Showing 41 - 50 of 82 Plays annotations

A Doctor in Spite of Himself

Molière

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This is another Molière fabliau on the practice of medicine in his 17th Century culture. Sganarelle, the woodcutter turned doctor in spite of himself, is the object of a joke orchestrated by his wife Martine. She determines to punish him for his bad behavior toward her by setting him up as a learned, albeit somewhat eccentric, physician.

Falling for her bait, the stewards of the rich landowner, Geronte, implore Sganarelle to come to the rescue of their master’s daughter, who has become unable to speak. The woodcutter-turned-doctor begins to play the game, and through a series of happenstances and ruses, solves the enigma of the girl’s disability, comes upon a solution, and, in the process, determines that perhaps doctoring is more salutary than cutting faggots.

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What are Tuesdays Like?

Bumbalo, Victor

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This AIDS play removes "the fourth wall" of a waiting room at an HIV clinic. Using numerous scenes the audience is able to sense how over a period of time a group of strangers thrown together by circumstance "travel the way to friendship, and, finally to family." (from author's note) Juxtaposed through the characters in this play are boundary issues dealing with differences and similarities among gay/straight, rich/poor, black/white, sick/healthy responses to HIV/AIDS.

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The Road to Mecca

Fugard, Athol

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Since her husband's death, Miss Helen has lived alone and transformed her home into a work of art by creating a myriad of cement wise men, camels, owls, mermaids, and other figures around the house; and decorating the inside with dozens of candles and mirrors. She has created her own "Mecca" of beauty and freedom amid the harsh church-going Afrikaners and voiceless Colored of this desolate region of South Africa. She has befriended a young teacher from Cape Town, Elsa, who sees the light of humanity in Helen, while others view her as an old woman who went crazy after her husband's death.

In response to Helen's letter of distress, Elsa drives from Cape Town to make a surprise visit on the same day the local pastor, Marius Byleveld, comes to Miss Helen's house to help with her application for a bed at the local Old Folks' Home. Marius is invested in Helen moving to the Home because he fears for her safety (she recently burned herself by accident). Beneath this concern, however, is his deeper fear of her "idolatry" and her self-imposed exile from the Church; yet deeper still, is his human love for Miss Helen. With Elsa's support, Helen takes a stand, deciding to remain alone in her Mecca, rather than going to the Home.

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Red Noses

Barnes, Peter

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Plays — Secondary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

France, 1348: the Black Death rages and the playwright takes his reader into the midst of the cynicism, racism, panic, and religious fervor that characterize human response to catastrophic events that they don’t fully understand. The characters are caricatures of social types whose actions were apparent during the medieval plagues: religious figures, flagellants, grave robbers, well-poisoners, finger-pointers. The message sent by the words and actions of these characters is a satire on human behavior--the best and the worst as they are wont to surface during an epidemic. Many of the lines are very funny, but the humor is dark.

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An Enemy of the People

Ibsen, Henrik

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Dr. Thomas Stockmann, a public-minded doctor in a small town famous for its public baths, discovers that the water supply for the baths is contaminated and has probably been the cause of some illness among the tourists who are the town's economic lifeblood. In his effort to clean up the water supply, Dr. Stockmann runs into political cowards, sold-out journalists, shortsighted armchair economists, and a benighted citizenry. His own principled idealism exacerbates the conflict. The well-meaning doctor is publicly labeled an enemy of the people, and he and his family are all but driven out of the town he was trying to save.

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Wild Honey

Chekhov, Anton; Frayn, Michael

Last Updated: May-09-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

According to the Soviet version, in 1921 Russian scholars discovered the manuscript of a "lost" play by Chekhov among his papers in a safety deposit box in a bank in Moscow. In reality, the play wasn’t lost at all. During the turmoil of the Revolution in 1918, Maria Chekhov, Anton’s sister, had placed in the safety deposit box papers and manuscripts that she considered particularly valuable.

Subsequently, she was unable to travel to Moscow from her home in Yalta until 1921, because of the continuing Civil War in southern Russia. By the time she did return to Moscow, the Communists had "liberated" her brother’s safety deposit box and made their amazing discovery. The title page of the manuscript was missing, so scholars named the play "Platonov" after its major protagonist.

"Platonov" is a huge wreck of a play with numerous characters and subplots that would require about six hours to perform. It is obviously Chekhov’s earliest known play. The majority belief is that it was written between 1880 and 1882, during his first or second year of medical school. Most critics stress its many dramatic faults. However, as Michael Frayn points out in his introduction to "Wild Honey," the play is more remarkable for its strengths than its weaknesses, especially considering that a 21 or 22-year-old medical student wrote it. By carefully pruning the underbrush, Frayn has created a clearly Chekhovian comedy that takes perhaps two and a half hours to perform.

