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December 03 , 2008

Almost an Evening


Three satiric plays by Oscar-winning screenwriter Ethan Coen
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The Nek

One of the greatest tragedies in Australian military history occurred at Gallipoli on 7 August 1915, when hundreds of Australian light horsemen were repeatedly ordered to charge the massed rifles and machine-guns of the Turkish enemy. It was a hopeless endeavour, and the resulting bloodbath has horrified every generation since and been the subject…

Raising Arizona, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading–the Coen brothers’ films are some of the most critically acclaimed and iconic of our time. Now, one half of the duo, Ethan Coen, adds playwriting to his eclectic bio. In these three short plays that ran to sold-out audiences Off-Broadway in 2008, the theme is hell–both on earth and in the hereafter.

In “Waiting,” a man faces an uncertain future in an uncertain location that seems to be some kind of waiting room. The anxiety and despair hark back to dramas of the fifties–Sartre, Beckett, Pinter.

“Four Benches” depicts an unlikely meeting in a steam room between a straight-talking Texan and an uptight Brit. Both men learn from the encounter, though only one survives it.

In “Debate,” the cantankerous god of the Old Testament roundly abuses the mealymouthed god of the New. His profanity and ill humor receive a startling comeuppance, and further reversals and changes of point of view lead to a denouement that is no more preposterous than anything else in the play.

Clever, provocative, and as engaging as the best fiction, these plays showcase yet another talent of one of our most celebrated contemporary writers.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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