Playwright talented for the absurd dies at 75

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Playwright talented for the absurd dies at 75

Christopher Durang, one of America’s most acclaimed and accomplished playwrights whose works include the likes of Beyond Therapy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You and Tony-winner Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike As sharp as he was absurdly funny, he died Tuesday night at his home in Pipersville, PA, Bucks County. He was 75 years old.

The office of his agent Patrick Herold confirmed the death. Durang’s husband, John Augustine, said the playwright died peacefully as a result of complications of logopenic primary progressive aphasia. Durang was diagnosed with the disease in 2016 – a form of Alzheimer’s disease that impairs the ability to process language. He has largely remained out of the public spotlight since his condition became public in 2022.

In February, the Dramatists Guild of New York announced that the playwright would receive its 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award on May 6, placing Durang in a prestigious roster alongside past award winners such as John Guare, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Miller.

Born Christopher Ferdinand Durang on January 2, 1949, Durang rose to fame with his beloved (and controversial) 1980 drama. Sister Mary Ignatius explains it all for youWon the Obie Award for Best Playwright that year.

public success of Sister Mary Ignatius A renowned student career followed at the Yale School of Drama, where he began friendships and collaborations with classmates and future theater luminaries Sigourney Weaver, Albert Ionaurato, and Wendy Wasserstein. His first professional production, co-written with Ionaurato, came in 1974: The Idiot’s Karamazovstarring then-student Meryl Streep, earned rave reviews new York Times in which Durang and Iannauro were considered “Yale’s response to Tom Stoppard and Vladimir Nabokov.”

Other plays soon followed, including an Off-Broadway farce in 1976 titanic starring Weaver and, as part of the same bill, lusitania song gameCo-written and co-starring Durang and Weaver.

Next year, Durang’s History of American Film was presented on Broadway, earning him a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical. Durang and Weaver rewrote it in 1979. lusitania song game And it was presented at the Westside Arts Theater on Broadway. Cabaret-style revue, which satirized Brecht and Weill as well as contemporary shows evitaDurang and Weaver earned a Drama Desk nomination.

Durang’s important year was 1980, when his one-act play Sister Mary Ignatius explains it all for you The Ensemble Studio Theater opened at the Off-Broadway to much critical acclaim. The following year, the sharply satirical comedy, in which the title character delivers a lecture on the basics of Catholicism that is interrupted by four of his former students, transferred to Off-Broadway’s Playwrights’ Horizons.

The play was as controversial as it was successful: talk-show host Phil Donahue devoted an entire hour of his national show to discussing the play. The original Off-Broadway engagement, which originally starred Elizabeth Franz, ran for more than two years, with replacement stars including Nancy Marchand, Mary Louise Wilson, Kathleen Chalfont, Patricia Gage, and Lynn Redgrave.

Durang followed sister mary ignatius Off-Broadway hit in 1981 with beyond therapy Directed by Jerry Jacques, starring Weaver and Stephen Collins. A revised version was staged on Broadway the following year in a production starring Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow and newcomer David Hyde Pierce. The comedy, about two New Yorkers who seek to strengthen their relationship with the help of their respective psychiatrists, has been staged countless times around the world; The 1987 film version, directed (and extensively rewritten) by Robert Altman, was widely criticized, largely rejected by the playwright, who described the project as “a very sad experience and outcome”. Said.

Despite the Altman film, Durang cemented his exalted place in the theatrical pantheon with a string of widely staged works in the 1980s. Baby with the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo And wild laughter, Durang continued his winning streak through the 1990s (Sex and Lust, Daughter’s Summer Vacation) and in the 21st century (their miss witherspoon Was a 2006 Pulitzer finalist).

Durang looked back at what was perhaps his greatest accomplishment in 2012 Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a modern comedy about three adult siblings, which borrowed freely (and hilariously) from Chekhov. After original staging off-Broadway at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey and the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, the play transferred to Broadway in 2013, starring Weaver, Hyde Pierce, Christine Nielsen, and Tony. Nominated star-making performance, Billy Magnussen. The play won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

In addition to playwriting, Durang was a frequent performer on the cabaret circuit and appeared as an actor in such films the secret of my success (1987), mr north (1988), penn and teller killed (1989), in the spirit (1990), House sitter (1992) and shepherd way (1994).

In 1993 he performed in the popular Off-Broadway Sondheim revue alongside Julie Andrews, Stephen Collins, Michael Rupert and Rachel York. putting it together.

In a 1986 episode Saturday night Live Organized by his longtime friend and collaborator Weaver, Durang participated in two sketches with Weaver. In the 1987 TV special Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin Starring Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, and Robin Williams, Durang contributed a sketch titled “The Funeral”, which featured Burnett as a grieving widow and Williams as an obnoxious intruder at her husband’s wake. Was. Williams won an Emmy for the special.

Information about survivors was not immediately available.

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