Cover design and photography by Susan Mitchell

Tales of the Lost Formicans and Other Plays

Constance Congdon
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This collection includes four full-length plays: TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS, NO MERCY, LOSING FATHER’S BODY, and CASANOVA. TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS: This witty and passionate play explores the story of a man with Alzheimer’s and at the same time turns into “a travel guide to Middle America conducted by aliens from outer space.” NO MERCY: A man who witnessed the first testing of the atom bomb at Trinity Site struggles to find faith and meaning in the modern world. LOSING FATHER’S BODY: Just days before the funeral Pauline and her two children lose her husband’s body. CASANOVA: The life of Casanova as told through the scintillating prism of Constance Congdon’s imagination.

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Press Quotes

“Connie, I believe, is a genuine pioneer, a truly original writer who first arrived at a new theatrical space, from whence a number of plays and playwrights, myself included, have emerged. I do not mean by this that all her fellow playwrights are the children of Connie Congdon. But in the early years of the previous decade a discovery was waiting to be made, namely that the theater’s peculiarities made it a particularly resonant space for the staging of the kind of postmodern, collective nervous breakdown American society has been having. Connie, among those of us working within the tradition of narrative dramatic realism, and with all due credit to her forebears, got there first. The discovery was too important to disregard, leaving many of us who adopted her innovations feeling, as Brecht writes in his journals, like the person who wrote the second sonnet.” —Tony Kushner

“Quirky, disturbing, and inexplicably beautiful theatrical poetry.” – Cary M. Mazer, Philadelphia City Paper

“Congdon writes like a woman possessed.” – Nels Nelson, New York Daily News


“If not the best new play of recent years, surely this is the most imaginative. Constance Congdon’s brilliant Off-Broadway script wryly deflects the story of a man with Alzheimer’s disease into a travel guide to Middle America conducted by aliens.” —William Henry III, Time

“Constance Congdon’s TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS is a treat in so many ways — starting with its deliciously wry title … you shouldn’t miss it: Congdon is a new voice, and her innumerable small triumphs are achieved with a freshness of spirit, with a humor and charm so distinctively individual, that one just wants to hear more and more from her … Congdon’s aliens are a fluidly shifting metaphor for her own complex relation to the subject of her drama, a lower-middle suburban family coping with three generations’ worth of stress simultaneously …” —Michael Feingold, Village Voice

“… a savagely uncompromising play of searching insights, biting wit and all too recognizable home truths … There are laughs, wit and humor, but this is a chillingly painful play. Congdon is a terrific playwright with sure command of language and her subject …” —Polly Warfield, Drama-Logue

“Congdon’s writing creates dialogue that crackles with wit, imagination and incisive passion …” —A J Esta, Drama-Logue


“… It begins in 1945 at the Jormada del Muerto area in New Mexico, where Robert Oppenheimer and other scientists were putting together the atom bomb, and it moves into the present through the life of a soldier, Ray, who was one of the witnesses to the first blast … There’s an elegance to NO MERCY, a sense of suspended opinion, that lends it a mysterious, evocative air … NO MERCY is a rare work in the theater In that it doesn’t make a judgment on nuclear technology except to say that we created something terrifying in the name of the highest human enterprise in ingenuity, and forty years later we still don’t know what to do about it.” —Lawrence Christon, Los Angeles Times


“A delicious sendup of a repressed WASP family, LOSING FATHER’S BODY has the perverse good taste to be drawn from life. Inspired by the story of a rich clan who misplaced the corpse of a loved one, Constance Congdon creates an alternately poignant and hilarious picture of upper-class rigidity. Paralyzed by passion, Congdon’s unbereaved family gives new meaning to stiff upper lip. In Next Theatre Company’s scathing Chicago premiere, director Sarah Tucker balances the lifestyle satire against the pathos of Congdon’s uptight white patricians. She even spares some sympathy, at least for what they might have been … To preserve appearances and keep their mother from a missing-corpse scandal, the children collude with their lawyer-flunky to substitute a closed casket for the dead patriarch, hoping to locate the body before burial … The crises wind down to a lovely finale …” —Lawrence Bommer, The Chicago Tribune


