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Booklist-American Plays

Ackermann, Joan. Zara Spook and other lures. Comedy about a woman who hopes to win the national women's bass fishing tournament.

Albee, Edward. The sandbox. The “Mommy” and “Daddy” in this play leave Grandma on the beach to die in this attack on indifference to love, pity, and compassion. 

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. This modern drama depicts an evening with two couples and reveals the lies they tell to keep on living.

Zoo story. Two middle-aged men, strangers to each other, share a park bench and ponder the meaning of life.

Allen, Jay Presson. The prime of Miss Jean Brodie. A liberated young schoolteacher at an Edinburgh girls' school instructs her students on the ways of life. Some of the girls adore her, some hate her, but none of them can ignore her.

Allen, Woody. The floating light bulb. A bittersweet comedy about a stuttering teenage boy who retreats from his fear of people into a world of magical illusions.

Anderson, Maxwell. The bad seed. A very disturbed little girl is responsible for several murders.

Baldwin, James. Blues for Mister Charlie. A tragedy about racism, based on a murder trial that took place in Mississippi in 1955.

Ball, Alan. Five women wearing the same dress. During an ostentatious wedding reception five reluctant, identically clad bridesmaids hide out in an upstairs bedroom, each with her own reason to avoid the proceedings below.

Barry, Philip. The Philadelphia story. When a rich woman's ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.

Blessing, Lee. A walk in the woods. Two superpower arms negotiators, a Russian and an American, meet informally after long, frustrating hours at the bargaining table.

Burrows, Abe. Cactus Flower. A dentist stays single by telling his many girlfriends that he is married and has three children. But when he falls in love and asks the lady to marry him, she demands to see the family.

Chase, Mary. Harvey. A comedy about Elwood P. Dowd, a man who believes that his best friend is a large white rabbit.

Chayefsky, Paddy. The tenth man. A drama about an exorcism at an orthodox synagogue. The participants enlist a passerby to make up the quorum of ten specified by Jewish law. But the outsider proves as disturbed as the troubled woman the intervention is meant to help.

Coburn, D.L. The gin game. A bittersweet Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about two elderly people who fight loneliness, loss, and each other while playing cards at a nursing home.

Durang, Christopher. Sister Mary Ignatius explains it all for you. A satire about Sister Mary Ignatius, a teaching nun who is much concerned with sin in all of its various forms. She delivers a cautionary lecture to her charges.

Edson, Margaret. Wit. A compassionate Pulitzer Prize-winning play about an English literature professor who contemplates life while battling cancer.

Ferber, Edna and George Kaufman. Stage door. A rich society beauty tries to break into the Broadway theatre scene without her family connections. Living in a theatrical boarding house, she finds her life caught up in the ambitions, dreams and disappointments of the other aspiring actresses.

Fierstein, Harvey. Torch song trilogy. A funny and poignant Tony Award-winning play about a gay Jewish man who struggles with love, jealousy, and self-doubt.

Foote, Horton. The trip to Bountiful. Trapped in a tiny apartment under the care of her cowardly son and his shrewish wife, an elderly woman is determined to escape and return to her girlhood home.

Francke, Caroline. The father of the bride. Mr. Banks learns that his daughter Kay has become engaged. Deals with the stress and comedic problems of putting on a wedding.

Gardner, Herb. A thousand clowns. Considered a social outcast, a man is pressured by relatives into assuming a regular lifestyle so that he can become an example to his admiring young nephew. Lots of humor and sympathetic characters.

The goodbye people. An old man decides to open a hot dog stand on the Coney Island boardwalk during the winter in a comedy about a noble failure.

Gibson, William. The miracle worker. Biographical drama about Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

Goldman, James. The lion in winter. King Henry II of England has three sons by Eleanor of Aquitaine: Richard Geoffrey and John. He wants the kingdom to stay united after his death, but all three sons want to rule.

Griffin, Tom. The boys next door. This funny yet touching play focuses on the lives of four retarded men who live in a communal residence under the watchful eye of a sincere, but increasingly despairing, social worker.

Guare, John. Six degrees of separation. Inspired by a true story, the play follows the trail of a young con man, who insinuates himself into the lives of a wealthy New York couple, claiming he knows their son at college.

The house of blue leaves. A mix of black comedy, farce, realistic drama, and social commentary about a man’s desire for success as a big-time songwriter, which clashes with his middle-class family life.

Gurney, A.R. The cocktail hour. A gadfly son shatters his uptight parents' veneer of civility in upstate New York by announcing that his soon-to-be-produced play is about them.

