Oct. 09, 2017
Theatre might not have the close-up intimacy of books or the infinite scope of film, but is still with us after thousands of years thanks to the ways in which playwrights have managed to push the limits of our imagination. If you’re new to theatre in Alberta, or if you’ve still got gaps in your knowledge, here are ten essential plays that you might want to see:
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
It’s likely that you’ve quoted Hamlet without even knowing it. Almost any Shakespeare play is filled with more genius than whole centuries of drama than have followed. Picking just one out as the play is tough, but Hamlet just might edge out Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer’s Nights Dream.
Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
Two vagrants wait for the eponymous ‘Godot’ to turn up. And wait. And wait. Godot never arrives, and neither does any explanation as to what this all means. Confusing as it may be, Godot is considered to be one of the most important plays of the 20th century.
A Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen
Ibsen’s most famous play is now considered a feminist classic- though the playwright himself claimed that he was only trying to describe things as they are. A harsh criticism of marriage in 19th-century society, the play was controversial when it was first performed and may still cause the audience to ask difficult questions today.
Glengarry, Glen Ross – David Mamet
The film might be better known, especially for Adam Baldwin’s performance (his character isn’t in the play), but the play is just as bleak a portrait of the lives of unscrupulous real-estate salesmen fighting for their jobs.
Dr. Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and some say collaborator or even ghost-writer. Though not as famous, his plays are often just as good, and Faustus is his best. The folkloric story of a doctor who bargains his soul away for magical powers, the play has inspired the concept of the ‘Faustian bargain’ narrative that has been explored ever since.
The Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekov
Russian playwright Anton Chekov famously said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” In The Cherry Orchard there is a gun, and yet it doesn’t go off- instead, there is a thoughtful and often funny meditation on social change.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? – Edward Albee
If you’ve ever been stuck in a party with a couple who clearly have issues you’ll empathise with the characters in this 1962 play. This pitch-dark comedy about a dysfunctional couple’s cruel emotional games with their guests and each other was adapted into a film with real-life married couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was known as a ‘serious’ playwright for his earlier works like Salome and The Picture of Dorian Gray, but with Earnest he chose to satirise the Victorian obsession with earnestness with his most ‘trivial’ play, a story of multiple identities amongst wealthy aristocrats.
God of Carnage – Yasmina Reza
When two young boys get into a fight at school their parents come together to sort things out—and end up much more irrational and needlessly cruel than their children ever could be. This play swept the board at the Tony Awards in 2009.
Easily the most absurd play in this list, this 1982 comedy is set backstage at a farcical comedy at various points throughout its ten-week run, from a premier the cast aren’t prepared for to a final show after they’ve all come to despise each other. The stage directions and comic timing are so precise that a staging is just as likely to fall apart as the play it’s satirising.
With so many essential plays you’ll want to see at a live theatre in Alberta it can be hard to choose. Luckily, for people living in Cold Lake and throughout the Lakeland you can catch live theatre in Alberta, right here in northeast Alberta!. Click here if you want to see The Grande Parlour’s upcoming performances, and buy tickets online!