Oh, THAT Play

Here I am reading a cover letter . . . jk, I don't read cover letters.

Here I am reading a cover letter . . . jk, I don’t read cover letters.

So I’m in heavy season planning right now, and reading many many many plays a day.

Yesterday I cracked open four plays in a row that were all two-person plays with people in some kind of romance, all MALE PERSON, 30s; FEMALE PERSON, 20s and set in New York. This is something I see a lot.

I have questions.

Can we not at least IMAGINE that a man in his 30s would find a woman in her 30s potentially fuckable? That there is SOME POSSIBLE OTHER location than New York? That a white man in his 30s is not DEFAULT HUMANITY? That male ennui + banging younger women is not particularly interesting as such?

I’m exhausted by:


“Quote I always just skip over.” – Søren Kierkegaard

MAN, 30s. Any race lol/jk I mean white. White privilege drips out of the character like warm mayo dripping out of a sandwich.
WOMAN, 20s. Boobs.

LOCATION: An apartment in New York City. The universe.

MAN sighs and rolls over.
WOMAN: What are you thinking about?
MAN: Man things and life. My life. I wish I could make you understand.
WOMAN: Tell me.
MAN: No. My broody mansecrets are in their 30s and you wouldn’t understand. Let’s fuck.
WOMAN: I hope you like my blowjob stylings.
MAN sighs and rolls over. He lights a cigarette. He smokes.
WOMAN: Tell me something nonlinear about life.
MAN: [2 page monologue about stars, dreams, and Captain Crunch]
WOMAN: Let’s fuck.
MAN: I see the future when I look at you.
WOMAN: Our future?
MAN sighs and rolls over.
WOMAN: I am leaving you for reasons I will not explain because my character was never developed far enough for anyone to care.
MAN: But I told you about stars and Captain Crunch! I was nonlinear and poetic!
WOMAN leaves.

MAN looks up as the entire theatre space explodes in a million stars. A marching band enters, playing “Hallelujah,” but they all turn into ants. The ants spell out “I ❤ New York.” MAN weeps.


Of course, having spent my entire life here, I understand that most plays don’t do this. As I dive back into my giant pile of scripts, I’m hoping I won’t encounter more of the above. But I probably will.

pouring a drink

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25 thoughts on “Oh, THAT Play

  1. Funny, Melissa. But when does that poor woman get to drink!? Now that’s hell!

  2. wireduro says:

    nic pic i lov it

  3. I feel your pain. I’ve read too many of those plays myself. Unfortunately, I have had to sit through too many when others have overruled my recommendations.

    • Julia says:

      I am in the same place as you. And I’m giving it up because I am just too tired of banging my head against a brick wall. If I hear “I’m not feeling that script. How about [insert Arthur Miller/David Mamet/somebody newer and broodier who loves writing about 30-something white male issues] instead?” one more time, I truly will just dump all the scripts and walk out the door right then.

  4. AthenaC says:

    “WOMAN: I am leaving you for reasons I will not explain because my character was never developed far enough for anyone to care.”

    The whole thing was hilarious; this line is my favorite.

  5. sheaannmarie says:

    What about a play NOT set in NYC, with two out of the four characters past their prime, with at least one role for a bi-racial actress, a play that exposes white, male privilege for how it affects the lives of real people? The abuser, a poet/professor, is portrayed after the strokes that have left him bereft of speech, yet strangely still in control of his much younger, doting wife, a former student. The intrusion of his biracial daughter (the product of an adulterous liaison with another talented student) leads to revelations about the poet’s sexual abuse of vulnerable students, but also the gross plagiarisms upon which his career was based.

    Text attached.

    Please do not think of this as a cover letter, because then you would not be reading it.

