Book Reviews: Best American Short Plays of 2008-2009 ; Applause Libretto Library Series - The Sound of Music, Avenue Q, Oklahoma!

If the one-act play form is an endangered species, the folks at Applause Theatre & Cinema Books don’t seem to know it. They’ve just released The Best American Short Plays 2008-2009, the latest annual edition of their invaluable long-running series. Edited by Barbara Parisi, this reasonably priced ($18.99) collection includes sixteen works by playwrights both well known (Neil LaBute, David Ives, Murray Schisgal) and obscure.  While not every piece is a winner, there are enough gems here to make one wonder why so few theaters—the Ensemble Studio Theater’s annual one-act play marathon being a notable exception—are willing to take a chance on producing short works.


The same publisher has also issued three new installments of their Applause Libretto Library Series, comprised of trade paperback versions of notable Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals. Designed for general reading rather than production purposes, these versions feature the complete dialogue and lyrics to each show, plus (in most cases) an introduction by a notable theater expert, and a selection of color photos.


The current crop includes two Rodgers & Hammerstein classics, Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music (the latter with an introduction by Timothy Crouse, son of co-book writer Russel Crouse) and the rather more contemporary Avenue Q, the long-running Tony Award-winning musical featuring hilariously profane puppets and such irreverent musical numbers as “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet is for Porn.”  


The Best American Short Plays (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, $18.99)

The Sound of Music, Avenue Q, Oklahoma! (Applause Theater & Cinema Books, $16.99 each)