Christopher Durang


After a sold out run, first at McCarter Theater in Princeton New Jersey and then at Lincoln Center in New York City, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike moved to Broadway for a limited run from March 5th to August 25th. 

It won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.



Deliriously funny! Comic acting raised to the level of high art. . . . The theater erupts in booming gusts of laughter that practically shake the seats!” —The New York Times

The book, published by Grove Atlantic, is now available.  Follow the link below:



 Christoper Durang's New Play "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" at Lincoln Center Theater

Christopher Durang’s new play is entitled Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  The play was written on commission from the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, and then it became a co-production of the McCarter and The Lincoln Center Theater in New York City.  The play premiered at the McCarter in early September 2012 and played until October 14, and then the same production (including director Nicholas Martin and the cast) moved to Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater.  The play began previews on October 25, opened on November 12, and has recently been extended until January 20, 2013.

The cast of six is made up of David Hyde Pierce as Vanya, Kristine Nielsen as Sonia, Sigourney Weaver as Masha, Billy Magnussen as Spike, Shalita Grant as Cassandra, and Genevieve Angelson as Nina.

The play is set in the present day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in a farm house Vanya and his step-sister Sonia have lived in all their lives.  They jointly took care of their ailing, doddering parents for many years while their movie star sister Masha was gallivanting around the world, having a life.  The play takes place on a weekend when Masha shows up with a new twenty something boy toy named Spike. 

Vanya, Masha and Sonia were named after Chekhov characters by their college professor parents.  And the play, which is a mix of comedy and drama, takes Chekhovian characters and themes, mixes them up and puts them in a blender. 

The play has been directed by Nicholas Martin, who also directed the premieres of two other Durang plays, Betty’s Summer Vacation  at Playwrights Horizons Theatre, winning him a directing Obie award, and the critically acclaimed Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them  at the Public Theatre.

Below is the trailer from the McCarter production.



Chris Durang and Dawne recently won a
Nightlife Award at Town Hall in New York City


Chris Durang & Dawne, the unique comic nightclub act launched in 1989 featuring the playwright and John Augustine and Sherry Anderson, will be reunited for the first time in over a decade at the 10th Annual Nightlife Awards, which will be held Jan. 30, 2012 at 7 PM at Town Hall. 

Chris Durang & Dawne will receive a Special Nightlife Award for their legendary nightclub act, and they will also perform during the evening, which will be hosted by actress-singer Lucie Arnaz and Tony winner Bill Irwin. 

In a statement, producer-host Scott Siegel said, "I have been trying to bring Chris Durang & Dawne together again for almost the entire ten years that the Nightlife Awards has been in existence. I'm thrilled that I am finally succeeding because my wife and I happened to be at The Criterion Center in Times Square when Chris Durang & Dawne premiered in 1986 at a 10:30 PM show. We laughed our heads off and never forgot this extraordinary act." 

The evening, which honors the best in cabaret, comedy & jazz, differs from other award shows in that it features no acceptance speeches. Instead of speeches, the winners perform. 

The last time Durang, Augustine and Anderson performed together in New York City was in 1996.   

On his website, producer Scott Siegel added this: “I have been trying to bring Chris Durang & Dawne together again for almost the entire ten years that the Nightlife Awards has been in existence. I’m thrilled that I am finally succeeding because my wife and I happened to be at The Criterion Center in Times Square when Chris Durang & Dawne premiered in 1986 at a 10:30 PM show. We laughed our heads off and never forgot this extraordinary act. It was actually easier for me to re-unite Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner for their concert together at Town Hall a few years ago than it was to get the elusive Durang & Dawne back together. But finally it is about to happen and I can’t wait!”

Durang and Dawne performed for 10 minutes at the Nightlife Awards, and received a standing ovation that went on for 20 minutes.  No, the last part of the sentence is a lie.  But it went well.  And they performed their over-heated trio version of “Aldonza”  from Man of La Manhca, and they finished with their Madonna medley that somehow segues into a strangely unhinged You are Sixteen Going on Seventeen.


