THE DESIGNATED MOURNER tells the story of three people: Howard, a poet, essayist and intellectual who comes from a privileged background but who nonetheless has been at odds for many decades with the right-wing regime that rules his country; Judy, his daughter, a subtle, witty and deep-feeling intellectual, who reveres her father; and Jack, Judy's husband, who at one time also revered Howard but then changed his mind. Judy was drawn to Jack in the first place because he's an amusing person who perhaps offered a refuge from the high standards inexorably imposed by her father, but his disarming light-mindedness turns out to have some unpleasant disadvantages. As the political situation becomes more tense, and the regime becomes more and more likely to crack down even on relatively quiet dissenters like Judy and Howard, the issue of what sort of books people like to read and how they choose to amuse themselves becomes both grimly personal and unexpectedly entangled with questions of survival.
"THE DESIGNATED MOURNER] is highly unconventional, much concerned with matters of politics, culture, and human significance…There is quality in Shawn's writing—imaginative verve, quiet intensity, a sort of Puritan sensitivity or a blend of them all—that reduces objections to a quibble…This is a playwright who does not just tell you what it is like to be arrested at night by goons or to fall morally apart and become an aimless yet weirdly contented ghost yourself. He has the originality to make you feel it." —Times (London). "Strange names and even stranger play, but one which worms its way into the consciousness long after the performance is over…unsettling, ominous…the fastidiousness of the language and the detached tone in which horrific events are recounted exert a hypnotic power." —Time Out NY. "A fascinating play with beautiful passages of writing…" —Variety.