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What Lies Before Us
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Monday March 29, 2010 in Books

What Lies Before Us

By Morris Panych

Two-time Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Morris Panych has done with What Lies Before Us the almost unthinkable: he has turned Waiting for Godot into a comedy while simultaneously heightening rather than minimizing the profound existential questions it asks. But this play is no mere parody of a theatre classic, nor is it a “history play.” The roots of Panych’s comedy extend to the confrontation of Shakespeare’s “rude mechanicals” with their “educated betters,” and to the fundamentally and hilariously irreconcilable differences between the world views of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

The English Mr. Keating and the Scottish Mr. Ambrose are assistant surveyors camped in the Rocky Mountains with Mr. Wing, their Chinese coolie, starving as they wait for “the Major,” an American adventurer, to show up and lead their railroad survey party in the nation-building enterprise called Canada. Of course, the Major never shows up, leaving the rude and uneducated Keating and the disillusioned and highly schooled Ambrose to engage in an increasingly absurd hair-splitting and sidesplitting dialogue about the meaning of life, and both of them utterly frustrated in their ongoing attempts to communicate with Wing, who speaks only Cantonese. Heightening our sense of the darkly comic is that we know things are not going to end well: Keating is dying of rabies he got from a squirrel bite, and Ambrose is about to succumb to a gangrenous broken leg, which no one can quite bring himself to cut off. Functioning as both a comic foil to Keating and Ambrose, and an incomprehensible chorus to the audience (unless it understands Cantonese), Wing is about to have the last word. Finally understood, translated into English through a trick of stagecraft, Wing’s final speech completely inverts the play with a devastatingly poignant version of the events we have just witnessed.

ISBN 13: 9780889225602 | ISBN 10: 889225605
6 W x 9 H inches | 96 pages
$15.95 CAN / $15.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Drama | Bisac: DRA000000

QUOTES OF NOTE

“Morris Panych is … neurotic, intemperate, ambitious, talented, funny, feared, beloved … and altogether impossible to ignore.”

— Toronto Life

“Panych neatly balances existential questions with funny dialogue and pleasingly absurd characters.”

— Canadian Literature

AWARDS

Finalist for the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama

About the Contributors

Morris Panych

Playwright, actor and director Morris Panych has been described as “a man for all seasons in Canadian theatre.” He has appeared in over fifty theatre productions and in numerous television and film roles. He has directed more than ninety productions and written over a dozen plays that have been translated and produced throughout the world. He has twice won the Governor General’s Award and has won the Jessie Richardson Theatre Award fourteen times for acting and directing. He has also been nominated six times for Toronto’s Dora Mavor Moore Award and three times for the Chalmers Award. His classic 7 Stories ranks 9th among the ten best selling plays in Canada, outselling the Coles version of Romeo & Juliet.

[Sextet cover image]
Sextet

Morris Panych
Drama

The Shoplifters cover
The Shoplifters

Morris Panych
Drama

In Absentia cover
In Absentia

Morris Panych
Drama

Vigil, Second Edition cover
Vigil - 2nd Edition

Morris Panych
Drama

Gordon
Gordon

Morris Panych
Drama

9780889225848sm
Benevolence

Morris Panych
Drama

9780889225602sm
What Lies Before Us

Morris Panych
Drama

Girl in the Goldfish Bowl cover
Girl in the Goldfish Bowl

Morris Panych
Drama

9780889223929sm
Lawrence & Holloman

Morris Panych
Drama

9780889223462sm
Other Schools of Thought

Morris Panych
Drama


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