I hereby declare this Top Five Week at Isak, in which I'll be sharing a host of lists that hone in on the fascinating, the curious, the strange, the interesting, and the altogether list-worthy.
1. After the Fall : Arthur Miller
Set in 1962 at the Idlewild airport — or rather, in the mind of Quentin, a Jewish lawyer from New York who is haunted by the Communist witch-hunt, the aftermath of the Holocaust, and deep failures in his relationships with women. It is striking and risk-taking conceptual play that, in turn, haunted me. (I talked more about this play here.)
2. Doubt: A Parable : John Patrick Shanley
Set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. The elegance and concision of this play belies its fierce, guttural power.
3. The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds : Paul Zindel
Set in the 1960s in a vegetable shop converted into a home. Here lives Beatrice, her daughters Tillie and Ruth, and a rabbit named Peter. The title refers to passionate and eccentric Tillie's science project. This bare-bones play is packed with so much heart, humor, and shattering sorrow, it burns.
4. Uncommon Women & Others : Wendy Wasserstein
Set primarily at Mt. Holyoke College in 1973, where a cohort of graduating seniors are trying to uncover what it means to live a worthwhile life. Wasserstein's first play, this is also one of her most affecting and nuanced; her sense for the absurd and her devastating insight lasts and lasts. (I wrote more about Wasserstein here.)
5. Intimate Apparel : Lynn Nottage
Set in New York City in 1905. We follow Esther, an African American seamstress, who makes lingerie for both wealthy white women and black prostitutes. The most-produced play of 2005-2006, Intimate Apparel is clever, wrenching, and marked by brilliant stylistic choices.