Durang’s 2009 Play
Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them


Why Torture Is Wrong, and The People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang. ( Left to right) Kristine Nielsen, Laura Benanti.  Photo by Joan Marcus

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them was written on commission from the Public Theatre and premiered in March 2009 at the Newman Theatre at the Public. 

Durang’s funniest play! Don’t feel guilty about laughing so hard at this hilarious new comedy.”  – Ben Brantley, The New York Times

You may laugh yourself silly! This carnival of lunacy swept me into its joyous whirligig. it establishes Laura Benanti, already known in musicals (“Gypsy”), as an absolute star with this nonsinging role.”   – John Simon, Bloomberg News

A hilarious, topsy-turvy look at a world that is definitely off-kilter.” – Mike Kuchwara, Associated Press

“It's very good news that Christopher Durang, our Poet Laureate of the Absurd, has written a smashing new play.  … The treasured playwright (of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Beyond Therapy and Betty’s Summer Vacation) possesses a serious philosophy of life combined with a serious taste for the blissfully, unapologetically silly. (But then, the more dangerous his characters, the sillier they are.)...

Christopher Durang is Jonathan Swift’s nicer, younger brother. Only he would end Why Torture Is Wrong in a heavenly version of Hooters. Meanwhile, it’s more than enough for us that this freewheeling satire of the cult of violence in a mad, mad world is a cathartic riot. Nicholas Martin has directed at exactly the right heady pace. His entire ensemble, with the hilarious Kristine Nielson, never misses a beat.”
- John Heilpern, The New York Observer

WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM tells the story of a young woman suddenly in crisis: Is her new husband, whom she married when drunk, a terrorist? Or just crazy? Or both? Is her father’s hobby of butterfly collecting really a cover for his involvement in a shadow government? Why does her mother enjoy going to the theater so much? Does she seek mental escape, or is she insane? Honing in on our private terrors both at home and abroad, Durang oddly relieves our fears in this black comedy for an era of yellow, orange, and red alerts.

The stellar cast of WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM  featured Amir Arison (Queens Boulevard at Signature), David Aaron Baker (A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway), Laura Benanti (2008 Tony winner for Gypsy on Broadway), Audrie Neenan (Oklahoma! on Broadway), Kristine Nielsen (Obie winner for Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation at Playwrights Horizons), John Pankow (“Mad About You”), and Richard Poe (Cry-Baby on Broadway).

WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM featured scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Gabriel Berry, lighting design by Ben Stanton, original music by Mark Bennett, and sound design by Drew Levy.  Mr. Korins won multiple awards for his design for this play, including a Drama Desk Award and an Obie sustained achievement award.

In the cast Laura Benanti and Amir Arison played Felicity and Zamir, the suddenly married couple; Richard Poe and Kristine Nielsen play Felicity's parents; John Pankow is Reverend Mike; Audrie Neenan is Hildegarde; and David Aaron Baker plays the Voice, the Waiter and Loony Tunes. Why Torture Is Wrong, and The People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang. ( Left to right) Kristine Nielsen, Laura Benanti, Amir Arison, Richard Poe.  Photo by Joan Marcus

Photo above left: (at left)  Laura Benanti comforts her mother,
played by Kristine Nielsen.

Photo at right: (from left to right)  Kristine Nielsen and Laura Benanti watch as Amir Arison is confronted by Richard Poe.  Photos by Joan Marcus



Rachel DeBenedet in "Adrift in Macao" by Christopher DurangCD of Durang-Melnick Musical Adrift in Macao
Now Available


Performance Rights Available Through Samuel French


The musical Adrift in Macao, with book and lyrics by Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick, premiered in New York City in 2007 at Primary Stages.


And before that, this light-hearted film noir parody musical had a successful run at Philadelphia Theatre Company in the fall of 2005, winning three of the show’s performers Philadelphia’s Barrymore Awards: Rachel deBenedet for Best Actress in a Musical, and Orville Mendoza and Michele Ragusa for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. The three performers recreated their roles in the Primary Stages production and are on the CD.