    A. M. Shea

  6. Karla says:

    Okay, that was pretty damn funny. I can relate. I was recently a reader for a national playwriting contest and dragging myself through most of the scripts was like a thousand scorpions stabbing my brain. Scripts where sarcasm is mistaken for wit, where a YA novel’s been plagiarized into a play, where humorless jarheads fight space aliens while also proving that we *never* landed on the moon. Oh god, god…. But, that said, how about a play in which Prometheus falls in love with the eagle who rips out his liver every day? At least they meet cute. I am not jk. Athena also appears. She wears a poodle skirt.

  7. lpon45 says:

    While we’re at it, could we please extend the fuckability age range, for the love of God and actresses 40+?

  8. Ian Thal says:

    Sadly, when I go to readings with the intention of supporting local playwrights, half the plays read like this — even when written by women who consider themselves to be feminists.

    And people wonder why I devote so much of my critical practice to weird, foreign plays.

  9. Maureen Brady Johnson says:

    This column gives me hope…that perhaps I should keep writing. Very funny column in a sad way. I hope you find some lovely plays that break the pattern. Your joy will be overwhelming!

  10. GraySea says:

    “WOMAN, 20s. Boobs.” OMG, she’s in every play I’VE been reading for various short play festival submissions, TOO!!! (Except for the ones that don’t have women in them.)

  11. Nancy says:

    The obsession with making the man older than the woman is even worse than what you’ve described – NYCPlaywrights has a call for romantic comedies (I know you hate romantic comedies Bitter Gertrude – too bad) going on right now, and a good percentage of the plays about hetero romance specifies things like: man, 30s, woman, a little bit younger. Or man – 53, woman – 50. Their ages don’t matter in the story itself, and won’t impact casting at all, but it’s clear that the playwright feels that it isn’t a proper romance unless the man is older – even if only by a few years. The unexamined, antiquated attitudes on the part of people who consider themselves playwrights is mind-boggling.


  12. Ian Thal says:

    “My broody mansecrets are in their 30s and you wouldn’t understand. Let’s fuck.”


    “I am leaving you for reasons I will not explain because my character was never developed far enough for anyone to care.”

    Represent to my mind one of the biggest problems with a lot of mainstream contemporary plays: The characters are inarticulate because their author is inarticulate. The next bigger problem is that this stuff ends up getting produced.

    • Diane says:

      Yes, that is the question: Why IS this stuff getting produced!!! Have artistic directors gone mad? Are they 30-something men too? Are they chasing after the all-important youth demographic? We’ll it’s backfiring. This middle-aged woman has canceled all of her theatre subscriptions because I don’t want to be forced to sit through any more of this nonsense. I’ll pick and choose as I please.

      • Ian Thal says:

        Why is this stuff being produced? Because this is what playwriting and dramaturgy students are being taught in school as the mark of “contemporary American playwriting.” So the plays are being written this way, and the scripts are considered when planning the next season.

        Playwriting is now seen not as an art in and of itself but as an entry way into a career in film and television (which are essentially visual media) — this is why so many of the new plays popular with the TCG and LORT member theaters appear to be reworkings of rejected television pilots.

        I caught Tom Stoppard’s 1983 play The Real Thing recently, and found that it was remarkably prescient on this matter.

  13. JEAbo says:

    That old chestnut “write what you know” is taken too literally too often by too many uninspired writers. Isn’t 30something year old man usually a frustrated writer/actor/artist?

  14. Peter Gruner says:

    I have a play called Minced that features a 40 something daughter and her 60 something mother. It runs about 70 minutes and won Best of Fringe in Hamilton a few years ago. I’d be happy to send it along. 🙂

  15. Zambonesman says:

    This really makes me want to comission you to write a play. i wish I was rich cuz i would.
    Freakn hysterics.

  16. Reblogged this on mise en théâtre and commented:
    Can we convince adept writers who have nothing new to say, to stop submitting their plays until they’re adding to the conversation, not just repeating it?

  17. Alex Hersler says:

    Surely the Kierkegaard quote will tie everything together! Or no, maybe a Schopenhauer or Kant. Some other centuries old 30-something ruminative white man should do the trick.

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