The story takes place in a provincial country estate (so what else is new?), where the widowed landowner returns for the summer after spending the winter months in Moscow. All the local friends and hangers-on gather to greet her, including among others two elderly suitors, the district doctor, and Platonov (the schoolteacher) and his wife. The widow wants to have an affair with Platonov--in fact, three women, one of them married, vie for Platonov’s attention; while Platonov, for the most part, tries to remain faithful to his wife.

The first scene of the second act is a classic comedy of errors. It takes place at night in the forest, just outside Platonov’s house where his wife is sleeping. Anna Petrovna, the landowner, appears out of the darkness and wants to spirit Platonov off to the summerhouse to make hay. But various other characters, some of them drunk and some sober, keep interrupting this rendezvous. One of them is Sofya, married to Platonov’s best friend, who wants to run away with him. The comings and goings in this scene are hilarious--reminiscent of one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which each character misinterprets what every other character says or does.

The play ends, though, on a dark note, or at least a sobering note. Platonov’s wife has left him due to these misunderstandings, and each of the three other women is closing in for the (metaphorical) kill. He decides to run away, and the play ends as he is running down the tracks distractedly, not paying any attention to the train that overtakes him from behind and kills him. This is not a tragic death; it’s funny, but also very sad. Platonov is, after all, a good man, even though weakness and indecision led to his downfall and meaningless death.

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The Imaginary Invalid

Molière

Last Updated: Oct-21-2003
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

Argan, a fearful but miserly hypochondriac, divides his time between summoning the doctor to care for his ills and trying not to settle the resultant bills. He resolves to marry his daughter, Angélique, to a medical student, hoping to acquire unlimited access to gratis consultation. The chosen fiancé is an unattractive dolt, who would never interest Angélique, even if she were not already in love with clever, handsome Cléante, who poses as her music instructor.

Argan's wife, however, plans to send Angélique to a convent, removing her from the line inheritance. At the urging of the sensible servant Toinette, he feigns death to test his wife's affection only to discover her contempt. Again with the help of Toinette, the young lovers convince Argan to liberate himself from the twin tyrannies of his ailing body and his grasping physicians by becoming his own doctor. The play closes with the physicians' lively examination of Argan and his entry into the profession, full of musical pomp and pidgin Latin.

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Three Sisters

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

The play takes place over a several-year period in the provincial town in which the Prozorov sisters and their brother Andrei live. Olga, the oldest, is a high school teacher; Masha is unhappily married to a teacher in the same school; and Irina and Andrei have dreams of moving back to Moscow. Vershinin, the new Army commander, joins the group of military hangers-on around the Prozorov home, a group that also includes the ineffectual doctor, Chebutykin, who lets everyone know that he has forgotten all the medicine he ever knew.

As time passes, Andrei marries Natalya and devotes himself to gambling, while Natalya has babies and takes over the household. Masha has a romantic affair with Vershinin; Natalya commits adultery with the school administrator. A fire rages through the town, but Chebutykin is drunk and unable to help the victims. In the end, just before the Army contingent moves to another post, Irina's fiancee is killed in a duel.

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The Seagull

Chekhov, Anton

Last Updated: Oct-05-2003
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

At Madame Treplev's estate, her son, Konstantin, presents an outdoor performance of his new play, in which the single character (actually just a voice) is played by Nina, a neighbor's daughter, with whom Konstantin is hopelessly in love. When Madame Treplev, a famous actress, makes light of the angst-filled play, Konstantin angrily stops the performance

Later, Nina becomes infatuated with Trigorin, a literary man and Madame Treplev's current lover. When Madame Treplev and Trigorin move back to Moscow, Nina follows, hoping to become an actress. There, she has an affair with Trigorin. Masha, the daughter of the family steward, is in love with Konstantin (who couldn't care less for her), but marries Medvedenko, the local schoolmaster.

Two years later, Nina has returned to the country, where Konstantin continues to live and work on his writing. Konstantin believes that he and Nina might make a fresh start together, but she rejects him. In the end, he goes out and shoots himself.

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Richard III

Shakespeare, William

Last Updated: Feb-22-2003
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This history play narrates the rise to power through treachery and murder of Richard Plantaganet, Duke of Gloucester and last king of the House of York. Set in England during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485), the play opens after the Lancastrian King Henry VI and his son Edward have been killed and Richard’s brother has been crowned Edward IV.

In the course of the play, Richard woos and wins Prince Edward’s widow Anne Neville and engineers the murders of his other brother (George, Duke of Clarence), his nephews, his closest advisor, possibly his wife, and other members of the court. He is crowned king but later dies a violent death in the Battle of Bosworth, defeated by Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond, who will become the first Tudor King Henry VII.

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