The Plot of Black “Comedy”
The play begins in complete darkness. Brindsley Miller, a young sculptor, and his girlfriend Carol Melkett have borrowed some expensive, antique furniture from his neighbor Harold’s flat without
asking. They want to impress a millionaire art collector coming to take a look at Brindsley’s work, and Carol’s father Colonel Melkett. When the power fails and lights are down, Harold returns early, and Brindsley’s ex-mistress Clea shows up unexpectedly, things take a turn into disaster.
The play is written to be shown in a reversed lighting scheme: The play opens on a darkened stage. A few minutes into the show there is a short circuit, and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a “blackout.” On the few occasions when matches, lighters, or torches are lit, the lights grow dimmer. Hence the title of the play is a pun.
Sir Peter Levin Shaffer (15 May 1926 – 6 June 2016) was an English playwright and screenwriter of numerous award-winning plays, several of which have been turned into films.
Equus (1973) won Shaffer the 1975 Tony Award for Best Play as well as the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Shaffer followed this success with Amadeus (1979) which won the Evening Standard Drama Award and the Theatre Critics’ Award for the London production. When the show moved to Broadway it won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play and, like Equus, ran for more than 1,000 performances. After the success of Amadeus, Shaffer wrote the play Lettice and Lovage specifically for Dame Maggie Smith in 1986, for which he was nominated for another Tony Award and Dame Maggie Smith eventually won the Tony Award for best actress in 1990. Several of Shaffer’s plays have been adapted to film
And Shaffer received two Academy Award nominations for adapting his plays Equus and Amadeus for the big screen.
In 2007 he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.