histories, but can’t be bothered by Hamlet.

Nine much, much better “best”s:
“Raisin in the Sun”
“Of Mice and Men”
“And Baby Makes Seven” (some prefer “Baltimore Waltz” or “How I Learned to Drive”, and I honor those preferences, but I’m a fan of Vogel’s moms in Seven)
“The Glass Menagerie” (made even more delightful if played as a double header with Chris Durang’s “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls”)
“The Iceman Cometh”
“Awake and Sing!” (Odets, why have we forsaken thee?)
“The Crucible”
“The Importance of Being Earnest”

I’m open to musicals but not “West Side Story.” (Also, not a fan of adaptations though you can beg to differ…put Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill a Mockingbird over in my best and worst books posts) (and here and here). Bring your best and worst to the comments…

11 thoughts on “least favorite “best” plays and better alternatives

  1. The Death of a Salesman: Are we really supposed to feel sorry Willy Loman? That pathetic, dumb loser. Even Iago is a more sympathetic character than dork-ass Willy Loman.

    Hamlet: Poster child for the Nike advertising campaign “Just Do It.”

    Streetcar: Drawing a Blank. Cannot picture anything except the deliciousness of Brando before he discovered food.

    Waiting for Godot: Painful. Just freaking agonizing…Waiting for Godot to End!

    And I must, alas, confess my loathing for Of Mice and Men. If George hadn’t, I’d have put that bullet in Lennie’s grey matter.

    What do you like about Earnest? I think I just don’t really get that one, and I’d like to. What am I missing?

    And thank you, darling, because now I will be humming…Whenyou’reajetyou’reajetallthewayfromyou’refirstcigarette’tillyou’relastdyin’day…

  2. Yes on so many of them, esp. Crucible and Earnest (KW, on the latter, it’s the witty exchanges and double misunderstandings and so forth).

    But I’m with KW on Of Mice and Men. And I’d take Streetcar over Menagerie, though I’m not sure why, exactly…

    Also love Hammie and Mac. But not Midsummer Night’s Dream. Egads.

  3. Never cared for “Hamlet,” and I don’t like “King Lear,” either. “Macbeth,” however, kicks serious ass, as you rightly note.

    Most of the plays that I really love are probably too new to be considered potentially canonical, but I’m going to root for the works of Tom Stoppard and Mary Zimmerman. Also, “Copenhagen.”

  4. I LOVE you guys!
    Kitch, sing it, sister. But NOT that g.d. West Side song. A pox on your dishwasher for singing that here.
    Ink, you are the bee’s knees for agreeing that Midsummer sucks. I still can’t decide about Tempest, but I think I despise that, too. Mmmm. Macbeth.
    Dan, let’s hear ’em! Screw the canon–I’m a theater whore whose childless friends are all such theater whores they spell it theatre. I’ll tell you what’s new that I love (not new anymore but was when I saw it brand new, back when I had a life and lived alone and could leave the house with just a credit card and keys) is Danny Hoch’s “Jail, Hiphop, and Hospitals.” Do tell those of us who never get out because we can’t get sitters, what’s new on the stage that we should see? I’m seeing Berkeley Rep’s American Idiot, based on Green Day, next month. I’ll let you know.

  5. Well, then. Here goes…

    First off, I love “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” Love, love, love, with a deep and abiding love. I first saw the film version, and I was lucky enough to see Lily Tomlin in it when she took it back to Broadway a few years ago. Love. That being said, I think it’s a little bit dated, and I think it would be hard to adapt for any performer besides the inestimably wonderful Ms. Tomlin.

    I also thoroughly enjoyed “A Lie of the Mind” by Sam Shepard, “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard (I was a bit less in love with “The Invention of Love”), and anything I have ever seen that Mary Zimmerman ever wrote. (I saw “Metamorphoses” three times in New York, and would have seen it over and over again if I could have afforded it.) Oh, and also “Three Tall Women” by Albee.

    As far as musicals are concerned, I really enjoyed “Urinetown,” if only because of how successfully they simultaneously parodied the form while still being an actual enjoyable musical.

  6. Ink, you are awesome!!

    Dan, I agree about Lily Tomlin. I can’t see anyone being able to do that thing justice except her.

    I’m dying to see Urinetown!

    Nap, let us know what you think after you see American Idiot. Curious.

  7. Ink, I would fly out to see that with you, just to watch you watch it.
    Dan, I’m not a fan of Three Tall Women, but I spent way too much time with the sides for auditions to ever watch it again. I’m now dying to see some Zimmerman, for I’ve never even read her work. I like Stoppard and Shepard. A lot.

    I don’t think Urinetown has been out here yet. I’m so particular about musicals, but I don’t dare admit that I am a complete sap for My Fair Lady. Horrible, I know. But I just swoon for the music and the linguistics. Go ahead, I can take it: D.o.r.k.

    I really want to see August, Osage County. A dear friend who is *hard* to please said he laughed so hard he hit his head on the seat in front of him. And the bits I saw at the Tonys two years ago? last year? made me really want to see it.

  8. I think my opinion of “Three Tall Women” was colored by the unbelievably good performance I saw at the Missouri Repertory Theater years and years ago. Particularly the woman who played C.

  9. OK, I don’t get out anymore, and spent my youthful religious fervor on theatre (yes that spelling, i’m that old, i get to). Still love the definition of “call”: a MANDATE to appear. Why can’t everyone just do it (you got me- i used to stage manage & produce small theatre. saved my life. that and living on the roof during adolescence- long story).

    Does no one love Brecht & Weill, Threepenny Opera? Stage version Cabaret? Salesman is life seen from the bottom of a dry well, and I’m, so so relieved others detest it. Yes, Clifford O! Bring him back. Yes, “the Scottish play.” How do you feel about Tony K & Angels? Love Stoppard. Saw Jane Wagner & Lily Tomlin with Intelligent Life, when readings were on the road (Santa Fe). Only Lily can pull this off, and its time we had an update from someone. Who?

    Now I have to find out who Zimmerman is … . Y’all slay me.

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