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Full Length Plays

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them

Photo by Joan Marcus

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them

was written on commission from the

Public Theatre and premiered in March 2009

at the Newman Theatre at the Public. 


Directed by Nicholas Martin

Scenic Design by David Korins

Lighting Design by Ben Stanton

Costume Design by Gabriel Berry

Original Music by Mark Bennett

Sound Design by Drew Levy

*Mr. Korins won multiple awards for his design for this play, including a Drama Desk Award and an Obie sustained achievement award.

Laura Benanti (right) comforts her mother,  played by  Kristine Nielsen. 

Some reviews included: 

“Durang’s funniest play! Don’t feel guilty about laughing so hard at this hilarious new comedy.” 

– Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“You may laugh yourself silly! This carnival of lunacy swept me into its joyous whirligig. … it establishes Laura Benanti, already known in musicals (“Gypsy”), as an absolute star with this nonsinging role.”  

– John Simon, Bloomberg News


“A hilarious, topsy-turvy look at a world that is definitely off-kilter.”

– Mike Kuchwara, Associated Press


“It's very good news that Christopher Durang, our Poet Laureate of the Absurd, has written a smashing new play.  … The treasured playwright (of Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Beyond Therapy and Betty’s Summer Vacation) possesses a serious philosophy of life combined with a serious taste for the blissfully, unapologetically silly. (But then, the more dangerous his characters, the sillier they are.)...

Christopher Durang is Jonathan Swift’s nicer, younger brother. Only he would end Why Torture Is Wrong in a heavenly version of Hooters. Meanwhile, it’s more than enough for us that this freewheeling satire of the cult of violence in a mad, mad world is a cathartic riot. Nicholas Martin has directed at exactly the right heady pace. His entire ensemble, with the hilarious Kristine Nielson, never misses a beat.”

- John Heilpern, The New York Observer

The Story

Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them tells the story of a young woman suddenly in crisis: Is her new husband, whom she married when drunk, a terrorist? Or just crazy? Or both? Is her father’s hobby of butterfly collecting really a cover for his involvement in a shadow government? Why does her mother enjoy going to the theater so much? Does she seek mental escape, or is she insane? Honing in on our private terrors both at home and abroad, Durang oddly relieves our fears in this black comedy for an era of yellow, orange, and red alerts.

The stellar cast of Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them featured Amir Arison (Queens Boulevard at Signature), David Aaron Baker (A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway), Laura Benanti (2008 Tony winner for Gypsy on Broadway), Audrie Neenan (Oklahoma! on Broadway), Kristine Nielsen (Obie winner for Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation at Playwrights Horizons), John Pankow (Mad About You), and Richard Poe (Cry-Baby on Broadway).

In the cast Laura Benanti and Amir Arison played Felicity and Zamir, the suddenly married couple; Richard Poe and Kristine Nielsen play Felicity's parents; John Pankow is Reverend Mike; Audrie Neenan is Hildegarde; and David Aaron Baker plays the Voice, the Waiter and Loony Tunes.

Kristine Nielsen and Laura Benanti watch as Amir Arison is confronted by Richard Poe.

  Photo by Joan Marcus

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