Cover art by David Prittie

Screen Play

A R Gurney
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Set just before an election, SCREEN PLAY envisions a future ruled by a conservative religious majority. The economy is sagging, wars are raging, and culture is in decay. Many Americans have begun to flee to Canada and Mexico as the government struggles to stop pandemic reverse immigration. With a plot borrowed liberally from a classic 1942 American film, SCREEN PLAY is a tale of politics, history, the city of Buffalo, and a love ruined by the Bush-Gore election of 2000.

Production Info

Cast: 7 total (2 female, 5 male)
Full Length Drama (about 70 minutes)
Minimal Set Requirements
Contemporary Costumes
Category: Tag:

Press Quotes

“The fundamental things may still apply, but they warp and change color as time goes by. In his gleefully partisan new the indefatigable A R Gurney takes on the movie that immortalized the song ‘As Time Goes By,’ retooling Casablanca for the 21st century. The title of his latest work is simply SCREEN PLAY, but were it actually to make it to movie theaters it would no doubt be called Buffalo. That’s Buffalo, NY, which, in Mr Gurney’s collegiate caper of a play, set in the year 2015, has become a way station for Americans in a blue state of mind who seek passage across the border into Canada. Rick’s Cafe is now a bar named Nick’s. And, as in the adored Warner Brothers’ classic, it’s the place where everybody goes — from Peter Lorre-like parasites who peddle illegal visas to handsome freedom fighters and their beautiful companions, as well as their sneering adversaries, who in this version are not Nazis but politicians of the Christian right. SCREEN PLAY is the third of Mr Gurney’s works that deals directly with American politics, following the sincere … O JERUSALEM and the disarming MRS FARNSWORTH. True, the show often brings to mind a vintage Mad magazine movie spoof, with its contented goofiness and satiric swipes at big targets. And, of course, you wait to see how Mr Gurney roasts chestnuts like ‘Round up the usual suspects’ and ‘Here’s looking at you, kid.’ But the gimmick that is the basis of SCREEN PLAY has a built-in resonance that Mr Gurney amplifies without, for the most part, screeching a sermon. There’s a grin-making chutzpah in the very idea of relocating the moral crisis of Casablanca to American shores. For Mr Gurney sees the internal war between cynicism and idealism waged by Humphrey Bogart’s hard-bitten romantic Rick as being especially pertinent to today’s climate of political fatigue and passivity … For Mr Gurney, being frivolous has become a deadly national epidemic. SCREEN PLAY, it turns out, fights frivolity with frivolity.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“A R Gurney wrote this irreverent political satire — a left-wing broadside grafted onto the plot of Casablanca … the unstaged-reading format makes this neat little package so efficient to stage and cheap to produce, SCREEN PLAY could be tossed in a suitcase and assembled as needed, wherever demoralized Democrats gather to contemplate dark deeds of Jacobean revenge … SCREEN PLAY is a clever pastiche of that immortal wartime film classic in which Humphrey Bogart plays cynical host to the political scum of the earth at Rick’s Cafe Americain in no man’s-land Morocco. Action is transposed here to no man’s land Buffalo and set in 2015, when the US is supposedly governed by a Republican dictatorship of right-wing religious fanatics. Gurney’s script abides original source by observing formulaic elements like the border lockdown that prompts brisk underworld traffic in bogus passports for illegal immigrants frantic to make it over the border to — where else — Canada … the 2000 presidential election, which in Gurney’s book was the criminal event that drove every decent American (including a noble Ingrid Bergman stand-in and her freedom-fighter husband) running for the border … the play’s the thing, here, with its pointed political jabs and hilarious Buffalo gags. Setting the show in his hometown gives Gurney joke rights to such objects of civic pride as Niagara Falls. It also allows scribe to pen the funniest line in show: ‘We’ll always have Buffalo.'” —Marilyn Stasio, Variety

About the Author


  • A R Gurney

    A R ("Pete") Gurney's work has been produced in New York at Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons, and Primary Stages. Among his plays are THE DINING ROOM, THE COCKTAIL HOUR, LOVE LETTERS, SYLVIA, FAR EAST, THE FOURTH WALL, and BIG BILL. Four of his more political plays — O JERUSALEM, MRS FARNSWORTH, SCREEN PLAY, and POST MORTEM — have been produced at the Flea Theater in Tribeca. Gurney also wrote several published novels, as well as the libretto for Michael Torke's opera Strawberry Fields, presented by the New York City Opera. A former Professor of Literature at M I T, he was elected in 2005 to the Theater Hall of Fame and in 2006 to The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He passed away in June 2017. Audio Interview [audioplayer file="//" titles="Leonard Lopate Interviews A R Gurney" artists="" bg="434343"]

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 6/1/2005
Pages 44
ISBN 9780881452723

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:
The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
Screen Play is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC


Upcoming and Recent Productions


6/20/2017 – 6/21/2017
Forfar Dramatic Society
Angus, United Kingdom

4/29/2016 – 5/15/2016
Hatbox Theatre
Concord, NH