Some tennis matches are tragedies. Some are comedies. Some are farces. And the outfits are pretty nifty, too. With the sport’s mix of grace and ferocity, brains and brute force, tennis has thwacked its way into plenty of plays, from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” to Amanda Peet’s forthcoming “Our Very Own Carlin McCullough.” Here’s a sampling of recent stage upsets and smashes.
The disgraced tennis great Bill Tilden swung again in A.R. Gurney’s biographical drama, which was staged at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 2004 and starred John Michael Higgins in the title role. In his New York Times review, Ben Brantley wrote that the play, about a gentlemanly athlete and dogged sexual predator, “diffuses its potential impact by assembling notebooks’ worth of research and then laying it out in the manner of a conscientious student’s term paper.”
‘Hell Meets Henry Halfway’
In adapting Witold Gombrowicz’s “Possessed,” the physical theater troupe Pig Iron and the playwright Adriano Shaplin made a Gothic murder mystery a lot sportier. As intrigue swirls in a Polish country home, characters volleyed balls and accusations. The Times critic described the 2004 production as “a Tilt-a-Whirl of a show that leaves you dizzy and means to.”
Terrence McNally’s 2007 play is best remembered for its ace cast, Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes. They played the members of a long estranged women’s doubles team, finally reunited at the United States Open. Ben Brantley characterized the drama’s central conflict as a “fight between two valiant, vibrant actresses against a swamp of a play that keeps trying to suck the life out of them. “
‘Don’t You _______ Say a Word’
Andy Bragen’s 2016 four-hander with an unpublishable title premiered at 59E59 Theaters last year. Mr. Bragen’s heated outburst during an ostensibly friendly match was its inspiration. As two men relive the match and the ensuing tirade, their girlfriends provide color commentary.
‘Scenes From Court Life, or the whipping boy and his prince’
In Sarah Ruhl’s intricate political drama, directed by Mark Wing-Davey at the Yale Repertory Theater last year, siblings Jeb and George W. Bush vie for dominance on the tennis court and off it, too. They’re joined in competition by the Stuart monarchs Charles I and Charles II.
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