Filling out the rest of the talented cast are Alan Campbell as the mysterious ex-patriate Mitch, Will Swenson as the shady and womanizing nightclub owner Rick, and Jonathan Rayson and Elisa Van Duyne as the Trenchcoat Chorus.

Orville Mendoza and Michele Ragusa in "Adrift in Macao" by Christopher DurangThe productions were directed by Sheryl Kaller, musical direction was by Fred Lassen, choreography by Christopher Gattelli, set by Thomas Lynch, costumes by Willa Kim, lighting by Jeff Croiter, orchestrations by Michael Starobin, casting by Mark Simon.

The show is a light-hearted, playful parody of two Hollywood genres: the film noir movies, in which the leading man is always mysterious and can't go home for murky reasons he won't say; and the less known “exotic adventure” movie set in Hollywood versions of China or Morocco or Trinidad,  And in these foreign places, the leading lady can seemingly get a job singing in a nightclub no matter how well she does or doesn’t sing.

In Durang and Melnick’s romp, the mysterious man is Mitch named for Robert Mitchum.  And the nightclub singer who falls in love with him is named Lureena, and is a mixture of Jane Russell, Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, a wised-up broad who’s still underneath a hopeless romantic.  Plus there's also the mysterious Mr. McGuffin who everyone is searching for. Songs include In a Foreign City in a Slinky Dress, Pretty Moon Over Macao, The Chase, and Ticky, Ticky, Tocky Bangkok.

(Photo above right: Rachel deBenedet.  Photo above left: Orville Mendoza, Michele Ragu.  Photos by Mark Garvin)

Performance rights are through Samuel French.
To buy the CD on, here is the link.

Miss Witherspoon & Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge by Christopher Durang - Book CoverMiss Witherspoon and
Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge
Available Through Grove Press


Durang’s 2005 play Miss Witherspoon is published with his light-hearted parody Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge in a paperback volume published by Grove Press.

Miss Witherspoon was a hit in 2005 in its joint premiere at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton and Playwrights Horizons in New York.  Starring Kristine Nielsen and directed by Emily Mann, the play tells the story of a woman who has “had enough” and has killed herself.  She hoped there would be no after life, but if there was, she was expecting Saint Peter at the gates.  To her surprise she in the “the Bardo,” where a sweet but firm Indian woman named Maryamma keeps trying to FORCE Miss Witherspoon to reincarnate, which she refuses to do.  Eventually she’s forced to go back to earth, all though her lives keep being short. 

It is a comedy, but a thoughtful one.  The other actors in the play were Mahira Kakkar as Maryamma, Colleen Werthmann as the mother, Jeremy Shamos as the father and later as Gandalf, and Linda Gravatt was the Woman in a Hat.  The play was named one of the Ten Best Plays of 2005 by Time Magazine and Newsday, and was a finalist for the Pulitizer Prize.

“This is Durang at the top of his metaphysical, apocalyptic, high- and pop-culture game...” – Linda Winer, Newsday.  “An endearingly meditative farce… it’s a pleasure to note that [Durang] hasn’t lost his screwball.” – Richard Corliss, Time.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge is Durang’s playful Dickens romp in which Scrooge’s journey to redemption is torpedoed by an out-of-control Mrs. Cratchit, who’s sick of all the suffering in her life and wants to get drunk and jump off London Bridge.  (Durang has been getting enthusiastic emails from people doing the play around the country at Christmas time.)

Reviews from the original production at City Theatre:  “A hilarious success. … [the show] goes in so many wonderfully loony directions at once.Gordon Spencer, Pittsburgh Pulp“Fiendishly funny” – Doug Shanaberger, Observor-Reporter“Durang is the toast of Pittsburgh!” – Edna Welthorpe, Daily Telegraph.

With a short introduction written by Durang, the book is available now.  Amazon Books or Grove/Atlantic (search under Durang). 

(Cover Design by Wendy Lai, Photograph by Peter Cook, Artwork courtesy of McCarter Theatre.)

The performance rights to both plays are handled by Dramatists Play Services

for Old News, click here


home    table of contents    news    bio    published plays    full length plays    one act plays
performance rights    film/tv writing    interviews & essays    for students    acting work    guest book