‘All My Sons’ and ‘Art’ – Two Plays for Listening

“All My Sons” by Arthur Miller (1947)

“Art” by Yasmina Reza (1996)

Although I have been a member of Audible for three years, it is only recently that I realized the possibility of listening to play performances.  Up until then the only plays I gave myself permission to listen to were those of Shakespeare.  Yet audio is nearly an ideal format for plays.  Plays are meant to be performed as opposed to novels, and in most cases a cast of professional actors is used to perform the play in audio.  The only part that is missing is the visual, and I find that easy to be imagined.  Also most plays last only a couple of hours whereas the novel “Skippy Dies” lasts a grueling 23 hours and 41 minutes.  In most cases plays cost about $5.00 at Audible.  It saves all the cost and bother of going out, although on occasion theatre-going is still an excellent social outing.

The possibilities of listening to the various playwrights are exciting from O’Neill to Chekhov to Moliere to Ibsen to Stoppard and Mamet and on and on.

“All My Sons” by Arthur Miller.

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“All My Sons” is Serious Drama that asks important questions about personal responsibility.  The father and one of his neighbors are partners in owning a factory that builds airplane engines.  It turns out that some of their engines were sent to the government with cracked engine heads which caused planes to crash during World War II and their crews to die.  Based on the father’s testimony, the neighbor is put in prison for knowingly delivering defective engines to the government.  Complicating things is the fact that the father’s son is a pilot who is still missing two years after the war.  Also the other son wants to marry the missing son’s fiancée who happens to be the imprisoned neighbor’s daughter.

The play is set at the family home in a friendly neighborhood where nearly everyone knows each other.  We go from scenes of neighborly joking to scenes of intense conflict.

So far, of Arthur Miller’s plays, I’ve seen “After The Fall” (the Marilyn Monroe play), “A View of the Bridge” (the McCarthyism play), “The Crucible” (the Salem witch play), and  the family drama “Death of a Salesman”.  Miller’s plays are so intense they make a lot of what passes for drama today seem supercilious and trivial.

“Art” by Yasmina Reza

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Whenever people talk about modern playwrights, Yasmina Reza is the one name that comes up.  The two plays of Reza that I’m familiar with, “Art” and “God of Carnage”, have been wonderful, but I wish there were more young playwrights becoming famous.  David Mamet and Thomas Stoppard are getting old, and apparently the would-be young playwrights are writing for the movies.  By the way, I first saw “God of Carnage” at the Guthrie Theatre, a very spirited and inspiring version of the play.  However the movie “Carnage” directed by Roman Polanski was atrocious.  Don’t judge the play by the bad movie which was so bad I stopped watching after half an hour. I believe the reason for the bad movie was Polanski’s failure to understand light comedy.

“Art” has a simple premise with the only characters three male friends, Marc, Serge, and Yvan.  Serge, a successful dermatologist, buys a work of modern art.  It is a picture of two white diagonal lines on a white background.  Being white on white, it is difficult to see the diagonal lines.  When Marc discovers that Serge paid 200,000 Euros for this painting, Marc goes ballistic.  The entire play is the sharp interaction of the three friends mostly in regard to the painting, great fun.   I have not seen the movie “Art” yet.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I agree about Art being a lot of fun. I saw it a few years ago and thought it was terrific. The same theater also did a production of God of Carnage last year, which I liked but not nearly as much.

    It would be nice to see more young playwrights getting attention. Another theater here in DC tries to bring in lots of work by younger playwrights, and some of them are wonderful, but they don’t tend to become household names. My favorite is Tarrell Alvin McCraney, whose works would be amazing in audio if they’re available.

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    • Hi Teresa,
      Audible currently does not have any plays by Tarrell Alvin McCraney, but I will try to remember that name and hope to hear more of him. It’s time for some new young playwrights to cause a stir. Even Yasmina Reza isn’t that young anymore.
      The version of “God of Carnage” I saw was excellent. That was my first introduction to Reza.

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