New American Dramatists 1960–1990 by Ruby Cohn

By Ruby Cohn

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Bound to Broadway, McNally sacrificed the intensity he achieved at the age of twenty-two in Things. McNally started on Broadway, fell off, but charmed his way back on. His contemporary Lanford Wilson, born in 1937, arrived in New York via Missouri and California, and the three locales provide him with play settings. In the mid-1960s he cut his dramatist's teeth Off-Off-Broadway. In 1969 he helped found the Off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company and became their main playwright, which proved a stepping-stone to Broadway.

Howe's own plays tend to revolve around the nuclear family, although her first play, The Nest (1969), dramatises the discontents of three young women in the same flat. Birth and After Birth (1973) borrows Ionescan proliferation to indict American family life. The play's action occurs on the fourth birthday of Nicky Apple (played by an adult, a Ia Vitrac's Victor). Husband and wife talk at cross-purposes, as in several Ionesco plays, while the spoiled child demands presence and presents. When Nicky grows uncontrollable, his parents threaten him with the cancellation of his party to which his adult childless cousins have been invited.

At the last, Arlene is able to smile at a violent prank of Arlie. Under the aegis of the Actors' Theatre of Louisville, two Norman one-acts opened in 1978 under the title Third and Oak - signifying the skid row of Louisville. Similar in their frail plots and extended duologues, the two plays are studies in brief bonding. , reaches across differences of age, class and outlook to achieve a shared communion of two women. Culturally constrained to find meaning and companionship in men, Deedee is isolated by her husband's infidelities, and Alberta by her husband's death.

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