London Assurance by Dion Boucicault and Richard Bean (1841)

Takes place over three days.

Sir Harcourt Courtly
Charles Courtly

Richard Dazzle

Max Harkaway
Grace Harkaway

Adolphus Spanker
Lady Gay Spanker

Mark Meddle

Solomon Isaacs

Servants
Cool (Sir Harcourt’s Valet)
Martin (Sir Harcourt’s Servant)
James (Harkaway’s servant)
Pert (Grace’s maid)

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson (1984)

One of the all time greats.

ACT ONE

  • Sturdyvant and Irvin set it up
  • Ma is a problem and they have to handle her
  • They have a list of songs for her
  • Cutler, Slow Drag, Toledo arrive
  • Only Toledo can read
  • Where is Ma?
  • Where is Levee?
  • Levee arrives with new shoes
  • Slow Drag: “I wanna get out of here.”
  • Cutler: “You play Ma’s music.”
  • Levee can’t spell music.
  • Levee in conflict with the band
  • Where’s Ma?
  • Ma’s gonna do what she wants to do

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks (2014)

On first reading, immediately read it again.  And again.  A huge accomplishment.  And only 1/3 done.

Part 1: A Measure of a Man

  • Immediately into the action
  • Is Hero going to war or not?
  • The chorus is betting on whether he’ll go
  • The dog is missing
  • Hero will win his freedom if he goes
  • But Boss-Master has promised that before
  • Hero cut off Homer’s foot
  • Hero decides to go
  • Penny enters; she does not get why Hero is dressed in his uniform
  • In the morning he told Penny he wasn’t going
  • Penny guesses Boss-Master promised Hero his freedom
  • Hero’s dog brings him luck, and the dog has gone missing
  • Hero decides again not to go
  • The others worry what that will mean for them
  • To support the decision, Hero must harm himself
  • Hero is preparing to cut off his foot – then Homer enters
  • Homer and Hero were going to escape together
  • Boss-Master offered Hero freedom if he would reveal where Homer escaped to
  • Hero revealed it, but freedom but not given

Part 2: A Battle in the Wilderness

  • They are close to the battle lines
  • Singing together
  • Has Hero run off?
  • The discussion about how much Hero is worth
  • The Colonel’s speech on being white
  • Colonel says he is going to shoot Smith
  • Smith is wearing two Yankee coats
  • The Colonel leaves Hero and Smith alone
  • General Grant’s theatrics
  • Smith’s reveal
  • Hero’s concern that he won’t be worth anything if the North wins
  • Hero lets Smith escape but declines to join him

Part 3: The Union of My Confederate Parts

  • Ulysses returns
  • Penny goes

London Assurance by Dion Boucicault (1841)

And again. 13+ characters.

Act 1: London – Sir Harcourt Hartley’s House

  • Starts with servants
  • Creditors are circling
  • Last day before CHARLES COURTLY returns to college
  • COOL is “the best liar in London”
  • CHARLES picked up by RICHARD DAZZLE
  • SIR HARCOURT will marry again
  • Great jokes about GRACE HARKAWAY’s age
  • The backstory on motivation for GRACE to marry SIR HARCOURT
  • SIR HARCOURT thinks his son is a paragon of virtue
  • Use of asides
  • MAX HARKAWAY does not know what CHARLES looks like
  • Lying about ages
  • MAX mistakes DAZZLE for CHARLES
  • But when corrected thinks DAZZLE is an old friend of CHARLES
  • HARKAWAY invites DAZZLE to the wedding in Gloucestershire
  • DAZZLE turns around and pawns off HARKAWAY’s invite as his own house
  • CHARLES being pursued by creditors

Act 2: Gloucestershire – Oak Hall – Lawn

  • Starts with servants
  • Zingers galore about layers
  • Jokes about MEDDLE’s name
  • CHARLES sees GRACE
  • CHARLES gives MEDDLE a false name – AUGUSTUS HAMILTON
  • Everyone arrives
  • Town & Country jokes
  • CHARLES sees his father
  • CHARLES denies he is SIR HARCOURT’s son
  • Hair jokes

Act 3: Gloucestershire – Oak Hall – Inside

  • MAX tells SIR HARCOURT he met DAZZLE at SIR HARCOURT’s house in London
  • LADY GAY SPANKER
  • Talk about hunting
  • SIR HARCOURT falls for LADY GAY
  • SPANKER is a wanker
  • SIR HARCOURT sends a letter to CHARLES in town
  • DAZZLE hatches a plan
  • Brilliant physical comedy: “Unhand me, sir, I insist”
  • CHARLES gives LADY GAY her mission

Act 4: Gloucestershire – Oak Hall – Inside

  • The letter: “It is near enough to the fire where it is.”
  • CHARLES “arrives”
  • SIR HARCOURT is caught by LADY GAY

Act 5: Gloucestershire – Oak Hall – Outside

  • COOL is not cool
  • Disguises
  • The escape is foiled
  • The duel

Act 6: Gloucestershire – Oak Hall – Inside

  • The exchange of an old fool for a young one
  • The race to preempt the duel
  • Some good Jew jokes

London Assurance by Dion Boucicault (1841)

A master class of comedic brilliance.  Decades ahead of his time.  And only 21 when he wrote it.  There are very few writers as good as Boucicault.  What a contrast to so many current playwrights in whose plays absolutely nothing ever happens.  With Boucicault it’s like an action movie.  Bang, bang, bang.  Stuff happens.  All kinds of stuff.  All the time.  Would love to see this performed.  And the mystery of Mr. Dazzle!  Well done, Dion.