Ever had a weekend of Durang? You know, one of those interludes in which your every human interaction — whether a disastrous date, a stress-inducing so-called vacation, or a simple trip to the store for a can of tuna — borders on the absurdly surreal?
Fortunately, we have the celebrated Christopher Durang, seen at right, to provide a road map of sorts through these needlessly complicated, often over-thought encounters. And beginning this Saturday, we have Middletown’s Monmouth Players at the wheel of the tour bus.
The program known as A Weekend of Durang comes to the players’ home-stage space at the Navesink Arts Center for four performances, serving up a collection of playlets, skits and monologues from the word processor of the Jersey-born playwright, who won a 2013 Tony for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and whose other well known works include Beyond Therapy and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.
With seating at $15 a ticket, the limited-engagement show is a companion to a recently established series of relatively intimate presentations, each featuring a smorgasbord of a selected author’s sometimes unfairly overlooked short works and excerpted highlights. Presented largely free of props, costumes and scenery, the series appetized the troupe’s current “Season of Classics” back in August 2016 with a buffet of bits by Thornton Wilder, and had its genesis in the previous players season with a similar salute to Tennessee Williams.
As it turns out, Williams is one of the esteemed authors who’s been playfully tweaked by Durang, with the one-act For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls (an expected part of the program at Navesink Arts) having fun with the classic play The Glass Menagerie. The Broadway hit Vanya was itself a light riff on Anton Chekhov’s heavy-stroganoff drama The Cherry Orchard, from the same writer (and occasional actor) who previously showed no hesitation in taking on the likes of Dostoyevsky (The Idiots Karamazov) and Dickens (Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge).
Speaking of appetizers and smorgasbords and such, each performance includes access to the players’ justly famous spread of homemade desserts and refreshments, served up inside the historic building’s elegantly refurbished lobby — a space that formerly served as the actual little library part of the old Navesink Library. See our 2013 story on how the players were able to rescue and restore the decommissioned branch of the Middletown Township library system — and if you’re a tea drinker, do not miss the pleasing presentation arrayed inside the repurposed Dewey-decimal card file.
Performances of A Weekend of Durang are March 11 and 18 at 8:15 p.m., and March 12 and 19 at 2 p.m., with reservations available by calling (732) 291-9211. Visit the troupe’s new website for full schedule details on the remainder of the 2016-2017 season, resuming in April with a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.