by Michael Bowen & r & 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & isten up: Brilliant writer -- Mount Holyoke, MacArthur genius grant, Pulitzer Prize, she's da bomb, all right? -- lives with her cats and her blues-musician husband in Venice (that's L.A.'s Venice), wakes up on Nov. 13, 2002, decides it'd be a good idea to write a play every day for a year (no exceptions), and she's honing her craft but this is also the run-up to the war in Iraq so of course a lot of her one-page sketches bash Bush real good; husband says "cool," next thing you know there are theaters doing weeks and months of her 365-play cycle all over the country. (Got it goin' on right now in Seattle.) But in the meantime, you can enjoy this book -- which has its bland patches, sure (I sympathize with whoever has to perform the September plays) -- but Suzan-Lori Parks didn't learn from James Baldwin how to write drama like Topdog/Underdog for nothin'. At their best, Parks' playlets are miniature lessons in how to write for the stage.
Parks has her fixations -- Abraham Lincoln (he lived to age 89!); arms that are frozen before the knife can kill; racial injustice; literalized metaphors (an actual Window of Opportunity that actually closes shut); stage directions that can never be enacted; playing possum; plutocracy ("The Presidents Day Sale"); asshole warmonger dictators -- but it's interesting to watch her ring her themes' changes.
Many plays are startling and compact, with topics like watching over a sleeping stranger as an image of compassion ("The 1st Constant"); spoofing Neil Simon ("Barefoot and Pregnant in the Park"); Bush murdering his own soldier and calling it "poignant" ("House to House"); mothers protecting and relinquishing their children ("Behind the Veil of the Goddess"); breaking the cycle of poverty and crime ("My Father Was a Famous Mother"); women and men always failing to get along ("Epic Bio-Pic," "Vase" and "Bear"); depicting suicidal despair and its cure ("Plenty"); and ridiculing sectarian war ("Everybody's Got an Aunt Jemimah").
Some plays overlap; some plays interrupt others; and some of Suzan-Lori Parks' plays stretch people's minds out to infinity.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.