Great play! Really good characters, well-written dialogue that flows beautifully and an interesting problem discussed. I love the two time periods dealing with different aspects of the same issue, while a poignant story pulls them together. Great read off the page, aloud was even better.
One of my favourite plays of the last decade. Exploring race relations in middle-America in the 1950s and 2000s, the piece discusses changing moral virtues and perceptions. Lauded widely and well worth a read.
I don't understand where all the hype is coming from about this play. You'd think plays had never been written about racism before. How it got a Pultizer and an Olivier, I really don't know. Apparantly he's been compared to Edward Albee- a boring version of Edward Albee.
Anyway, the play is split into two acts. Act 1 is set in the 1950s, with a white couple whose house is being bought by a black family; Act 2 is set in 2009, where a group of neighbours discuss one of the couple's plans to demolish their house and re-build a larger one. For some reason, racism gets dug up.
According to the blurb, it's a satire and a tragedy but I don't see any satire. There are some mildly comic bits but it's meant to be a critique of racist attitudes in suburbia. The characters are not treated comically but realistically.
Of the two acts, Act 1 has more interesting characters. Act 2's characters are bland and interchangeable- I kept having to look them up in the cast list. Act 1 also has more conflict, though all that stuff about the characters not knowing the names of capital cities just looks like it's inserted to break up the monotony. The play, at least on paper, doesn't really drive towards anywhere, and the latent suburban racism is unconvincing. To critique that satirically, you need far subtler and darker writing than playwright Bruce Norris deploys here.
I also found the mystery of what happened to the son completely irrelevant. It seems like a trope forced in from every other American play ever written. In fact, the whole play seems to lack authenticity, particularly the black characters. You can tell that the playwright is white. Not that this has any bearing on whether he can write a good play about racism but the play lacks any conviction or authenticity. Some of the characters are a little bit racist but as they say in Avenue Q, everyone's a little bit racist. Norris sort of tip-toes around, never really saying anything about racism, or well, anything.
I can only imagine that the people who see this as a dark comedy must have seen very few plays. August: Osage County is a dark comedy- a brilliant one. If Norris really wants to write a play about suburban racism, he needs to first of all make sure that he's writing a good play. And he isn't.