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Autobahn: A Short-Play Cycle

Autobahn: A Short-Play Cycle
Your Price: $18.99 CDN
Author: Neil LaBute
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 112
Pub. Date: 2004
ISBN-10: 0571211100
ISBN-13: 9780571211104

About the Play:

Autobahn is a provocative cycle of seven short plays by Neil LaBute. This short-play cycle follows colourful, complicated people in seven tonally varied one-act pieces for two actors, all set in the front seats of moving or stationary automobiles, which function as a psychological cockpit or confessional. With no more than two actors on stage at one time, the audience is drawn into emotional monologues and dialogues, while never learning the character's names.

Autobahn consists of seven short vignettes – each one involving just two people, and each one taking place entirely in the front seat of a car. Be it the medium for clandestine couplings, arguments, shelter, or ultimately transportation, the automobile is perhaps the most authentically American of spaces.

Funny: A young woman speaks to her mother who is driving her home from a rehabilitation facility. The daughter's initial optimism and determination to be honest leads to an admission that she fully intends to relapse and use drugs again as soon as she possibly can. The mother driving the car says nothing at all, but her face betrays the family history.

Bench Seat: A college student has driven a young woman to a local beauty spot notorious for being the scene of many break-ups. Suspicions roused, she confronts him about his intentions. He assures her that he just chose that particular venue for the view. In between bouts of passionate kissing, their conversation reveals that after all, her suspicions are well-founded, and his apprehension about doing the deed increases when she tells him what happened to a previous boyfriend who broke up with her.

All Apologies: Sorry seems to be the hardest word in this short play in which a man attempts to make up to his wife in the front seat of their car after "all the running around and drinking and putting my fist through your windshield that time and me chasing you down at the mall and screaming at you outside the Penney's store ..." His wife sits beside him, silent and impervious.

Merge: A husband and wife are driving home, the husband having just picked up the wife from the airport upon her return from a business conference. They are discussing an unsettling experience she had while she was away. What at first seems to be a frightening assault by an unknown number of men who broke into her hotel room soon turns out to be an altogether different scenario, in which she was somewhat more complicit.

Long Division: The only male-on-male episode features a man is driving a car with his friend beside him in the passenger seat. The driver encourages his friend to let him drive him to the house of his ex-wife, who has recently left him for another man. After all, it's time for his friend to reclaim what is rightfully his: an obsolete Nintendo game-system.

Road Trip: A man and a girl are driving, having clearly been on the road for some time. They discuss what they will order at the next McDonald's drive-thru and it emerges that they're heading for a secluded cabin that the man knows about, but where the naive schoolgirl has never been before. What seems at first to be an innocent road trip begins to take on an altogether too-obviously-sinister significance.

Autobahn: A husband and wife are driving home from delivering their foster son back into care. Only the woman speaks during the portion of the journey that the audience witnesses. It becomes clear that their foster son was caught joyriding and subsequently made allegations of sexual abuse against his foster father. The wife assures her husband that she knows he is innocent, that the allegations are false and that it will be only be a matter of time before the incident is over. Her husband remains silent.

Autobahn originally consisted of five one-act plays when it premiered in 2004 at The Little Shubert Theater by the Manhattan Class Company (MCC). The cast included Kevin Bacon, Kieran Culkin, Brian Dennehy, Peter Dinklage, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Meloni, Amanda Peet, Susan Sarandon, Kyra Sedgwick, and Paul Rudd. The original five short plays were titled Bench Seat, Long Division, Road Trip, Autobahn, and Merge. Two more segments titled All Apologies and Funny were added to later productions. The Canadian premiere was in 2006 at the Masonic Temple by C2C Theatre in St. John's, Newfoundland. It has become a regularly produced play in high schools and colleges because, like Almost, Maine by John Cariani, it can accommodate a large cast, but doesn't require that cast to all appear onstage together at any point. This allows for maximum participation while making rehearsals significantly less taxing than your average show.

Cast: 2 female, 2 male (doubling)

What people say:

"Maybe I wrote Autobahn in part because sitting in a car was where I first remembered understanding how drama worked. My mother and father certainly provided enough of that. And hidden in the spacious backseat of a late-model American sedan, I realized quickly how deep the chasm or intensely claustrophobic it was (depending on how things were going up front) inside your average American car. Cars, like most everything else have been used as covert love nests, battlegrounds, or places of refuge in the past. So why shouldn't we appropriate these intensely dramatic spaces for the theater while we're at it." — Neil LaBute from the introduction for Pleasures of Limitation

"In Autobahn, Neil LaBute has written a provocative series of playlets featuring characters seated in cars that each conclude with a squirm-inducing twist… it's a clever collection certain to please LaBute's expanding legion of devotees." — Variety

"Neil LaBute's short play cycle Autobahn doesn't finally cohere into a greater whole in the way its author may have intended, but it doesn't really matter. This series of vehicle-centered pieces isn't a single-minded convoy headed in one direction; it's a sampling of curdled joyrides and expeditions into darkness. LaBute doesn't often get credit for his wicked sense of humor, and the bulk of this show is an admirable display of uncomfortable laughs." — Variety

About the Playwright:

Neil LaBute is an award-winning American playwright, filmmaker, and screenwriter. His plays include bash, Reasons to be Pretty (Tony Award nominated for best play), In a Forest, Dark and Deep, and Reasons to be Happy. His films include In the Company of Men (New York Critics' Circle Award for Best First Feature and the Filmmaker Trophy at the Sundance Film Festival), Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession, The Shape of Things, Some Velvet Morning, and Dirty Weekend. He is a 2013 recipient of a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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