The Angel America hovers over Prior Walter in scene from 'Angels in America'

9 Plays You Can Read Like Books

 

Love drama? It’s hard to get truly tired of a good novel, but those looking to switch up their reading experiences would be wise to add these plays to their reading lists. They are sad, they are naughty, they are thought-provoking, and they are a delight to behold. And you don’t have to fork over your firstborn to experience them! It’s a no-brainer.

 

  1. ‘Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes’ by Tony Kushner

 

angels in america cover

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The AIDS crisis that swept America and the world in the 80’s was a tragedy of epic magnitude—and Kushner responds to it with an epic of his own. Setting the scene in 1985 New York City, this two-part emotional rollercoaster follows gay men, dying prophets, depressed Mormons, witty nurses, crooked lawyers and guilty survivors as they attempt to survive a world that refuses to slow down and save them. It thrills, it devastates, and it might just make you believe in angels.

 

  1. ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen

 

A doll's house cover

Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing 

 

On the surface, Nora—the novel’s housewife protagonist—appears to tolerate living the life her constricting society has mandated she live. But the charade cannot last, and Nora’s ultimate decision electrified nineteenth century audiences. With Lucas Hnath’s sequel recently winning the Tony Award Best New Play, there is no better time to check out this heartbreaking work from the master Norwegian dramatist.

 

  1. ‘Topdog/Underdog’ by Suzan-Lori Parks

 

topdog/underdog

Image courtesy of Goodreads

 

Parks won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for this deceptively simple tale of  Lincoln and Booth, two African American brothers trying to play the world–and each other. Unlike many playwrights, Parks provides almost no stage directions, forcing readers to construct many of their interpretations of actions and characters. Parks is one of the greatest living commentators on American life, and this play remains one of her best.

 

  1. ‘The Coast of Utopia’ by Tom Stoppard

 

the coast of utopia cover

Image courtesy of Goodreads 

 

The Czech-born British playwright made his name with deep and witty romps like ‘Arcadia’ and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’, but neither works approach the staggering scope of this three-part dive into the burgeoning philosophical movements of mid-nineteenth century Russia. While not for the scatterbrained or easily bored, Stoppard’s refusal to condescend to his audience is admirable and deserving of praise.

 

  1. ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ by Lorraine Hansberry

 

a raisin in the sun cover

Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

 

All the Younger family wants to do is get by and and build a better future for themselves—but when you’re black and working-class in segregated Chicago, even these humble dreams are nigh impossible to fulfill. Gone too soon, Hansberry proved her mettle when she became first black female playwright to have her work grace a Broadway stage. An unequivocal classic.

 

  1. ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder

 

our town cover

Image courtesy of Thornton Wilder Society

 

Lights up: A small New Hampshire town on an ordinary day. Parents scold, milk is delivered, young people fall in love and marry. You may not believe it now, but you’ll probably be bawling the end. Wilder’s decision to focus on the little things that make up a typical life make the eventual loss of that life uniquely beautiful and devastating.

 

  1. ‘Amadeus’ by Peter Shaffer

 

amadeus cover

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The 1985 film adaptation won 8 Oscars, but it all started with this 1981 psychological thriller. Salieri, our protagonist, is a pious man and decent composer who just happens to live at the same time as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a petulant boor who wastes his time on women and debauchery. He is also the greatest musical talent the world has ever seen. By playing fast and loose with the facts of history, Shaffer earns his artistic license to get to the black heart of artistic ambition and regret.

 

  1. ‘God of Carnage’ by Yasmina Reza

 

god of carnage cover

Image courtesy of IBDB

 

Most parents will fight like hell for their children—but what happens when parents fight each other? From a seemingly straightforward altercation between two middle-schoolers, Reza ramps up the tension as two sets of parents confront the rottenness inherent in their counterparts and in themselves. Warning: there is vomit involved.

 

  1. ‘Buried Child’ by Sam Shepard

 

buried child cover

Image courtesy of Sam Shepard

 

Shepard, who died last Thursday, did it all with as an actor, director, and playwright. This Pulitzer winner launched his playwriting career with aplomb, using the dynamic of a rural Midwest family to confront thorny issues like the decay of the family unit and the futility of the American Dream. Thank you for everything, Mr. Shepard.

 

Featured image courtesy of The New York Times.