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A farce is a comedy written for the stage, or a film, which aims to entertain the audience by means of unlikely and extravagant yet often possible situations, disguise and mistaken identity, verbal humour of varying degrees of sophistication, which may include puns and sexual innuendo, and a fast-paced plot whose speed usually increases even further towards the end of the play, often involving an elaborate chase scene. Broad physical humor, and deliberate absurdity or nonsense, are also commonly employed in farce.

As opposed to romantic comedies, farces usually do not contain a traditional plot involving frustrated young lovers who eventually surmount all obstacles. Rather, they frequently focus on a transgressive act, or on a character's urge to hide something from the other characters, and the unforeseen chain reaction that results. In staged farce there is usually only one setting throughout the play, often the drawing room of a family home which has numerous doors (and possibly French windows) leading to bedrooms, the kitchen, cupboards, and the garden. Alternatively, the setting can be a hotel or hospital room or an office. Film farces are typically much more expansive in the use of space.

Having no time to step back and consider what they have been doing or will be doing next, the character who has something to hide soon passes the point of no return, erroneously believing that any course of action is preferable to being found out or admitting the truth themselves. This way they get deeper and deeper into "trouble".

This skeleton in the closet may be real or just imagined (i e based on some misunderstanding or a misinterpretation of facts); a secret which concerns the immediate present or the long-forgotten past and has just re-emerged and started to threaten the main character's security or peace and quiet, at least seemingly. The subject-matters chosen by the various writers of farce reflect the social mores of the time: In the late 19th century, it can be a woman lying about her real age, or a man having fathered an illegitimate child. In the course of the 20th century, it is mainly infidelity, with the protagonist trying to prevent their extra-marital affair from becoming publicly known.

Many farces move at frantic pace toward the climax, in which the initial problem is resolved one way or another, often through a deus ex machina twist of the plot. Generally, there is a happy ending. To the audience's delight, however, the convention of poetic justice is not always observed: The protagonist may get away with what he or she been trying to hide at all costs, even if it is a criminal act.

Farce in general is highly tolerant of transgressive behavior, and tends to depict human beings as vain, irrational, venal, infantile, and prone to automatism. In that respect, farce is a natural companion of satire. Farce is, in fact, not merely a genre but a highly flexible dramatic mode that often occurs in combination with other forms, including romantic comedy.

As far as ridiculous, far-fetched situations, quick, witty repartee, and broad physical humor are concerned, farce is widely employed in TV sitcoms, in silent film comedy, and in screwball comedy. See also bedroom farce.

Japan has a centuries-old tradition of farce. Kyogen are plays that are performed as comic relief during the long, serious Noh plays. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farce [Nov 2004]

Bedroom farce

A bedroom farce is a type of light drama, centered on the sexual pairings and recombinations of characters as they move through improbable plots. The bedroom farce is perhaps the most common form of farce.

The most famous bedroom farceur is probably Georges Feydeau, whose collections of coincidences, slamming doors, and ridiculous dialogue delighted Paris in the 1890s and are now considered forerunners to the Theater of the Absurd. The Viennese playwright Arthur Schnitzler took bedroom farce to its highest dramatic level in his La Ronde, which in ten bedroom scenes connects the highest and lowest of Vienna.

In modern times, Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) and the television series Fawlty Towers both present aspects of the bedroom farce. David Ives' 1982 play Noises Off parodies the typical bedroom farce via its play-within-the-play, "Nothing On." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedroom_farce [Apr 2005]

La Ronde

Reigen (1897), usually called La Ronde, still frequently presented, and made into a movie (1964), directed by Roger Vadim. Another filmization is by Max Ophüls. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schnitzler [Dec 2004]

La Ronde is the title usually given to Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play Reigen. It was not performed until 1921, when it was immediately shut down and deemed an obscene work. It presents a series of tableaux of interconnected characters in different sexual situations. The play scrutinizes the sexual mores and class ideology of its day.

David Hare's 1998 play The Blue Room was inspired by it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Ronde [Mar 2005]

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