Yesterday's announcement about the upcoming live-stream performance of Lungs with Matt Smith and Claire Foy got us thinking – what other plays could feasibly be staged while performers and backstage crew abide by social distancing rules? Ones that wouldn't look too out of place if actors were spaced apart.
We decided not to allow any monologues because that'd be too easy. We're thinking of shows where actors can prepare most of their own props and socially distance from one another and anyone backstage.
1. The Last Five Years
With the two characters – Cathy and Jamie – only seldomly sharing stage time and rarely interacting, this musical which charts a failed relationship both start-to-finish and, in a twist, finish-to-start, could be staged with great levels of social distance. The BBC has recently shown us you can also socially distance live musical accompaniment as well, so it's possible to get this one off the ground.
2. Happy Days
We could genuinely add quite a few Beckett plays to this list, but Happy Days, about a woman, Winnie, submerged up to both her waist and then neck in the ground, would definitely function in a socially distanced way. Her husband Willie spends most of the play in a cave, which we can all really relate to.
3. The Audience
Peter Morgan's drama, about the Queen Elizabeth's conversations with her Prime Ministers, is relatively static and involves a lot of chatting while in a very formal setting. If you mimic a recent UK production, you can even have all the male prime ministers played by the same actor. The only tricky section may be the costume changes and the presence of a younger Elizabeth, but it's definitely possible to work around this.
4. Escaped Alone
Caryl Churchill's series of monologues spliced in between a group of four women sat around in a garden should provide a form-fitting context for social distanced performances. Just spread out those deck chairs!
5. The Antipodes
Annie Baker has always created exciting, form-bending work and The Antipodes is no exception. Another relatively compact play that, for the most part, involves a group of individuals sat around a table telling stories. One character comes and goes a lot, but the rest sit there very still. Seat them all apart, give them each a box of LaCroix, and it could work.
6. Love Letters
The ultimate theatrical fundraiser, Love Letters is told through the letters of two longtime friends. Traditionally, the two actors in A.R. Gurney's beloved piece sit next to each other on stage, but they don't have to. And as Bryan Cranston and Sally Field recently proved, it even works on Zoom.
Six was set to open on Broadway the day theaters got shut down. It will be a while before Broadway returns, but Six— about the six wives of Henry VIII — is very easy to perform with social distance. There are only six cast members, and they can all be on stage one at a time. You'd miss the group choreography…and some of the excitement…and some of the — ok, maybe this one won't work as well as we thought.