The 24 Hour Plays Viral Monologues

The 24 Hour Plays Viral Monologues
Methuen Drama

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The 24 Hour Plays Viral Monologues

At a time when the world is getting used to isolation and the opportunities for theatrical performance have disappeared without trace, monologues have begun to take on much greater significance.

Rather than merely being audition tools, they have become a new currency with which performers can demonstrate their skills using little more than a phone, an Internet connection and a freely-available broadcasting medium.

As such, this hastily conceived and prepared volume of “New Monologues Created During the Coronavirus Pandemic” is timely, especially given its subject matter.

The project, masterminded by the American 24 Hour Plays team, is astonishing, given that the timescale from conception to completion of the 54 pieces, with a team of top actors involved throughout, was less than a week with delivery via the Internet starting immediately afterwards.

The writers vary from tyros, such as the editor and inspiration behind the project, Howard Sherman, to Pulitzer Prize winners, while the subject matter gives a wonderful snapshot of views on the coronavirus, fear and isolation, as the world (although regrettably not the President of the United States) began to take the pandemic seriously.

Inevitably, readers will eventually look on this book as a historical document and, even only a few months on, it presents a snapshot of reactions to the chaos that had been wrought in the United States, the United Kingdom and across the world overnight.

Inevitably, given that these tiny plays were literally written overnight, the quality is highly variable with some instantly forgettable. At the other end of the scale are a number of short plays that hit their targets dead on. Everyone will have favourites, but the best include the following:

Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen have managed to create Invincible, a verbatim piece which lives up to its name, featuring the experiences of a nurse. This miniature masterpiece may only last a couple of minutes but could have readers in tears.

Higher Order Configurations by sam chanse gets deeply into the mind of a 15-year-old girl but impressively shows the impact of the virus across the generations.

Face Timing 101 by Lydia R Diamond is a wry comedy that captures the mood of the times perfectly and will bring nods of resigned recognition from every reader.

Almost inevitably, one of the picks comes from Stephen Adly Guirgis. He has created a crude, Latino neurotic desperate to maintain his marriage and national civility in the face of the ravages of the L.A. Yoga Motherfuckers, not to mention the “Fat Orange Bitch” in the White House.

A Little About Me by Kathleen Hale is very perceptive and amusing as it focuses on loneliness and the difficulties of sharing a new apartment with a self-isolating roommate whom you have never met.

J Holtham’s Introduction poignantly catches the moment in a moving monologue that becomes something more.

State by Gabe McKinley is a cleverly constructed piece that centres on a college football coach and runs the gamut of emotions better than almost any other piece in the book.

Since he conceived the project, it is a relief to be able to report that Howard Sherman’s The Hardest Part is special, combining the pain of coronavirus worries with a powerful view about the evils of racism.

Okay Hi Everyone by Alena Smith is presented by a time traveller who matches brevity with wit after arriving in the 21st century at the worst of isolating moments.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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