Albee THE ZOO STORY
This 1958 one-act drama established Albee’s reputation. It is the quintessential story of two people meeting at a bench in the park, but what ensues demonstrates Albee’s acrobatic verbal skills and powerful dramatic sense. (Albee has now expanded it into a two-act play called Peter and Jerry, with Act I being Homelife and Act II being the one-act play written 45 years earlier.)
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
Albee takes on the theme of illusion and reality in this 1962 drama. The dialogue is especially vivid and fierce as the play explores the love-hate relationship between George and Martha. The Mike Nichols-directed black and white movie (with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) is also excellent.
A leader in the black arts revolutionary movement that viewed theatre as a weapon in the struggle for black liberation, Baraka dramatizes social and racial issues from unusual perspectives and with arresting candor, as in this powerful 1964 one-act play. The play reflects Baraka's suspicions if black involvement in white or dominant culture is healthy for blacks, which is in turn reflected in his name change from Leroi Jones to Amiri Baraka when he accepted Islam.
Churchill CLOUD NINE
Social injustice and feminism are two themes that run through many of Churchill’s plays, and none more so than this 1979 play, which was developed through a series of improvisational sessions. Churchill is also fascinated by the historical background of current social and political issues, and in this play British imperialism leads to sexual and racial problems. The play also shows the author’s characteristic switching of genders and time frames to create unnerving effects.
Fo THE ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
Noble Prize winner Dario Fo began as a comic writer, and his work became more and more political and satiric. This 1970 comedy combines his political sensibilities with his comic skills to expose corruption and incompetence in government bureaucracy.
Fornes FEFU AND HER FRIENDS
Fornes is known for whimsical humor and innovative, cinematic dramatic techniques. In this 1977 piece, her most well-known work, she delivers a feminist perspective on female friendship and women’s roles in a patriarchal society.
Irish playwright Brian Friel often uses clever theatrical devices such as narrators in his plays. This 1980 drama deals inherently with colonialism and loss of native culture as the English rename Irish locations in 1833. It also features a touching love story and the problems of cross-cultural communication.
Fugard SIZWE BANZI IS DEAD
Fugard’s work comes out of the South African political oppression known as “apartheid,” which tried to keep races legally separated. But his plays reach beyond political polemic and expose individual pain and loneliness through difficult choices, as in this 1972 drama, in which a man must decide whether to give up his identity and assume that of another person in order to get a job.
Guare THE HOUSE OF BLUE LEAVES
Guare, in this 1970 play, which was his first major work, combines realism and highly theatrical devices with romantic lyricism and satire.
Hansberry A RAISIN IN THE SUN
This 1959 drama is a classic portrait of black family life, black cultural movements, and the situation of blacks within American society prior to the civil rights upheavals of the 1960s. The play, the first by an African-American woman on Broadway, introduced the themes that black drama would deal with for the following decades: tension between white and black society, division over ways for blacks to react to white oppression, assimilation, the locus of black identity, African heritage, the relationship between black men and women, dreams and the impediments to their realization, stereotypes, etc. Moreover, the play was prescient in its feminist perspectives that marriage is not necessary and that career ambition is acceptable if not laudatory for a woman.
Hwang M. BUTTERFLY
Hwang typically mixes history, fantasy, and realism to explore the “fluidity of identity” common to the multicultural modern world. This 1988 play about a French diplomat who falls in love with a Chinese Opera star, has been called “a dazzling deconstruction of cross-cultural and sexual delusions.”
Kushner ANGELS IN AMERICA : THE MILLENNIUM APPROACHES and PERESTROIKA
Kushner’s monumental 1993 set of two plays addresses issues of family, love, death, acceptance, the AIDS epidemic, and the political world of the 1980s in a style that veers from realism to fantasy, utilizing miraculous appearances and overlapped scenes.
Mamet GLENGARY GLEN ROSS
This 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning play shows off Mamet’s distinctive, truncated language style, his lively, outspoken characters, and his recurring interest in the way America does business.
The poster-child of postmodern theatre texts,Hamletmachine's few-page length belies its often multiple-hour playing time. Themes, events, characters, and actors from Hamlet overlap with historical, cultural, ideological, and metatheatrical connotations, references, double and triple entendres. Its pastiche, "quotes," layering, and reflexivity make it densely postmodern.
Norman 'NIGHT MOTHER
When a thirty-something woman announces to the mother with whom she lives and cares that she plans to commit suicide before the night is over, it sets up a struggle between the mother's attempt to save her life and the daughter's justification for her death. The truth-telling that results, as well as the quality of dialogue, pacing, character construction and insight reveal Norman 's strengths.
Osborne LOOK BACK IN ANGER
This 1956 play, by criticizing British society and even the Queen herself, signaled the emergence of a post-World War II group of British dramatists who came to be known as “the angry young men.” The phrase derives from the protagonist of this play, Porter, who, although university educated, comes from a working-class background. He refuses to hold a job while he allows himself to be catered to by two women.
Parks THE AMERICA PLAY
Less than 40 years old, Suzan-Lori Parks was the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, for Topdog/Underdog (2001), but it was The America Play that largely createdher reputation as a playwright who experiments outside conventional form and is willing to raise difficult questions of racism and African-American legacies. The play's (black) protagonist, The Foundling Father, in a twist on blackface, works in a carnival in whiteface dressed as Abraham Lincoln while patrons take on the role of Lincoln 's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and reenact the killing. Other characters dig for the evidence of the Foundling Father and other remains in the Great Whole of History. Parks' idiomatic use of language marks her as one of the US 's most distinctive playwrights.
