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Scenes from American Life

Scenes from American Life
Your Price: $15.95 CDN
Author: A.R. Gurney
Publisher: Samuel French
Format: Softcover
ISBN-10: 0573615179
ISBN-13: 9780573615177
Cast Size: 4 women, 4 men

About the Play:

Scenes from American Life is a full-length dramatic comedy by A.R. Gurney. Told through a series of disconnected vignettes that leap across time, this witty, trenchant work is written to show off the talents of eight talented actors, who have to portray a wide assortment of characters and situations, ranging from tragic to comic. A.R. Gurney regards this as the play that launched his professional career and confirmed him in the eyes of many as an important playwright.

Scenes from American Life is a youthful look at the hypocrisy of adult life, told through a series of vignettes spanning four decades and involving over 100 characters in WASP-y New England. The scenes are not presented in chronological order and occasionally look toward a dystopian “future” in the 1980s! Depicts a world of exclusive old country clubs and cocktails parties, of prep schools and dancing schools, deferential servants, proper manners and powerful old-boy networks, along with both blatant and subtle hypocrisy, sexism, racism and anti-Semitism. An Irish nurse is not permitted to have men visitors: but her mistress is entitled to her own sexual sidelines. The preacher interprets the Bible in a way that the rich are not scandalized or demoralized but actually pacified. A club member blackballs his best friend, a Jew, because he wants to save him from being hurt. Mature people are winos, ticket fixers with the police, order troops to fire into crowds, and are two faced: one mother calls her son at college to find out where he keeps his marijuana, and another asks her daughter at her coming out party if she has her diaphragm. Not all of youth is so innocent. There are the school chums who pray to God with thoughts of malice and concupiscence. Scenes, then, from American life.

Scenes from American Life received its world premiere in 1970 at the Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo. It was produced to critical acclaim at Lincoln Center's small Forum Theater stage, winning A.R. Gurney the 1971 Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright. The play has been performed in regional repertory, high school, college, and community theatre productions.

Cast: 4 women, 4 men

What people say:

"A brave, wise and deeply moving play delineating the confrontation between culture, and power, between art and politics, between irresponsible freedom and responsible compromise. A gripping moral challenge in a cock sure and self-seeking age." — New York Times

"Taking Sides is a taut, chilling drama…riveting, often witty, and stirs one with a powerful indignation." — Financial Times

"Harwood's fierce moral debate is set in the American zone of occupied Berlin in 1946. The play acts as a powerful metaphor for the present and all those post-authoritarian societies busy ransacking their pasts." — The Guardian (UK)

"Harwood's fierce moral debate is set in the American zone of occupied Berlin in 1946. The play acts as a powerful metaphor for the present and all those post-authoritarian societies busy ransacking their pasts." — The Independent (London)

"Harwood's fierce moral debate is set in the American zone of occupied Berlin in 1946. The play acts as a powerful metaphor for the present and all those post-authoritarian societies busy ransacking their pasts." — Evening Standard (London)

About the Playwright:

A.R. Gurney (1930-2017) is known as one of the most prolific and produced playwrights in America. His work focuses primarily on the issues and realities of middle-class American life and has been produced on international theatre stages for more than 50 years. He is also the author of three novels and a two-time Pulitzer Prize for Drama nominee, the recipient of the Drama Desk Award, and the Award of Merit from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

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