It seems like everyone in D.C. is in a book club, whether to discuss wonkish works on the Middle East or to dish over wine and Jodi Picoult novels. But it’s the personal discussions spurred by page-turners that interest local playwright Karen Zacarias, whose comedy “The Book Club Play” is running at Arena Stage through Nov. 6. By plopping six disparate characters into a chatty reading-group setting, Zacarias explores how literature can change us. Since the club in this tale is also being filmed for a documentary, Zacarias’ play also prompts some deep thoughts about our reality-TV-obsessed culture, too.
Why did you want to write a play about a book club?
I think so many people are in book clubs — I wouldn’t be surprised if 40 percent of Washingtonians are. Books provide a good excuse to get together, slow down and talk about things that are important.
It’s an unusual combo — a book club that’s being filmed for a documentary.
Well, we do all want to be on TV and see ourselves, so I thought it’d be a way to make these characters examine their lives a little more closely.
The book club members discuss varied books, but the discussions on popular fiction are the most interesting. Why?
I think that culture is a connection, and people connect with different books. And this book club changes from reading classics to reading these popular books, and it’s a change that is good for them. It throws them off balance.
What’s the hardest thing about writing comedies?
You have to make sure you are controlling the joke and that the joke is not controlling you. Sometimes, if people laugh too much, the story veers somewhere else.