Pinter THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
Pinter’s plays were criticized for the lack of a traditional plot. In this 1958 play, Goldberg and McCann bully Stanley , although we aren’t quite sure why. The term “Pinteresque” was coined to describe such menacing and enigmatic situations. Pinter was also known for the pauses and silences that punctuate his work (a “Pinter pause”), and claimed that the important actions take place in the pauses.
When a psychologist decides to take on the case of an adolescent boy who has blinded a number of horses with a spike he finds a boy who has found a god through the horses, on which he goes on sensual night rides naked. The play reveals the often conflicting impulses in people between rationality and irrationality, and the need for both. Although the doctor realizes he can make the boy socially acceptable, the cost will be the boy's creativity and sense of spirituality. Dramaturgically the play is interesting in that it uses psychological realism as well as a sense of expressionism, employing such devices as masks, mime, and dance.
Shange FOR COLORED GIRLS . . .
Ntozake Shange's for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enough is actually a "choreopoem," a series of 20 poems choreographed to music. Through seven performers, the work searches for and expresses a black female identity, marking out and clarifying a unique black female body, language, and movement. Movement is, in fact a central theme of the piece, and its attempt to combat stasis is expressed in the improvisational foundation of the piece, and the improvisational, ensemble nature of its performance.
Shepard BURIED CHILD
Winner of the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a play premiering off-Broadway, this work has undergone numerous revivals and an extensive revision by Shepard. As one of his three "family" dramas that brought Shepard international recognition (including The Curse of the Starving Class and True West), Buried Child is already, according to Ben Brantley of the NY Times "a bona fide classic: a work that conveys the mystical, cannibalistic pull of family ties even as they unravel." When Vince arrives at his grandparents' farmhouse and they don't remember him, the strange events begin as a fallow field yields armloads of carrots and corn and the secrets and forgotten past of the family begin to surface as well.
Simon THE ODD COUPLE
One of the most popular plays by America 's most successful playwright, The Odd Couple traces the comedy that arises when two friends, diametrically opposed in temperament, find themselves as roommates after their marriages fall apart. Often reprised, inspiration for a long-running televisionseries, and existing in a more recent female version by Simon, this play reveals the playwright's gift for comedy, character behavior, and his insight into the foibles and complexities of human relationships.
Soyinka THE STRONG BREED
Informed by Soyinka's knowledge of Greek tragedy, The Strong Breed nonetheless examines the dynamics of community and ritual in African culture. With the new year near, a community searches for a "carrier," one of the strong breed, who can bear the burden of the community's guilt by being a ritual sacrifice. A helpless outsider, a mentally impaired boy seems the perfect choice, but he is unwilling and thus the community's guilt may not be carried away. What will the stranger and exile, Eman, one of the strong breed, do? Like the Yoruba ritual (of Nigeria ) upon which the play is based, Soyinka's work reveals both the physical and metaphysical worlds in performance.
Arcadia opens in the early 19th century as the grounds of an estate are being transformed from rational, orderly arrangements of the Enlightenment to the radical Romantic look of wild nature that swept Europe . When the precocious fourteen year old Thomasina asks her handsome tutor what "carnal embrace" is and replies to hug a cow carcass, the comedy and themes of the work quickly take off, as the space between and intersections of rationality and emotion, science and art, time and space come into play. When the second scene opens in the same room but now in the present time, with characters investigating the estate's early 19th-century activities, the questions of how far history differs from the past and how time is not the obstacle we thought it was arise provocatively.
Vogel HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, How I Learned the Drive accounts the story of Li'l Bit and her relationship with her uncle, who sexually molested her from the time she was eleven. Told from Li'l Bit's perspective as a full-grown woman after her Uncle Peck's death and within the context of Peck's lessons to her of how to drive, the play admits not easy condemnation of the man, for it was he who most cared for her in the world and who taught her, literally and figuratively, how to control her vehicle. The form of the play is interesting in moving forward and back in time simultaneously, utilizing the driving metaphor, and in calling for minimalist staging.
Wasserstein THE HEIDI CHRONICLES
Although ostensibly about the title character, Wasserstein's play depicts the experience of women in the baby boom generation in their journey from adolescence to full womanhood. Set between 1965 and 1989, Heidi serves as the play's guide as we witness, often through comedy, key moments in her life, the obstacles she encounters, often in the form of males' narrow view of women, and choices she makes to create a life that she feels is self-defined. The play won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer and Tony.
Fences was the second drama August Wilson wrote in his vast project of a series of plays, each of which would represent African-American experience during one decade of the twentieth century. With Radio Golf in 2005 he completed the project, which had begun with Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in 1984. All the plays are set inPittsburgh , the town of Wilson 's youth, andFences concerns the decade after WWII and conditions and feeling on the eve of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. In the play, Wilson takes up many of the circumstances and themes with which Miller dealt in Death of a Salesman, but always with an important difference that illuminates the divergence between white and black experience. Troy Maxson, a once talented baseball player, found himself relegated to the Negro leagues, representative of the opportunities denied or lost to him in his life. His rebellion and frustration infect not only his dealings with society but with his family, particularly his sons, and lead to his personal failings. The play is a complex and compelling query into the roots and effects of social vs personal responsibility, legacies, and the importance of historical experience in shaping generational perspectives.
THE PIANO LESSON
Set in the 1930s, The Piano Lesson brings to the foreground an idea that exists as an undercurrent in all the plays of his decalogy, differing black Americans' attitudes to their own heritage and past and its use in creating a better future. In the play, Boy Willie has come north to take and sell the piano, a "white" instrument, that his ancestor had claimed and transformed by carving into it images of black Africa . With the money he will buy land, land his ancestors had worked as slaves, and all the opportunities that go with it. His sister, Bernice, however, argues that the piano, representative of their past, their struggles, their ancestors, is too precious to sell and that something irretrievable would be lost if it were. How can the conflict be resolved?