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September 29, 2021

Escapist Plays


There’s nothing like a well-plotted play to take us away from the hustle and bustle of our own storyline. Get lost in the intrigue, suspense, tenderness and intelligence of these uplifting shows that will leave your sides in stitches.

Adult Entertainment by Elaine May (US)
(Comedy, 3f, 3m)
A group of adult video veterans, tired of working tirelessly for others, escape into a world of their own creation as they write and shoot their own extravaganza, an “art” film. The script doesn’t live up to their expectations so they bring in a new writer, who insists they read the classics to prepare for their roles. Unexpected ideas develop as the hilarity escalates, bringing the play to a raucous conclusion.

Ben Hur by Patrick Barlow (US/UK)
(Comedy, 1f, 3m)
Based on one of the bestselling books of the 19th century, Patrick Barlow’s hilarious stage adaptation condenses the epic story so it can be told by just four actors (or as many as 26). In this non-stop frolic, an amateur theatre troupe attempts to produce the massive tale of the fictional Jewish prince and merchant Judah Ben-Hur, complete with chariot race, sea battle and stage combat.

Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer (US/UK)
(Short Play, Comedy, 3f, 5m)
This hilarious, crowd-pleasing slapstick comedy features several colorful, duplicitous characters stumbling around a pitch-black room, all in full view of the audience, who watch the events unfold in full light. Unexpected guests, aging spinsters, errant phone cords, and other snares impede a fraudster’s frantic attempts to return several purloined items before light is restored.

Boeing Boeing by Marc Comoletti, translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 2m)
Take yourself back to the 1960s with this French farce adapted for the English-speaking stage. Boeing Boeing features self-styled Parisian Lothario Bernard, who has Italian, German and American fiancées, each a beautiful airline hostess with frequent “layovers.” He keeps “one up, one down, and one pending” until unexpected schedule changes bring all three to Paris, and Bernard’s apartment, at the same time.

Brides of the Moon by Maureen Angelos, Lisa Kron, Dominique Dibbell and Peg Healey (US)
(Comedy, 5f)
In this sci-fi sex comedy from razor-sharp satirists The Five Lesbian Brothers, a group of female astronauts in the year 2069 find themselves adrift in space when a discarded Winnebago crashes into the ship’s hull. When their programmed sexual urges are accidentally triggered, the ship becomes a Sapphic love boat. A bawdy, dystopian comedy that surprises with poignant portraits of lost souls reaching for connection.

Calendar Girls by Tim Firth (US/UK)
(Comedy, 9f, 4m)
Get lost in this true story about eleven members of a Women’s Institute who posed nude for a calendar to raise money for the Leukemia Research Fund. The news of the women’s charitable venture spreads like wildfire, and hordes of press soon descend on the small village of Knapeley in the Yorkshire Dales. The calendar is a success, but close friends Chris and Annie’s friendship is put to the test under the strain of their newfound fame.

Die Mommie Die! by Charles Busch (US/UK)
(Comedy, 3f, 3m)
Escape to the bygone era of 1960s “Grande Dame Guignol” thrillers in this hilarious and clever send-up. Ex-pop singer Angela Andrews is trapped in a hateful marriage. Desperate to find happiness with her younger lover, Angela murders her husband with a poisoned suppository. In a plot that reflects Greek tragedy and Hollywood kitsch, Angela’s Elektra-like daughter Edith and emotionally disturbed son Lance vow to avenge their father’s death by killing their mother.

Four Old Broads by Leslie Kimbell (US/UK)
(Comedy, 6f, 1m)
Retired burlesque queen Beatrice Shelton and her best friend, prayerful Eaddy Mae Clayton, notice that things have not been very pleasant at Magnolia Place Assisted Living since Nurse Pat Jones began working there. In a wild scheme to outsmart the evil Nurse, the gals wonder: why have so many residents been moved to “the dark side,” what exactly IS that mysterious pill, and what happened to Doctor Head?

Ken Ludwig’s The Gods of Comedy (US/UK)
(Comedy, 3f, 4m)
Find a humorous hideaway in the halls of the Ivy League. Young classics professors Daphne and Ralph make a monumental discovery, then things go horribly wrong. Daphne, in a panic, asks to be saved by the gods of ancient Greece, and then the gods actually appear. Nothing will ever be the same in academia as a pair of screwball deities encounter the carnal complexity of college coeds, campus capers and conspicuous consumption.

