One of my favorite playwrights and one I always mention when I get the dreaded “What playwrights have influenced you?” question is Nicky Silver. Not only is that a hip, indie theater, Off-Broadway sort of way to say “I used to read a lot of Christopher Durang,” but it also happens to be true.
In Liz Duffy Adams’ class, we were asked to do a visual map of the story of one of our favorite plays, and I chose The Food Chain, forcing me to realize for the first time just how many times I’ve gone back to read and re-read that play. It also made me realize how much my work of late has been at least a little influenced by Silver.
Exit Wounds is probably the closest to that early, comedy meets tragedy meets farce kind of Raised In Captivity feel — but Beyond Words has more of it than most people realize at first glance. And my 10-minute plays, where I tend to play with more overtly theatrical things like a spotlight in the middle of someone’s living room or a guy who never speaks during the entire play, also tend to have that mixture of comedy and drama that I dig in a good Silver play.
“I worry about everything,” he said one recent afternoon in a rehearsal room at Playwrights Horizons. “Everything, everything, everything, everything, everything. I worry about things that have no relationship to me whatsoever.”
Such agita has been a staple of Mr. Silver’s plays (“The Food Chain,” “Pterodactyls,” “Fat Men in Skirts”), which find humor and import in substance abuse, disease, incest, rape and other horrors.
And there’s another thing we have in common. I worry about things so much I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t start inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin — and then I turn those worries into plays. Exit Wounds in particular comes directly out of that feeling many of us had in 2004 when we were positive there had to have been a conspiracy involving hacked voting machines.
Perhaps my next play will be about downstairs neighbors who slam their door when they leave in the morning, because that’s been on my mind just about every morning this past week, right around 6AM.