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Beggars in the House of Plenty

Beggars in the House of Plenty
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: John Patrick Shanley
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 63
Pub. Date: 1992
ISBN-10: 0822213001
ISBN-13: 9780822213000
Cast Size: 3 female, 3 male

About the Play:

Beggars in the House of Plenty is a full-length dramatic comedy by John Patrick Shanley. In his most autobiographical work, John Patrick Shanley takes on the demons and angels of the past that are never quite put to rest because they are family. Darkly funny and fast-paced, Beggars in the House of Plenty is a gritty, surreal comedy that explores the myths and reality of growing up in a dysfunctional working-class Irish-American family at war with itself.

Beggars in the House of Plenty is packed with the wit, insight, confusion, laughter and pain that only family can bring. At once vulgar, poetic and brutally honest, this memory play leads us on a journey told through the eyes of the author's stand-in, Johnny, from his childhood in the Bronx of the mid-1950's to the turbulent late 1960's and finally the perspective of his adulthood. Johnny is the youngest and most sensitive of three siblings stranded in an Irish-American working-class household lorded over by their father, an immigrant butcher, and their mother, a superficially encouraging but emotionally blocked wreck of a woman who can only grant chill advice, not comfort. Johnny's excessively cheerful sister Sheila escapes the hellish household via marriage, while his brother Joey flees to the Navy, and eventually returns from duty as directionless and unfulfilled as ever. Alone, Johnny indulges his budding fascination with pyromania and writing about his family. As Johnny matures, he becomes increasingly perceptive, revealing with more and more sympathy the underlying causes of so much family misery. In between Johnny's musings are raucous scenes of catastrophic violence barely held in check by each character's submerged but instinctual need for the love of one another. In the play's final scenes, part memory, part hallucination and part truth, Ma is seen through Johnny's eyes as she once was: innocent and flirtatious (even with Johnny), and painfully unprepared for her ultimate destination with Pop. The father is also transfigured in Johnny's imagination: broken, remorseful and unable to identify with the mantle of fatherhood that his own unhappy upbringing and its crippling legacy has inflicted upon him. As the forgiving vision begins, Pop and Ma dance to "Danny Boy," the song to which they used to force their children to dance, but Johnny, now an angry young man, must confront Ma and Pop, the demons that have made him and destroyed Joey, leading to a shattering resolution. John Patrick Shanley went on from this deeply autobiographical work to win an Oscar, a Tony, and a Pulitzer Prize for Moonstruck and Doubt.

Beggars in the House of Plenty premiered in 1991 at the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) off-Broadway in New York City. It's Canadian premiere was in 1992 at Station Street Arts Centre in Vancouver. The play had regional premieres at professional theatres across the US and "has been a theatre staple ever since, a meaty meal, bereft of ham, for the right cast." (Vancouver Sun)

Cast: 3 female, 3 male

What people say:

"…crackles with the energy of artists who are going places…a theatrical event not likely to recur anytime soon… In a breathless 90 minutes, 40 topsy-turvy years of family life flood across the stage." — New York Times

"…Painfully funny… a memory play that is like Eugene O'Neill as seen through the eyes of a Tennessee Williams influenced by Eugene Ionesco." — New York Post

"…funny and profoundly painful at the same time… a play to be seen more than once." — Chelsea Journal

"Under the tender hand of Larry Moss…we sit transfixed, transported to the excruciatingly painful life of young Johnny, Shanley's alter ego. …it's so right, we're left shattered by the imagery, in awe of the artistry." — Backstage

About the Playwright:

John Patrick Shanley is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. Shanley has written some two dozen Off Broadway plays since the 1970s, but he is best known for Doubt, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award. He has also written extensively for TV and film, and his credits include the teleplay for Live from Baghdad and screenplays for Five Corners and Moonstruck, for which he won an Academy Award for original screenplay.

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