Greater Tuna by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears (US/UK)
(Comedy, 2f or m)
Two actors create the entire population of Tuna, Texas in this tour de farce of quick-change artistry, changing costumes and characterizations faster than a jack rabbit runs from a coyote. Two actors, 20 characters, and a barrel of laughs, y’all. This send-up of small-town morals and mores, we meet an array of upstanding citizens.

Into the Breeches! by George Brant (US/UK)
(Comedy, 6f, 2m)
Join a troupe of actors taking artistic refuge from the reality of WWII. Oberon Play House’s director and leading men are off at war with the Axis. Determined to press on, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all-female version of Shakespeare’s Henriad, assembling an increasingly unexpected team. Together they deliver a delightful celebration of collaboration and persistence: The show must on!

Jane Austen’s Lady Susan by Rob Urbinati (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy, 4f, 3m)
Escape into Austen’s world of forlorn lovers and unsuitable suitors. Lady Susan, a young widow, flees London and arrives at the country home of her obliging brother-in-law and his suspicious wife. Soon to come – uninvited – are an eligible suitor, her willful daughter, her chatty confidante and a dimwitted bachelor. Lady Susan schemes, but all does not go according to plan as she and her daughter become rivals for the same man.

The Kitchen Witches by Arnold Wesker (US/UK)
(Comedy, 2f, 2m)
When circumstances put enemies Isobel and Dolly together on a TV show called The Kitchen Witches, the insults are flung harder than the food. Dolly’s long-suffering TV producer son, Stephen, tries to keep them on track, but as long as Dolly’s dressing room is one inch closer to the set than Isobel’s, it’s a losing battle, and the show becomes a ratings smash as Dolly and Isobel top both Martha Stewart and Jerry Springer!

The Late Wedding by Christopher Chen (US/UK)
(Drama, 6 any gender)
Lose yourself in this exploration of love and intimacy as told through an anthropological tour of fantastical tribes and their marital customs. The Late Wedding is a winking second-person narrative delivered by a six-person shape-shifting cast that deftly guides you on a wild and delightful examination of love and longing. At once a tour of marriage customs, a spy thriller, and a sci-fi love story, this mind-bending play is sure to give you pause.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon (US)
(Comedy, 2f, 7m)
What would be like to be a writer on a hit show with a tight turnaround? Inspired by the playwright’s youthful experience as a staff writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, this ensemble comedy features all the attendant comic drama as a harried writing staff frantically scrambles to top each other with gags while competing for the attention of star madman Max Prince.

Lie, Cheat, and Genuflect by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 4m)
There’s nothing like a horse race-induced debt to a loan shark to send you trotting away from the thought of your everyday life! In this bright play, the Buckle brothers, Billy and Tom, are in big trouble: Tom’s infallible eye for slow horses has drained away all of Billy’s savings and loan shark Pizza Face Petrillo wants his money back or else! This play’s a recipe for a laugh-packed farce of twists, turns, puns and pratfalls as Tom strives mightily to compensate for Billy’s “habitual” errors.

My Big Gay Italian Christmas by Anthony Wilkinson (US/UK)
(Comedy, 8f, 2m)
Still looking for a holiday play? Why not lose yourself in this hilarious night out with the Pinnuziato family brought to you by the author of My Big Gay Italian Wedding (US/UK)? Hold on to your cannolis and get ready for a snowy ride! Over-the-top characters, a bisexual love triangle and heated political conversations run amok and all come to a head when a snowstorm forces the family indoors during the holiday season.

Nana Does Vegas by Katherine DiSavino (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 3m, 2m or f, 2 any gender)
In her first play, Nana’s Naughty Knickers (US/UK), playwright Katherine DiSavino unleashed Nana, the world’s wildest grandma, onto the stage. In this searingly funny follow-up, Nana has taken a gamble and moved to Las Vegas, where she and her sidekick Vera are working as seamstresses for a show… What could possibly go wrong?

Noises Off by Michael Frayn (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 6m)
Lose your head with the director in this collage of missed cues and feisty performers! Noises Off presents a manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop. Door slamming, on and offstage intrigue, and an errant herring all figure in the plot of this classically comic play.

Play On! by Rick Abbot (US/UK)
(Comedy, 7f, 3m)
Completely consuming and yet utterly trite, this play’s showbiz shenanigans are sure to be an escape from keeping the house in order. Perfect for any performing group, this is the hilarious story of a theatre group trying desperately to put on a play in spite of maddening interference from a haughty author who keeps revising the script.

