August 21, 2003

Let’s do it again

by Andrew Stern · , 1:52 pm

I came across an amusing new play called Games for Married Couples, by D. Bruno Starrs, published in last February’s issue of Ygdrasil: A Journal of the Poetic Arts. It was a very fun read for me, both for its witty dialog and for its structure, which bears a lot of resemblance to our interactive drama project, Facade. Both plays are short one-acts, have just three characters — a married couple and a friend, all action takes place in a single room, and shows variation when the scene is repeated over and over. It even has a reference to Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a key inspiration for Facade.

What other (non-digital) plays or stories repeat themselves like this? (Other than Run Lola Run, Groundhog Day and Rashomon.)

The title of the play also makes me think of Games People Play, a book written in the sixties that founded the “transactional analysis” sub-field of psychiatry, by Eric Berne. We read this while designing Facade, giving us lots of ideas for designing the conflict between our characters. A great book for writers.

12 Responses to “Let’s do it again”

  1. Jason Says:

    A comment by Chuck on an old post of mine ( suggests the German film called _Funny Games_ as being similar to Run Lola Run, where a robber uses a VCR remote to “rewind” to a previous point in the narrative (Chuck provides a better run-down of the film in his comment).

    In that same post, I reference the film _Clue_ which had, as you might remember, three different endings.

    And the film Donnie Darko provides – in a sense – a replay of events (time travel allows for an altered experience).

    I haven’t read the play you reference (Games for Married Couples), so I’m not completely sure these are in line with your thinking, but they seem to share similar attributes with the films that you listed.

  2. Jill Says:

    I’m appalled at not being able to think of any examples of this, because it sounds so familiar – French Lieutenant’s Woman’s just got the multiple endings, hasn’t it, not the repetition, exactly? Would that scene where Lois dies and Superman whizzes round the world so fast that he rewinds time and gets to do things over and rescue Lois count? And then of course there are the works that repeat a scene but from different points of view, but that’s not quite what you mean, either, is it?

  3. andrew Says:

    Right, I’m curious about stories that replay all or the bulk of their entire story again, with variation. So that’s more than just multiple endings.

  4. Jeremy Bushnell Says:

    The best example I can think of is Flirt, by Hal Hartley, which repeats the same script in three different cities. This formal experiment has its genesis in more condensed form in Hartley’s earlier film Trust, which features a scene where the characters repeat the same set of dialogue three times, with inflections that shift with each iteration.

    There is an X-Files episode featuring a bank robbery and a time loop; my memory on it is kind of fuzzy but I recall that the robbery replays continuously until the protagonists begin to slowly gain awareness of their predicament, enabling them to adjust their behavior in minute ways until the situation manages to resolve in something other than tragedy.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6, also features an episode where Buffy is stuck (briefly) in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop, in which she must repeat a transaction with a customer at the magic shop endlessly until the customer is satisfied.

  5. Andy Bayiates Says:

    There is a ten-minute David Ive’s play that’s quite popular called Sure Thing that’s about a couple having a first meeting. A bell rings every time the conversation is ended or takes a bad turn and then we see a new possibility. It’s a really funny little play.

    I have an unpublished/unproduced play called 22 Ways It Could Have Happened in which a couple breaks up 22 times, with 22 variations.

    Can’t think of anything else right now. The Neo-Futurists of Chicago play with this kind of thing pretty often in their work.

  6. D. Bruno Starrs Says:

    Thanks, Richard, for your kind comments on my play “Games for Married Couples” which has subsequently been directed by me in the 3DFest in the Beanland Theatre at the University of Victoria and the Gryphon Gallery at the University of Melbourne (See my homepage for details of my other plays and writing).
    “Games” was written to highlight the disatrous consequences that can arise from over-familiarity in married life. The two main characters Wolfgang (a philandering film/TV dogfood ad director) and his vacuous wife Kylie, through the repetition of events in their daily lives, gradually become nastier and nastier to each other resulting in a sexually nihilistic climax that questions the value of the entire institution of marriage. Whilst I am certainly aware of “Run Lola run”, “Flirt” and “Groundhog day”, as per Andrew’s comments, this play is not about multiple endings. The bulk of each act is the same, but the finale is not foreshadowed. The play has only one ending. Attention needs to be paid to the stage directions for the actors to convey their growing hatred for each other, whilst they utter the same dialogue used in the previous acts. Anyway, I hope some other people like the play and are encouraged to produce it. As with all my plays, there are no royalties or fees to be paid for producing “Games for Married Couples”, so I encourage theatre companies anywhere in the world to have a go at it, as long as they send me copies of posters and other promotional materials – D. Bruno Starrs, the University of Melbourne, Australia.

  7. Dan Says:

    There was/is a whole genre of choose your own adventure books where the entire point of the book was to go through again and again, but each time in different ways. I don’t think its really big now, but I know of a few more obscure authors who in playing with the form of presenting a story do this. Jason Shiga in particular uses comics and choose your own adventure with brilliant creativity.

  8. Grand Text Auto » Again, Again Says:

    […] e, I will recycle two past Groundhog Day-related blog posts. Groundhog Day and IF (again) Let’s do it again


  9. Claus Says:

    Krysztof Kieslowski’s “Blind Chance” also has this format

  10. josemanuel Says:

    There’s an anime TV series called Higurashi no naku koro ni (When Cicadas Cry, if you don’t speak Japanese) where the story is retold several times in slightly different ways with the final result of the true story being an intersection of all of the retellings. The series is crap, but it’s worth checking out for this characteristic alone.

    As for Kieslowski (now that I read the Claus’ comment), he played with that concept too in his Three Colours trilogy (i.e., the scenes with the old lady trying to put a bottle in the glass container).

  11. Garf Says:

    There’s a play called “Life x 3” by Yasmina Reza that goes through an evening three times with two couples and an offstage child. Also, I believe there was an episode of Xena where a day repeated with a Montague vs. Capulet style theme.

  12. Grand Text Auto » The Sequence of Intimate Exchanges Says:

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