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Asian chefs cite five flavor notes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy—without which no meal is complete. While assembling the plays in this anthology, the editors enjoyed a dazzling range of comedic hors d'oeuvres. From laugh-out-loud funny to subtly amusing, caustic, witty, or outrageous, there are as many flavors of comedy as there are sense of humor.
We read over 400 short plays and monologues to create this all-you-can-eat comic buffet. We found delectable morsels by celebrated humorists Christopher Durang (Funeral Parlor), David Ives (The Blizzard), Warren Leight (Norm-Anon), Mark O'Donnell (You Know Who Else I Hate?), and Theresa Rebeck (The Contract); inspiring monologues by actor/playwrights Halley Feiffer (Thank You So Much fo Stopping), Dan Berkowitz (Sourpuss), and Tony Award winner Mary Louise Wilson (Tirade); plus enough superb audition pieces, two-handers, and ensemble plays to satisfy laugh-hungry actors, readers, and audience members.
We chose monologues of all lengths, from Liz Ellison's swift Gabrielle and Elizabeth Wong's spiky Ripper Girl to Jeffrey Hatcher's epic Match Wits with Minka Lupino, from his monologue trio Murderers. Pete Barry's irascible businessman extends his free fall from a plane to hilarious lengths in Nine Point Eight Meters per Second per Second. Jane Shephard's Long Distance reveals a man's thorny encounter with a former classmate, while Edwin Sánchez's Ernesto the Magnificent fiercely paints a performance by an embittered sword swallower.
There's also a wealth of play for two actors. Amy Herzog's Christmas Present, Mark Harvey Levine's The Rental, and Garth Wingfield's Mary Just Broke Up with This Guy put unique spins on the staple of comedy, boy meets girl. In Anton Dudley's romantic Getting Home, boy meets hunky Indian cabdriver. The couple in Eric Lane's Curtain Raiser tackles an abandoned Woolworth building; in Wayne Rawley's The Scary Question, another couple bonds over zombies.
There are graceful duets for young actors, including Samara Siskind's Bar Mitzvah Boy, Megan Mostyn-Brown's The Woods Are for Suckers and Chumps, Michael Mitnick's Life without Subtext, and Ean Miles Kessler's bullet-paced Brotherly Love. Senior actors will cherish Peter Handy's bittersweet Friendship and Drew Larimore's The Anniversary, quite possibly the first play about retirees in postapocalyptic Siberia.
Three plays for two actresses—Nicole Quinn's lyrical Sandchair Cantata, Laura Shaine's poignant The Whole Truth & Nothing but the Bluetooth, and Barbara Wiechmann's salty duet for obsessed Realtors, 36 Rumson Road—treat women's darkest anxieties with a refreshingly light touch.
On the testosterone side, Dan Kois's The Rumor outs a surprising scandal in men's sports, Gary Winter's I Love Neil LaBute deftly skewers the playwright dubbed "America's reigning misanthrope," and Dana Yeaton's Men in Heat bares the mysteries of the male biological clock.
Genders bend freely in Adam Bock's Three Guys and a Brenda, in which all four title characters are played by actresses. Nina Shengold's Double Date upends political correctness by taking "joined at the hip" at face value, while Jacquelyn Reingold's A Very Very Short Play sparks an airplane romance between a one-foot-tall woman and a twelve-foot-tall man, both played by actors of average height.
Rob Ackerman's You Have Arrived also encourages very non-traditional casting, as one of its actresses plays a GPS monitor. Other three-character plays include John Augustine's uproariously acerbic cell-phone-age comedy PeopleSpeak and Caleen Sinnette Jennings's Uncovered, which finds gallows humor in the post-Katrina cleanup. Eric Coble's physical comedy H.R. is equally topical, observing a quartet of cubicle workers whipping themselves into a froth at the prospect of being downsized.
Three plays with larger casts go back to school for laughs. Billy Aronson's Reunions offers a wonderfully demented spin on catching-up small talk among high school alumni, Philip Dawkin's whimsical Nothing riffs on an alien invasion at school, and the gruff coach in Daryl Watson's hilarious Snap tries to whip his dozens insult team (including a stuttering girl with unforeseen gifts) into shape.
For divinely inspired slapstick humor, try Mikhail Horowitz's Mere Vessels, a fearless inquiry into the spiritual lives of ventriloquists' dummies, or Elizabeth Meriwether's Particle Board, which gives the pompous Great Man documentary a well-deserved plank in the face.
As editors of more than a dozen play anthologies, we've been gratified to hear of many multiplay productions culled from our previous books. We urge readers of Shorter, Faster, Funnier to enjoy these plays in any way you can: read them aloud with friends; mount a stage reading, full production, or evening of short plays. As always, be sure to acquire the proper rights first—playwrights don't take kindly to finding unauthorized performances in online listings or YouTube postings. Contacts for performance rights are listed in the back of this book, along with playwrights' biographies and an index by cast size.
Whatever your comic taste, you're sure to find something within these pages to make you laugh. You'll also find heartache and suspense, poetic language and raunchy jokes. Comedy is a many-flavored banquet, and we invite you to pull up a chair. Enjoy!