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The Fourth Wall

The Fourth Wall
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: A.R. Gurney
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 63
Pub. Date: 1996
ISBN-10: 0822213494
ISBN-13: 9780822213499
Cast Size: 2 women, 2 men

About the Play:

The Fourth Wall is a full-length comedy by A.R. Gurney. In this love letter to the theatre, A.R. Gurney uses the stage to explore, quite comically, America's place in the world today. Set in the living room of a contemporary, upper-class, Buffalo, New York couple, the author sharpens his wit on such topics as cola wars, politics, and even the very audiences who attend plays.

The Fourth Wall takes interior decorating to theatrical and hilarious new heights. Peggy, an idyllic upper-middle-class housewife who usually possesses exquisite taste, is overcome by a mysterious impulse to redecorate her living room as if it were a stage set. Everything faces one wall, the "fourth wall," which she's left bare and which is really the audience. Unable to cope any further, Peggy's confused husband Roger summons their old, dear friend, Julia, for comfort. She agrees that something strange is going on, especially since everyone who enters the room begins to behave as if they were acting in a play, or even a musical when occasionally someone feels the urge to sing a Cole Porter song. Julia, affected by the room, suggests Roger call "976-NUTS" and have Peggy put away, which would allow the two of them to have the affair they've never before thought about. Roger can't do that and explains that he's got one hope left: Floyd, a local theatre professor. Roger asks Floyd to come over in hopes that he can "Doctor" Peggy's play and bring it to a close, so Roger and Peggy can get on with their so-called "normal" lives. But that doesn't work either as Floyd sees what's going on and is in complete agreement with Peggy. Peggy, following in St. Joan's footsteps at Floyd's urging, decides she must do what she must do and sets out to break the fourth wall in order to connect with her feelings. Roger rushes after her, leaving Julia and Floyd with a final Cole Porter tune.

The Fourth Wall had a rolling premiere in 1992 at the Westport Country Playhouse in Wesport, Connecticut, continuing on to the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Massachusetts, and then to the Hasty Pudding Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The play has been performed in regional repertory, college, and community theatre productions.

Cast: 2 women, 2 men

What people say:

"…some damn clever writing … Constructed to illuminate the nature of the dramatic form while raising questions about the current state of the theatre in America … the evening is debonair, thought-provoking, and funny." — The New Yorker

"…cleverly experimental…Mr. Gurney is a very sophisticated writer, and the variety of parallels he draws here, between art and politics, between characters and audience members, between the theater and the world, are dizzying and diverting…for those of us in distress over the political and cultural climate, [The Fourth Wall] is a bolstering, welcome and maybe even necessary expression of patriotism." — New York Times

"Gurney's intentions may be serious here, but his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. Which is where it belongs if the audience is to enjoy this play. Which it most assuredly does." — The Journal News

"Anyone familiar with Gurney's work is in for a big surprise…He has turned the Gurney genre on its ear and produced two hours of devilishly comic cleverness. Nothing he has written before is quite like this piece, and a strong argument can be made that nothing he has written before is this good." — Milwaukee Journal

"The Fourth Wall … is filled with amusing literary references, sophisticated characters and moves along quickly with nary a wasted word…but the real fun…comes from watching Gurney play with the changing reality of the moment as his characters and audience respond to the fourth wall in front of them." — Variety

"It's a whimsical meditation on the theatre — its history and its conceits, its degradation in the video age, and its enduring potential for enabling people to connect. And, above all, it's a clever, playful prayer for its survival." — Chicago Sun-Times

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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