why I love John Patrick Shanley

I’ve been reading a collection of John Patrick Shanley plays – and I have to say, he may be one of my favorite playwrights everrrrr.

He really lets his characters get to the heart of one another. They speak with such vulnerability and honesty that can at points, be almost uncomfortable. They express all the hurt that they carry in their heads with such clarity. I find this incredibly admirable – maybe because it can be so tough to talk like this in real life. I feel like I’m always that person who wants to get into deep conversations too quickly. Because it seems like there’s not enough time not to.

One of my favorite short (very short, 3 pages) plays of Shanley’s is A Lonely Impulse of Delight. A man drags his best friend to the lake in Central Park to show and tell him that he’s fallen in love with a mermaid. I love that play. It’s beautiful, because this man has found such happiness in his own world, his own head – but it’s incredibly lonely and he realizes his best friend will never understand – they will never completely be on the same wavelength.

an excerpt:

Walter: No. Don’t go. She should show up at any minute. I want you to see her. I’m desperate for you to see her really. You see, I’ve always had a terrible longing in me. A color. A feeling. And I didn’t know what it was. Now I do. I’m a man who loves a mermaid. And she loves me. And it’s wonderful. But it’s sad, too. It’s really sad for a man to love a mermaid. You can see that? And it’s even worse if its a dream. To love someone you can’t have is bad enough. But to love someone you can’t have, and she’s a dream too…That’s too sad. Do you know what I’m talking about Jimmy? You’re my best friend in the world. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then there’s nobody.

-John Patrick Shanley, A Lonely Impulse of Delight


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