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am 25. Juli 2000
"Betty's Summer Vacation" is a thinly veiled attack on "tabloid television" and the people who follow it obsessively. Basically, the same man who has taken on complex human relationships, religion and politics in his work has stooped to shooting proverbial fish in a barrel.
That's not to say the play isn't funny. It's uproarious. Betty is a perfect "voice of reason" for the other characters to play off of. And while the material is ridiculously dark - rape, sexual perversion and murder is the norm - Durang's handling of such is light-hearted enough to not be disgusted.
(Side note: Could this play work in a society not as desensitized to violence and sexual mayhem? Hasn't tabloid television and the instant gratification trigger of the masses been one of the main culprits of said desensitizing? Discuss.)
Make no mistake: This is a well written, funny play from one of the great comic playwrights of his generation. But Durang "taking on" instant gratification through television is akin to the Lakers playing my college intramural team.
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am 13. April 2000
It's been a rough decade for Christopher Durang. A handful of lukewarm scripts had people wondering if the vicious and yet strangely empathetic edge of his writing had been lost forever. Thankfully, with Betty's Summer Vacation, Durang is back with style. This bizarre allegory about our tendency to turn real-life tragedy into entertainment is right on the money and has all the earmarks of Durang's best scripts: A likeable but ineffectual central character fighting desperately for normality, an insane matriarch, and a cadre of strange characters imbued with an inhuman honesty that is unintentionally brutal, and completely hysterical. This will not be to everyone's taste; there are vile situations played for laughs (including a rape - possibly Durang's most disturbing writing since "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe"), and a healthy dose of absurdism and audience alienation. But if you like to think and laugh and be disgusted all at the same time, pick up Betty's Summer Vacation. If your idea of theatre comedy is, say Run For Your Wife, you best keep running.
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