Popcorn Falls by James Hindman (US)
(Dramatic Comedy, 2 any gender)
Two actors play over twenty roles in a world of farce, love and desperation – and attempt to prove once and for all that art can save the world. The sleepy town of Popcorn Falls is forced into bankruptcy when a neighboring town threatens to turn them into a sewage treatment plant. Their only hope – open a theater!

Puffs by Matt Cox (US)
(Comedy, 5f, 5m, 1m or f)
Eager to revisit a certain wizarding world? Take a new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of three potential heroes just trying to make it through a magic school. Alongside them are the Puffs, a group of well-meaning, loyal outsiders with a thing for badgers. Their hilarious heartfelt epic journey takes the classic story to new places and reimagines what a boy wizard hero can be. </ p>

Sandy Toes & Salty Kisses by Michael Parker and Susan Parker (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 3m)
Interested in a honeymoon? How about a vicarious theatrical honeymoon? The Lovers’ Landing Beach Hotel has acquired a certain mystique as the home of Sandy Toes & Salty Kisses. Having just inherited the hotel from her late father, Audrina Brown quickly discovers that her Uncle Bubba, the hotel manager, is running a variety of “extra-curricular activities” on the property. It’s a mystery, a love story, and a new farce from the authors of Sex Please We’re Sixty (US/UK).

Scapino by Jeffrey Binder (US/UK)
(Comedy, 2f, 6m)
The runaway hit, based on Molière’s 17th-century French comedy set in Naples, Italy, has been rewritten and reimagined by Broadway veteran Jeffrey Binder as a mafia comedy set in the “dangerous streets” of sunny Naples, Florida. This physical comedy is a blend of slapstick and double-talk, combined with a hysterical mix of political comedy and all-around satire.

Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood (US/UK)
(Comedy, 2f, 6m)
Packed with thrills, romance, laughter and immortal characters like Little John, Friar Tuck and Maid Marian, this madcap adventure as told by Ken Ludwig tracks the enduring story of a hero of the people who takes on the ruthless powers that be. A journey filled to the brim with swashbuckling fun!

Significant Other by Joshua Harmon (US/UK)
(Comedy, 4f, 3m)
Get lost in someone else’s search for love, and maybe start to question your own. Jordan Berman would love to be in love, but that’s easier said than done. So until he meets Mr. Right, he wards off lonely nights with his trio of close girlfriends. But as singles’ nights turn into bachelorette parties, Jordan discovers that the only thing harder than finding love is supporting the loved ones around you when they do.

Single Black Female by Lisa B. Thompson (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy, 2f)
Two Black women play a variety of characters in this madcap comedy fit for the present moment. Rapid-fire comic vignettes explore the lives of thirty-something Black middle-class women in urban America as they search for love, clothes and dignity in a world that fails to recognize them amidst a cacophony of stereotypical images. The Mamalogues (US/UK), Thompson’s new follow-up to this play, traces the exhilaration and exhaustion that come from being a Black single mother in America.

Ken Ludwig’s The Three Musketeers (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy, 4f, 8m)
Based on the evergreen swashbuckler by Alexandre Dumas, this is a tale of heroism, treachery, close escapes and, above all, honor. The story, set in 1625, begins with D’Artagnan, who sets off for Paris in search of adventure. Sent with D’Artagnan to attend a convent school in Paris, Sabine poses as a young man – D’Artagnan’s servant – and quickly becomes entangled in her brother’s adventures.

Tin Cat Shoes by Trish Harnetiaux (US/UK)
(Dark Comedy, 5 any gender)
Get wrapped up in this madcap odyssey that steers you through a wilderness of corporate bureaucracy and crippling human dependencies. Blessed with the can-do American spirit, a troop of dedicated shoe store employees embark on a journey of personal expansion. But when “work is your life” and systems break down, all that remains is you, a casino and the truth.

Tiny Houses by Chelsea Marcantel (US/UK)
(Dramatic Comedy, 2f, 3m)
Is it possible to find serenity when your world shrinks? In this new comedy about finding out what really matters to us, a group of friends are building a tiny house together in the backyard. As the dwelling comes together on stage, tensions swell, discoveries are made, and long-buried feelings rise to the surface. Can tiny really equal happy? Or is this a recipe for disaster?

For more great plays and musicals, visit Concord Theatricals in the US or UK.

Header Image: 2016 Broadway production of Noises Off (Joan Marcus).