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Playwright Smack Down

Yesterday morning, I was enjoying my morning tea and toast while perusing the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section when I came upon a juicy theatre article. I usually don’t get juice in the Sunday theatre section. Usually, I get kool-aid---something sweet without a lot of vitamins. Usually, the theatre articles are about an actor/writer/director who has a new hit show and is now enjoying the warmth of the benevolent light shining down from the Times.

On Sunday, the benevolent light article was on the playwright, Martin McDonagh, who has a new play opening on Broadway. Even though McDonagh’s writing sometimes makes me want to smash things, I hoped the article would be good for a laugh.

The writer of the article had met McDonagh in a theatre district restaurant and used that wonderful phrase, after a few drinks, to set up the playwright's merry rumblings. I was suddenly intrigued. What kind of drinker was Martin McDonagh? Could he throw back a few and still piece together profound intellectual thoughts? Would he turn into a tragic poetic songbird full of lyrical insight?

By the end of the article, I had my answer. He was a brawler. And what set him off? Something another playwright said.

This is from the article:

In an interview four years ago Conor McPherson, a Dublin writer of similar stature, questioned how Irish he really was. “More like stage Irish,” he told me.
Mr. McDonagh responded to this comment with a flash of anger, disregarding a pledge he had made minutes before to give up harshly judging other living writers in the press, firing off one of those hilariously belligerent rants that his characters are known for and that can’t possibly be printed here. Translated from the profane to the mundane, he said he was going to beat up Mr. McPherson next time he saw him.
“That’s on the record,” he said, pointing at my recorder.

Yep, it’s playwright smack down time! Fun, fun, fun. Playwrights haven’t been this fun in decades. Usually playwrights are just grateful when they’re produced and fed.

Now yes, at the heart of the smack down are some interesting ideas about a nation and its portrayal on the stage. Is a nation confined to its people on its soil or is a nation larger and inclusive of people with ties to it? How does a writer define his or her identity?

But enough of the ideas, let’s see some playwright on playwright boxing. Let’s see the playwrights jab each other with their monologues with a cross-hook combo of physicality and dialogue. Maybe one of them will bob and weave with a little breaking-the-4th-wall action while the other pivots inside with a perception shift. Maybe one will get the other on the ropes with some kick ass exposition work and maybe finally he gets a knock out with foreshadowing. Oh foreshadowing is one powerful punch!

Or maybe the playwright smack down could have a more Ultimate Fighter vibe with an assortment of kicks thrown in. Or maybe it could be like Thunderdome with playwrights on those big bungee swings. Two playwrights enter, one playwright leaves.

I don’t see the playwright smack down lasting very long as the playwrights would probably get winded, so they’d probably have to send some actors into the ring to finish the match. Playwrights love their actors. Playwrights need their actors. They can’t smack down without them.

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