Love letters. A man and a woman maintain a lifelong correspondence that is read aloud by the two actors in the play

Sweet Sue. A comedy in which two actresses and two actors, portray different aspects of the same two characters—an attractive middle-aged divorcee and her son's college roommate, to whom she is romantically drawn, despite the difference in their ages.

Sylvia. A man’s middle-life crisis comes to a head when he finds he can talk to the dog, Sylvia, he found in the park.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A raisin in the sun. A Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about an African-American family trying to seek their dreams.

Harling, Robert. Steel magnolias. A touching comedy about a group of gossipy southern ladies in a small-town beauty parlor who suddenly realize their mortality.

Heggen, Thomas. Mister Roberts. Life aboard a US Navy cargo ship during World War II.

Hellman, Lillian. The children’s hour. A young girl in a boarding school starts a vicious rumor about two of the teachers, resulting in tragedy.

Toys in the attic. Two sisters living together in a small southern town dream of touring Europe one day. But their plans are continually thwarted by the need to bail their ne'er-do-well brother out of a series of misfortunes.

Henley, Beth. Crimes of the heart. Tragic comedy about three sisters surviving crisis after crisis in a small Mississippi town.

The Miss Firecracker contest. Carnelle wants to win the title of “Miss Firecracker,” a beauty contest in her small town, She’ll stop at nothing to gain the crown.

Howe, Tina. Coastal disturbances. An ensemble play about four generations of vacationers on a Massachusetts beach. It focuses on a romance between a lifeguard and a kooky young photographer.

Hwang, David Henry. FOB. An exploration of the painful stigma of being labeled “fresh off the boat” and the struggle between mainland Chinese immigrants and Americanized Chinese citizens.

Inge, William. Bus Stop. A group of strangers, stranded at a bus stop in a storm, share bits of their lives.

Come back little Sheba. Recovering alcoholic Doc has been sober for a long time. But as his wife's inane rattling becomes more and more exasperating, an explosion is coming.

The dark at the top of the stairs. There are many secrets in teenage Reenie’s family.

Picnic. Love, friendship and family loyalties on a blistering hot, summer day in a small town.

Kanin, Garson. Born yesterday. Billie Dawn is the seemingly dim-witted fiancée of a corrupt millionaire, who is trying to make a good impression among the Washington politicians he's hoping to influence. The millionaire hires a journalist to give Billie a crash course in politics, history, literature, and true love

Kaufman, George and Moss Hart. The man who came to dinner. When famous broadcaster, Sheridan Whiteside, slips on his host’s front porch, he becomes an irritating and demanding member of the household.

Dinner at eight. In this comedy, a posh dinner goes sour as a rash of cancellations and unexpected events turn this social soiree into a first-class disaster.

You can’t take it with you. The humorous encounters between a conservative family and the crazy household of Grandpa Martin Vanderhof.

Kerr, Jean. Mary, Mary. The funny and touching story of a divorced couple who have never fallen out of love.

Kesselring, Joseph. Arsenic and old lace. Two little old ladies have a habit of befriending lonely old gentlemen—and the men are never seen again!

Kirkland, Jack. Tobacco road. The hillbilly Lester family live in a rural backwater where their ancestors were once wealthy planters, but their existence is threatened by a bank's plans to take over the land for more profitable farming.

Knott, Frederick. Dial M for murder. A husband plots the perfect crime—he wants to kill his wife without being suspected.

Korder, Howard. Boys’ life. Told in a series of fast-paced scenes, the play traces the misadventures of three former college buddies now seeking to make their way in the big city.

Lawrence, Jerome. Auntie Mame. A “free spirit” and the nephew she inherits are the focus of this light-hearted play with serious messages.

Inherit the wind. Based on the Scopes trial of 1925, the prosecution of a Tennessee high school teacher for teaching the theory of evolution, this is an exciting courtroom drama.

Levin, Ira. Deathtrap. A thrilling comedy about the devious machinations of a writer of thrillers whose recent offerings have been flops, and who is prepared to go to any lengths to improve his fortunes.

Levitt, Saul. The Andersonville trial. A play about one of America's most notorious trials – the prosecution of Henry Wirz for atrocities committed against POWs during the Civil War.

Lindsay, Howard and Russel Crouse. Life with father. Based on the book by writer Clarence Day, this sentimental comedy tells the story of his life in a large family at the turn of the century and the father who clearly was the “head of the household.”

