In the shadow of the first Gulf War, two discontented suburban teenagers ponder their choices in life -- whether to go to college, sleep with the guidance counselor, or destroy the universe. Mom exerts her questionable psychic powers while war-vet Dad promotes death as a family value, photographing a gruesome array of car accident scenes. The dead spring to life and the living imitate the dead in this dark comedy about the end of the world as we know it.
Character Breakdown: 4M, 3F
Running Time: 2 hours.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Washington D.C. (2005)
Perishable Theatre, Providence, R.I. (2005)
Crowded Fire, San Francisco, CA (2007)
Road Theatre, Los Angeles (2007)
"Part Salvador Dali, part Woody Allen... Big Death is unique in its depiction of teenage angst and parent-teen communication breakdown, as well as its high theatricality... A jarring, funny, and poignant portrait of contemporary America..."
Washington Theater Review, Deryl Davis
"Birnbaum's surprising little gem about death in life is well worth the wait..."
Potomac News, Gail Choochan
"A playfully analytical bit of artillery aimed squarely at the way we live now..."
Washington City Paper, Trey Graham
"An exploration of what our nation's youths are up to that makes Larry Clark's movie Kids seem like something from cable's Nickelodeon channel...[The play] leaves you shaken and disturbed by its message that no one gets out of childhood undamaged..."
Washington Times, Jayne Blanchard
"Just about all the lines they speak seem to come from some impulsive, hurting, yet still generous part of the heart..."
The Downtowner, Gary Tischler
"It's Birnbaum's achievement that he looks beneath hip teenage cynicism to find the quiet hope hiding there..."
Variety, Terry Morgan
"If Tim Burton had directed the TV series Married with Children, the results likely would have resembled Mickey Birnbaum's ferociously irreverent play about apocalyptical goings-on in Middle America..."
Daily News, Les Spindle
"If the script, by screenwriter and playwright Mickey Birnbaum, sounds absurd, it isn’t only that. For one thing, he writes with a fine ear to the way people actually talk. And, obsessed with the pain and futility of life, Birnbaum is after nothing less than complete transcendence."
metaljazz.com, Greg Burk
A.S.K. New Works Festival (2001)
Cypress College New Works Festival (2002)
Bay Area Playwrights' Festival (2003)
Finalist, Helen Hayes Literary Award (2005)
Finalist, PEN USA Literary Award (2006)
Two friends, a slaughterhouse worker and a fast-food worker, invite a pregnant homeless girl into their lives, cope with injury and death, and come to grips with the brutality of the American work economy.
Character Breakdown: 3M, 1F
Theatre@Boston Court, Pasadena CA, May-June 2007 (World Premiere)
"A piercing and darkly beautiful view of killers and prey, in life and the afterlife... Birnbaum's repartee is as magnificent as his splashes of surrealism..."
L.A. Weekly, Steven Leigh Morris
"Mickey Birnbaum's darkly metaphorical drama about workers in a Midwestern slaughterhouse is stunningly provocative..."
Backstage West, Hoyt Hilsman
"Dastardly and darkly humorous... one of the best productions offered in Los Angeles so far this year... A haunted modern-day anti-epic..."
Entertainment Today, Travis Michael Holder
Cypress College New Works Festival (2004).
Bay Area Playwrights' Festival (2005).
Boston Court Sixpack Reading Series (2006).
Modern suburbia provides an unexpected setting for this brief, brutal update of Euripides' Iphigenia. In a world of speed freaks and drug deals gone bad, a teenager struggles to stay alive and find meaning and dignity. Meanwhile, a real estate agent and her client act as a modern-day Greek chorus. Shreds of Euripides' text mingle with contemplations of teenage angst in this punk-infused mini-tragedy.
Character Breakdown: 3M, 3F
Set/Technical: Suburban living-room.
Running Time: 10 minutes.
A dark fairytale about war, greed, and the lust for tobacco, this ten-minute mini-epic follows the misadventures of two Russian soldiers in Chechnya. They struggle to retain their humanity (with mixed results), they yearn for a decent cigarette, and then one of them makes an unexpected sacrifice for an unworthy cause.
Character Breakdown: 2M, 1F
Set/Technical: The play is set in ruins, which can be suggested by broken bricks and rebars. Russian army uniforms are the only prerequisite.
A socialite stranded on a desert island after a shipwreck hallucinates an imaginary companion -- the main character from the only book that washed up on shore. But reality is not quite what it seems in this dramatic comedy about growing up and taking responsibility. One adult actor and one child actor.
Character Breakdown: 2F
Set/Technical: Minimal set, a few props.
Running Time: 15 minutes.
Virginia Avenue Project (2003).
The largest lifeform in the universe discovers the smallest lifeform in the universe -- or is it the other way around? It's the Bio-Miniscule Institute of Tiny Stuff vs. The Huge Institute of Really Enormous Stuff in this musical vaudeville-inspired romp.
Character Breakdown: 2F
Set/Technical: Minimal costumes and props, one song.
Running Time: 10 minutes.
Virginia Avenue Project (2004).
In the early 1900s, a teenager runs away on a family trip to Coney Island. In letters home to her sister, she describes a life of degradations and wonders as she struggles to survive on the fringes of America's first and most ambitious theme park, and grapples with a horrifying family history.
Character Breakdown: 1F
Set/Technical: Bare stage, period dress.
Running Time: 30 minutes.
Edge of the World Festival, Los Angeles, as part of the omnibus production Thirteen Ways of Seeing an Elephant (2001).