I read about ten dramas for every comedy I pick up (somehow I'm more adept at finding good serious plays than funny ones). So when someone suggests a comedy for me to read, I always try to find a copy of it somewhere.
A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking
, by John Ford Noonan, is one such play. I would have never read it if a friend hadn't mentioned it to me, but I'm really glad I followed her advice. Though frivolous on the surface, it actually delivers a wonderful message; and it is ridiculous and hilarious to boot. The play chronicles a week in the lives of two women: Hannah Mae and Maude, who live in a ritzy section of Westchester. Both are housewives. At the beginning of the play we learn that Maude is always insanely busy, particularly with baking and books; while Hannah Mae spends all of her time spying on her new neighbor Maude. Hannah Mae just moved into the house next to Maude's; and she is fascinated by her new neighbor. Over the course of the narrative we watch as these two women overcome misunderstandings, adultery, and vastly different backgrounds to become lifelong friends.
Though on the surface this play is very light and funny, there are serious undercurrents running through it from the beginning to the end. Both of these women have openly adulterous husbands, and infidelity is a sublot that runs through the course of the story as well. How these two women deal with it also has a good amount to do with the humor of the narrative; which perhaps undermines the seriousness of what they are dealing with. But no matter how funnily they cope with their situations, or how hard they make us laugh, there is no escaping the fact that Hannah Mae and Maude both come from unhappy domestic situations.
The juxtaposition of humor and drama makes this play a treasure trove for both actors and audiences: Audiences will enjoy the humor of how these women deal with the situations in which they find themselves, and actors will enjoy digging into these incredibly human and very complex characters. These are not women who sink willingly into the depths of their despair, but fight like hell to survive whatever they are going through; and their wholehearted commitment to their goals is what makes the comedy in this play. I am so glad to have read it. I will probably revisit it again at some point in the very near future.