Lucas, Craig. Prelude to a kiss. A couple fall in love despite the girl's pessimistic outlook. As they struggle to come to terms with their relationship, something supernatural happens that tests it.

Luce, William. The belle of Amherst. A one-woman play that is in effect a biography of Emily Dickinson, including her childhood, her strangeness, her recipes, and her longing to be published.

McCullers, Carson. The member of the wedding. Lonely 12-year-old Frankie Adams takes her role as “member of the wedding” to mean that when her older brother marries she will join the happy couple in their new life together.

McNally, Terrence. Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. Johnny has just been released from prison, and gets a job in a cafe beside waitress Frankie. Frankie is a bit of a loner, but Johnny is determined their romance will blossom.

Mamet, David.  American buffalo. In a Chicago junk shop three small-time crooks plot to rob a man of his coin collection, which includes a valuable buffalo nickel.

Glengarry Glen Ross. A Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about a cut-throat competition among real estate salesmen.

                   Speed the plow. Hollywood producer Bobby Gould has spent a career reaping what others sow, until he’s forced to choose between his friend’s sure hit and a beautiful girl’s art house project.

Martin, Steve. Picasso at the Lapin Agile. In a bar in 1904 Paris, Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein argue about the art of physics and the physics of art as they try to impress a pretty girl. Then the space/time/culture continuum ruptures, and they're joined by a figure from the future who seems to be . . . Elvis Presley!

Mastrosimone, William. The woolgatherer. Explores the relationship between a truck driver and a manipulative salesgirl who collects wool sweaters as trophies from her various lovers

Medoff, Mark. Children of a lesser god. James is a new speech teacher at a school for the deaf. He falls for Sarah, a pupil who decided to stay on at the school rather than venture into the big bad world.

Miller, Arthur. The crucible. The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 present the background for a story with modern parallels.

Death of a salesman. The American dream and the shallow promise of happiness through material wealth are the themes of this Pulitzer Prize winning drama.

A view from the bridge. With similarities to Greek tragedy, this is the story about a man who brings about his own downfall because of his ignorance and inability to see the consequences of his actions.

Miller, Jason. That championship season. A reunion between four buddies and their basketball coach forces the men to reveal their true identities and be honest with each other for the first time in their lives.

Mosel, Tad. All the way home. Based on James Agee's A Death in the Family, this drama, set in 1915 Tennessee, examines the effect that the sudden death of a loved one has upon those closest to him, especially his pre-teen son.

Nelson, Anne. The guys. The story of a fire captain who lost eight men in the collapse of the World Trade Center and the editor who helps him prepare the eulogies he must deliver.

Odets, Clifford. Awake and sing. Written by an author obsessed with concerns for the less fortunate, this play is about social protest and poor families.

O’Neill, Eugene. Long day’s journey into night. O'Neill’s autobiographical account of his explosive home life with a drug-addicted mother, a father who wallows in drink after realizing he is no longer a famous actor, and an older brother who is emotionally unstable and a misfit

The emperor Jones. A powerful drama with rapidly shifting scenes that describe the fall of Brutus Jones, the self-proclaimed, plundering monarch of a West Indian island, whose flight into the jungle from rebellious subjects is plagued by ghosts and visions.

Orlandersmith, Dael. The gimmick. Young Alexis finds refuge from the brutal reality of the streets among the library bookshelves, where she dreams of becoming an American writer in Paris like James Baldwin.

Patrick, John. Teahouse of the August Moon. A gentle satire about the American military’s attempt to bring democracy to Okinawa.

Pomerance, Bernard. The elephant man. Based on a true story of Englishman John Merrick who had a very deformed body. He earned his living as a sideshow freak until a prominent surgeon befriended him.

Rabe, David. Streamers. A hard-hitting drama set in the basic-training barracks of parachutists in the Vietnam war.

Reynolds, Jonathan. Geniuses. In a jungle shack a group of maniacs who call themselves filmmakers are trying to shoot a war epic.

Rose, Reginald. Twelve angry men. Eleven jurors are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder. The twelfth has no doubt of his innocence. How can this one man steer the others toward the same conclusion?

Sandler, Susan. Crossing Delancey. A single Manhattan woman meets an eligible man through her Jewish grandmother’s matchmaker.

Schisgal, Murray. Luv. A quirky comedy in which three friends play a game of musical chairs with their relationships.

Shepard, Sam. Buried child. A macabre look at an American Midwestern family with a dark, terrible secret.

True west. An intense psychological battle between screenwriter Austin and his combative brother Lee.

