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Christopher Durang, Tony-winning playwright, dies at 75

His 2012 work, "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," won the Tony Award for Best Play.

Christopher Durang, the celebrated comedic playwright behind Tony-winning Vanya and Sonia and Mash and Spike, has died.

Durang died April 2 at his home in Bucks County, Penn., his agent confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. The playwright died of complications from logopenic primary progressive aphasia, which he was first diagnosed with in 2016. Durang was 75 years old.

During the 1980s and '90s, Durang was one of the best-known American playwrights, writing absurdist comedies that made him a favorite of both Broadway and regional theaters. He first broke out in 1980 with Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All, which won the Obie Award for Best Playwright.


The play, which satirizes Catholicism, premiered Off Off Broadway before transferring to Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, a longtime launchpad for theatrical talent.

<p>Joe Schildhorn/BFA/Shutterstock </p> Christopher Durang

Joe Schildhorn/BFA/Shutterstock

Christopher Durang

Durang was born Jan. 2, 1949, in Montclair, N.J. He studied English at Harvard College, before getting his M.F.A. in playwriting from the prestigious Yale School of Drama.

It was at Yale where he met some of his longtime collaborators, most notably, actress Sigourney Weaver. Weaver starred Off Broadway in Durang's 1981 follow-up to Sister Mary Ignatius, Beyond Therapy, which tells the story of two eccentric New Yorkers trying to strengthen their relationship with the assistance of therapists.

The play transferred to Broadway, starring Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow, and David Hyde Pierce in 1982. Robert Altman directed an adaptation for the screen in 1987, but Durang disavowed the project, calling it "a very unhappy experience and outcome."

The 1980s brought him a run of beloved hits, including The Actor's Nightmare, Baby With the Bathwater, and The Marriage of Bette and Boo. He was also beloved for his one acts, which often parodied other dramatists, most notably For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, which spears Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. His one acts, including Wanda's Visit, Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room, and A Stye of the Eye, are often gathered into a single evening of performance under the title Durang/Durang.

His 2006 play Miss Witherspoon was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

His greatest triumph came with 2012's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which featured a starry Broadway cast that included  Weaver, Hyde Pierce, and Billy Magnussen in his breakout role. The show, which borrows heavily from and parodies the works of Anton Chekhov, went on to win Best Play at the 2013 Tony Awards.

His final play was 2018's Turning Off the Morning News, and he gradually receded from public life until his aphasia diagnosis was announced in 2022.

In addition to his work as a playwright, Durang also wrote the books for four musicals (1978's A History of the American Film earned him a Tony nomination for Best Book) and worked as an actor and teacher.

He appeared as an actor in several films, including The Secret of My Success, The Cowboy's Way, Penn & Teller Get Killed, and HouseSitter.

Along with fellow writer Marsha Norman, Durang was the codirector of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program at the Juilliard School from 1986 through 2016.

Durang is survived by his husband, John Augustine.

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Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.