Christopher Durang, Playwright Who Mixed High Art and Low Humor, Dies at 75

Christopher Durang, a Tony Award-winning playwright and a master satirist, died Tuesday night at his home in Pipersville, Pa., in Bucks County. He was 75.

His agent, Patrick Herold, said the cause was complications of aphasia. In 2016, Mr. Durang was found to have a rare form of dementia, logopenic primary progressive aphasia. The diagnosis was made public in 2022.

An acid, impish writer, Mr. Durang never met a classic (“The Brothers Karamazov,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Snow White”) that he couldn’t skewer. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he established himself as a hyperliterate jester and an anarchic clown. Regarding subject and theme, he pogoed from sex to metaphysics to serial killers to psychology, and he had a way of collapsing high art and jokes that aimed much lower.

“He’s so scaldingly funny,” the actress Sigourney Weaver, a friend and collaborator since she met Mr. Durang at the Yale School of Drama, said in an interview. “You laugh with horror at what’s going on and your sheer inability to do anything about it.”

But even in his most uproarious work — like his early play, the sex and psychoanalysis farce “Beyond Therapy,” or his late hit “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” a delirious homage to Chekhov — there was often a strong undertow of melancholy.

Mark Alhadeff and Cynthia Darlow in a 2014 production of Mr. Durang’s “Beyond Therapy” at the Actors Company Theater in New York.Credit…Marielle Solan
Back to top button