Sherwood, Robert. Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Dramatization of the famous president’s formative years in his home state of Illinois.

Simon, Neil. Barefoot in the park. Newlyweds Paul and Corrie are very much in love, but they are direct opposites.

Brighton Beach memoirs. First of three plays about a Jewish family from the late 1930’s-late 1940’s, this is very much Simon’s life story. Funny and serious at the same time.

Biloxi blues. Part two in the continuing saga of Eugene Morris Jerome, Simon’s alter ego. Here, he is a young army recruit during the Second World War, learning more about life and developing his writer's sensibility at boot camp.

Broadway bound. Part three of Simon's autobiographical trilogy finds Eugene and his older brother trying to break into the world of professional comedy by writing while coping with the breakup of their family.

The odd couple. Two men share an apartment, One is very neat and compulsive; the other is an absolute slob.

Sackler, Howard. The great white hope. Based on the life of black boxer Jack Johnson, who became the first black Heavyweight Champion of the World in a climate of deep racial unrest.

Schary, Dore. Sunrise at Campobello. The story of Franklin Roosevelt from the time he was stricken with polio to his presidential nomination.

Sorkin, Aaron. A few good men. A suspenseful drama about the trial of two Marines for complicity in the death of a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay.

Soto, Gary. Nerdlandia. Wearing a calculator on his belt, Martin is a total Chicano nerd who is totally in love with Ceci, the coolest “chola” in school.

Steinbeck, John. Of mice and men. On a California ranch in the 1930’s, George and Lennie, two migrant workers, strive to make a life for themselves.

Thurber, James. Thurber carnival. Delightfully droll stories created by this humorist’s unusual mind in a play of little sketches.

Thompson, Ernest. On golden pond. A prickly English professor visits his summer house with his wife, forges an unlikely bond with a lonely boy, and comes to terms with his adult daughter.

Uhry, Alfred. Driving Miss Daisy. A chronicle of the 25-year friendship between a stubborn, aging Southern widow and her loyal chauffeur.

Van Druten, John. I am a camera. Based on Christopher Isherwood's short stories about decadent pre-Nazi Berlin, this play, which is also the basis for the musical/movie Cabaret, chronicles the adventures of a struggling writer and his wild female friend.

I remember Mama. Kathryn tells the story of her Norwegian-American family at the turn of the century.

Bell, book and candle. To get revenge on a snooty former schoolmate, Manhattan witch Gillian casts a love spell on the schoolmate's fiancé, Shepard. But her plan goes awry when she begins to have feelings of her own for Shep.

Wasserstein, Wendy. The Heidi chronicles. An art history professor tells the story of her life from high school activist to feminist to tough minded career woman as the years pass from the 1960’s to the ‘80s.

Sisters Rosensweig. The lives of women and the choices they make are reflected in these three very different sisters.

Weller, Michael. Spoils of war. A domestic drama about a 16-year-old’s efforts to reunite his divorced parents.

Wiesel, Elie. The trial of God. A traveling company of actors blunder into a settlement that had recently been wiped out. The two surviving townspeople persuade the actors to take part in a mock trial of God, on charges of condoning the massacre of innocent Jews.

Wilder, Thornton. The matchmaker. Matchmaker Dolly Levi pretends to help grouchy Horace Vandergelder find a suitable bride, but she actually schemes to marry him herself.

Our town. The cycle of life as seen through the eyes of the families of a small New Hampshire town.

The skin of our teeth. An unconventional drama about the 20th century Antrobus family, who experience the onset of the Ice Age, the start of the Great Flood, and the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Williams, Tennessee. The glass menagerie. Two lonely young people, a brother and sister, are very much controlled by their mother.

A streetcar named Desire. Emotionally charged confrontation between the traditional values of the American South and the rapidly changing world of modern America. 

Wilson, August. Fences. The story of black garbage collector Troy Maxson in pre-Civil Rights America. Set during the season when Hank Aaron led the Milwaukee Braves to the World Series as opportunities begin to open up and Troy feels like a stranger in his own land.

The piano lesson. Set during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, this story pits brother and sister against each other as they try to decide the future of a treasured heirloom piano. Pulitzer Prize.

Wilson, Lanford. Talley’s folly. This love story follows the courtship of a proper and elegant Christian woman by a Jewish New York businessman. The story is continued in other plays by Wilson.

Zindel, Paul. Effect of gamma rays on the Man-in-the-Moon marigolds. When Tillie receives recognition at school for her science project, it is clear that she will be able to break away from her mad family and find fulfillment.

 

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