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Laugh Lines: Short Comic Plays Paperback – April 10, 2007
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About the Author
Eric Lane and Nina Shengold have been editing contemporary theater anthologies for more than twenty years. Eric Lane's award-winning plays have been published and performed in the United States, Canada, Europe, and China. Plays include Ride, Times of War, Heart of the City, Dancing on Checkers' Grave, and Filming O'Keeffe. Floating, a PlayPenn finalist, was workshopped at Raven Theatre. Eric's short plays are published in Best American Short Plays, Poems and Plays, and the Foreign Language Press (Beijing). He wrote and produced the short films First Breath and Cater-Waiter, which he also directed; both films screened in more than forty cities worldwide. For TV's Ryan's Hope he received a Writers Guild Award. Honors include the Berrilla Kerr Playwriting Award, the La MaMa Playwright Award, and fellowships at Yaddo, VCCA, and St. James Cavalier in Malta. Eric is an honors graduate of Brown University, and artistic director of Orange Thoughts, a not-for-profit theater and film company in New York City.
Nina Shengold's plays include Finger Foods, War at Home, Homesteaders, and Romeo/Juliet, and have been produced around the world. Her one-act No Shoulder was filmed by director Suzi Yoonessi, with Melissa Leo and Samantha Sloyan. Nina won a Writers Guild Award for her teleplay Labor of Love, starring Marcia Gay Harden; other teleplays include Blind Spot, with Joanne Woodward and Laura Linney, and Unwed Father. Her books include the novel Clearcut; River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers (with photographer Jennifer May), and a growing posse of pseudonymous books for young readers. A graduate of Wesleyan, she is currently teaching creative writing at Manhattanville College. Nina lives in New York's Hudson Valley, where she has been books editor of Chronogram magazine since 2004.
Top Customer Reviews
Editors Land and Shengold desperately wanted to pack thirty-six comic poems into one 500-page book. Well, they won at that gamble. This collection of one-acts, ten minute plays, and skits weighs in at a modest page count and a reasonable price. I read the whole thing in two nights, and I read it again over the next two nights. What I didn't do much was laugh.
Many of these plays desperately want you to know they're funny. Plays like O'Donnell's "There Shall Be No Bottom" and Lindsay-Abaire's "How We Talk In South Boston" desperately wave in your face what wacky fun they are. They're practically doing jazz hands and yelling wokka-wokka to get you to laugh. And like a Borscht Belt comedian who can't hold a crowd, the harder they try to make you laugh, the more you want to flee.
Other plays are supposed to be funny, but I'm forced to take that on faith. Leight's "Mars Has Never Been So Close" and Strand's "Rosa's Eulogy" feel more like finger exercises for writers than anything a producer would want to subsidize. There are plays by some recognized names like Steve Martin and Shel Silverstein that I can only imagine made it between these covers because the authors are famous names.
In fairness there are a few plays that are actually funny. Jonathan Rand's "Check, Please" and Elaine May's "The Way of All Fish" trust their characters and their audience enough to venture forward, expecting us to know real humor when we see it. Some of the really funny plays are smart enough to avoid relying on jokes as such, and others use smart, incisive jokes that don't try to desperately signal what a pack of cards they are.
But the truly funny plays are swimming in the midst of the plays that ring false. There are just too few of them to be worth the cost of the book. If you're a director or a producer looking for a comic play to stage, don't waste your time on this book. It's not what you're looking for. Because compiling putatively funny books is easy. Comedy is hard.