“Constance Congdon’s retelling of [Casanova’s] life … follows this legendary seducer, now an elderly man, as he journeys back to Paris. He’s haunted by the ghost of one of his discarded mistresses, Therese, and the specter of his youthful, more sensitive self. Congdon strips away romantic notions to show the emotional toll of Casanova’s actions in this lushly realized but very adult production … Congdon has constructed a hallucinatory dream of an old man seeing his life pass before him, momentarily waking into the present world of pain that may be part fantasy as well … Congdon questions the very foundations of the Age of Enlightenment … [and] provocatively deconstructs a myth while restructuring a historical view of sexual politics.” —Jana J Monji, The Los Angeles Times

About the Author


  • Constance Congdon

    Constance Congdon has been called "one of the best playwrights our country and our language has ever produced" by playwright Tony Kushner in Kushner's introduction to her collection TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS AND OTHER PLAYS. In addition to TALES OF THE LOST FORMICANS, which has had more than 200 productions worldwide, Congdon's plays include: CASANOVA, DOG OPERA, NO MERCY, LOSING FATHER'S BODY, LIPS and NATIVE AMERICAN. PARADISE STREET, was produced in Los Angeles and Amherst. Three commissions from the American Conservatory Theater: A MOTHER, starring Olympia Dukakis, a new verse version of THE MISANTHROPE, and a new adaptation of THE IMAGINARY INVALID, were all produced by ACT. Also at ACT: MOONTEL SIX, a commission by the ACT Young Conservatory and subsequently performed at London's National Theatre, followed by another production of the two-act version at San Francisco's ZEUM. THE AUTOMATA PIETÀ, another YC commission, received its world premiere at San Francisco's Magic Theatre in 2002; NIGHTINGALES went to the Theatre Royale Bath's Youth Theatre. Congdon's NO MERCY, and its companion piece, ONE DAY EARLIER, were part of the 2000 season devoted to Congdon at the Profile Theatre. She has written a number of opera libretti and seven plays for the Children's Theatre Company of Minneapolis. THE CHILDREN OF THE ELVI, Congdon's epic and NOT suitable for children, play received its premiere at the Key City Public Theater in 2007. Congdon's plays have been produced throughout the world, including Cairo, Tokyo and Berlin. Her new verse version of TARTUFFE is in a single-volume Norton Critical edition and in the Norton Anthology of Drama. In 2013, Congdon was the Honored Playwright at the GPTC and had a fully-staged workshop of her play about the water crisis in the West, TAKE ME TO THE RIVER. Her recent play HAIR OF THE DOG is about Shakespeare and Marlowe. Her most recent play, ENEMY SKY, is about drones, Islamaphobia, and late-in-life love. Congdon has received three NEA grants, two Rockefeller grants (one for Bellagio), an Albert Sloan grants for TAKE ME TO THE RIVER, The Berilla Kerr Award, Helen Merrill Award, The Albert Weissberger Award, New York Newsday's Oppenheimer Award for Best New Play in NYC, New England Theater Conference Award for Distinguished Service to the Theater (2004), two Great Plains Theater Conference Awards, one for Distinguished Service to the Theater and the other as the 2013 Honored Playwright. She is an alumnus of New Dramatists, The Playwright's Center of Minneapolis, and a current member of The Dramatists Guild and PEN. Congdon has taught playwriting at the Yale School of Drama, but her home is as playwright-in-residence at Amherst College where she has taught playwriting for 25 years. Her work is published by Norton, TCG, Inc, but mostly by Broadway Play Publishing.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher TCG
Publication Date 6/1/1994
Pages 314
ISBN 9781559360845