The Designated Mourner

The Designated Mourner

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The Designated Mourner

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The Designated Mourner is a play written by Wallace Shawn in 1996, which was adapted into a film directed by David Hare in 1997.

The film, which follows the play's script exactly, is based on the original London stage production directed by Hare and has the same cast: Mike Nichols as Jack, Miranda Richardson as Judy, and David de Keyser as Howard. Andre Gregory subsequently directed a stage production in New York City in 2000, and a radio play, both of which featured Wallace Shawn as Jack, Deborah Eisenberg as Judy, and Larry Pine as Howard.

Plot synopsis

The play takes place in what seems to be the present or the near future, in an unnamed Western country that is undergoing political conflict similar to what occurred in many Latin American countries during the Cold War: a ruling oligarchy with fascist tendencies, threatened by a communist guerrilla movement based in the lower class, is imprisoning and executing anyone suspected of subversion, including writers and intellectuals who have no direct connection to the guerrillas.

One of the latter is Howard, a respected poet who wrote political essays in his youth; his daughter Judy and her husband Jack are also at risk of becoming suspects by association. Jack, an embittered English professor, is the play's chief narrator. He is generally uninterested in politics, but is somewhat sympathetic toward the government's murderous acts, for two reasons: he secretly resents Howard as a representative of "highbrow" culture,...
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